21 November 2020 362 Views

GoldenEye at 25. A Third Way Bond film. For All Time!

by James Murphy

It was the movie that saved the 007 series. Released against the odds. Everyone expected a failure. Or a modest success, at best. But GOLDENEYE won. Decisively so!

Ok so lots of click-bait easy articles on this will emerge in the weeks ahead. Equally it would be remiss to fail in citing the brilliant victory of the 17th Bond film. So here are a few pointers should your mates be discussing it. It’s a great lockdown movie.

 

  • Yes. It’s a Greatest Hits Combo Treat. And your point is?

Sometimes, you need to play it safe and reintroduce a brand. Equally, as a fan, there are occasional moments where you need a film to sort of run in the background; to dip into rather than become immersed fully. That is GoldenEye. A perfect reintroduction to and summary of Bond. Hence: stolen tech, Russia, bad girl/good girl, arms dealers, awkward comedy, baddie gets the boot and so on. Is it original? No. Is it good: yes! Next?

  • It’s a Tony Blair /Bill Clinton era Bond. 

Pierce Brosnan once played Tony Blair, albeit thinly disguised. Google it. Well, actually, he played it twice if you count his Bond movies. See, every Bond is of their time.

And whilst John Major was still in power around 1995, the spectre of New Labour was rising. Political compromise was in. You could be all things to all people and thereby successful, distinctive.

THAT was the Brosnan Bond as much as it was the Third Way political climate. He HAD to be half Sean Connery, half Roger Moore, with a few Daltonite and Lazenby nods. 

  • Learn from your Competition /Imitators / Corresponding Cultural Trends and thereby BECOME it!

In addition to the whole ‘Bond is pointless without Cold War’ nonsense that preceded the film’s release? Many felt 007 was extinct, culturally. He was either deemed too sexist / bad/ posh / brutal or worse still, not vibrant enough in those camps.

So, they played a blinder. Yes, GoldenEye is Bond. But it is also a tribute to the 1990s visual and pop culture motifs. Casting, music (much maligned, unfairly imho), location, fashion.

Of their time and yet outside time. In that sense, it’s very much like the Burton Batmans, in so far as the film has a nominally modern and then current setting; yet somehow incorporates a kind of frozen time. This could be the same Bond of the 60s or not, depending on how one looks at it.

At the same time, this is not purely pastiche. the passage of time is recognised and indeed, you could watch it as a direct sequel to Licence to Kill (Bond is evaluated at the start; possibly to check he has recovered from his nervous breakdown in said film). And there are hints of The Living Daylights.

Sean Bean was considered for Bond himself, twice. So it makes sense for him to here play the baddie. He was also very popular with women, in part c/o television stints on Sharpe (replacing Paul McGann, himself tested for Bond) and Lady Chatterley.

Robbie Coltrane was meant to be a full on villain though is played more as light comedy / exposition. He is still an asset and once again was super-cool at the time thanks to Cracker.

The film owes a BIT to 4 Weddings and a Funeral (Lindy Hemming as costume designer; Hugh Grant rumoured to have tested for Bond; Stand by Your Man as a running joke: the 2 movies did each other marketing favours).

The villainous plan owes much to Die Hard, as does dialogue. ‘Little more than a common thief’ etc. Though to be fair, ‘With a vengeance‘ kinda rips off Goldfinger? So it’s a draw.

Bond is still a player with eye for the ladies as the new lad culture had emerged, except 007 does things with class and gentlemanly refinement. So this still works in #metoo era whilst providing male fantasy. The girls are lovely.

Michael Kitchen is an awesome Tanner (though he too deserved a bigger better role, maybe as a baddie..even as M, had they not cast the equally successful Judi Dench).

 

Made against the odds, on an impossibly modest budget for its time? GoldenEye both faced the market and BECAME it. The best of Bond was at once distilled and reinvented. Forever. ‘For England, James’. 

 



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