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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

GOLDENEYE 

It was 1995 and there hadn't been a new James Bond film in six years. Six years! That's the longest gap between Bond films since they started makin' 'em in 1962. The filmmakers knew they had to give the audiences something good, something special, and they came up with Goldeneye.

And Goldeneye totally rocks!

I saw it in the theater opening weekend and I really liked it. Pierce Brosnan did as good a job as anybody could in following in the footsteps of such awesome Bonds as Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

But I didn't remember just how great this movie is until I watched it again a few days ago. I was really blown over. Goldeneye may be the best James Bond that doesn't have Sean Connery or Roger Moore. (I'm a little partial to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I must admit.)

The opening scene just blows away all the competition. I love that bit where the plane (lacking a pilot) goes off the cliff and Bond (on a motorcycle) follows it off the cliff and - God know how - falls into the open door, grabs the controls and pulls out of a nosedive into a canyon. Wow! Wow! That was so cool! I don't think Sean Connery James Bond could do that. The only other guy who could do that is Batman.

The credit sequence is also amazing. Tina Turner sings the lyrics with a throaty intensity as if she doesn't care if people think she is a female impersonator. Along with the silhouettes of naked women that these opening sequences are famous for, we also get a lot of Soviet imagery, statues of Lenin and workers, as well as guns coming out of the mouths of babes, hot babes.

Yes, all of a sudden, the James Bond series cares about the Cold War, now that it's over. There's a little confrontation between M (Judi Densch) and Bond where she calls him something like a Cold War dinosaur, and it rings more than a little false. The implication is that James Bond fought the Russians a lot, and, as I've seen all the James Bond films since December, I can state that this is pretty much bullshit. The filmmakers were generally very timid on the subject of the Russians. Even the film based on the most provocative of the novels, From Russia With Love, toned down the involvement of the Soviets by mentioning that the major operatives, notable Rosa Klebb, had defected from the Soviet SMERSH to the independent international crime organization SPECTRE.

Yes, the Russians are involved peripherally in many of the films, but they are seldom in direct conflict with James Bond. Much more frequently, an independent rabble-rouser is taking advantage of Cold War tensions to bring about World War III. In a film like The Spy Who Loved Me, major Russian characters are actively working with Bond.

Which doesn't detract from the film. At all. I just thought I'd point out that I'm calling bullshit on the characterization of James Bond as a "cold war dinosaur."

The best thing about the movie is Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp. She's the main henchman of the bad guy, with this really great accent. She looks great in every scene. Very fetching in her Russian military uniform. I like her playing baccarat and smoking a cigar and flirting with James Bond. She's a very distinctive Bond villainess in that she's a sado-masochist who gets REALLY EXCITED when she kills somebody. She machine-guns all the technicians at a secret Russian base and she makes very unsettling squeals of pressure. The Russian general traitor she is working with doesn't even try to hide his disgust.

She has a great scene with Bond in a steam room, where she moans with delight when he tosses her bodily against the wall. Yeah, it's sick. But she looks fantastic and she pulls it off. It can't be easy to make such a character believable.

Another plus for Goldeneye is the plot. It's not necessarily more believable than the average Bond film, but it's easy to follow. I never had one of those "Why the Hell are they in Jakarta?" moments. The opening scene is a flashback to the mid-1980s and 007 has joined up with 006 to blow up a Russian installation of some kind. 007 escapes but he leaves 006 behind. The mission is what was important.

006 is played by Sean Bean and it turns out that, like Bond, he is an orphan molded by MI-6 to become a secret agent. But his parents were Cossacks and they were killed because they were betrayed to the Soviets by the British government. So 006 has been plotting revenge against the Brits ever since.

Goldeneye is the name of a Russian satellite that emits a beam that disrupts the electromagnetic pulse, causing all electric devices to shut down. 006 and Xenia Onatopp (with the help of a turncoat Russian general) take over Goldeneye by destorying the installation at some place called Severnaya. The only survivor is a beautiful Russian computer technician named Natalya, played by Izabella Scorupco. James and Natalya chase 006 and Xenia all over the place, and they have lots of adventures and finally they beat the bad guys in Cuba with the help of Joe Don Baker.

The best action scene is in St. Petersburg, where the bad guys abduct Natalya and Bond chases them through the streets of St. Petersburg in a stolen tank! He trashes the city. It's pretty neat.

Highly recommended. Definitely a cut above the other Brosnan Bond movies. (Which aren't bad. (Well, Die Another Day, yes, that's bad.)) But the Brosnan Bond films never reached the plateau set by Goldeneye.

For more information on Goldeneye, see the wikipedia entry.

Next: Probably a review of the Goldfinger comic strip.

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