The Weekly Bond Countdown: #7 – Goldeneye (1995)

Right from the opening gun barrel, Pierce Brosnan owned it.  Proper badass.  Bond was back baby!

Bond had been off the screens for six years.  United Artists and Cubby Broccoli was caught up in litigation hell, which meant the Bond franchise was up for grabs to any hungry shark that had the money.  During this period, long time writer of the Bond series, Richard Maibuam passed away along with Maurice Binder who designed the opening credits for each Bond film since the very first with Dr. No (1962).  John Barry who musically defined the “Bond sound” retired.  Albert “Cubby” Broccoli wasn’t in the best of health during the hiatus.  He was ill.  Being producer of the franchise for so long, he decided to pass on the Bond baton to his children, Barbara Broccoli and his stepson Michael G. Wilson to ensure its legacy.  Timothy Dalton, who was contracted to do the next Bond film waited patiently for the legal troubles to pass, but in the end, in 1994, he decided to stand down.

It would seem that the Bond franchise was in trouble.

Goldeneye was released in 1995.  It was a big risk, a “$50 million dollar” gamble as Michael G. Wilson recalls after reading a newspaper article at the time in the Everything or Nothing documentary.  People said Bond wasn’t relevant anymore.  The Cold War was over.  The Berlin wall came down in 1989 and David Hasselhoff was the king of Germany!  So if our enemy for so many years had surrendered, what was there to protect?  Why did the world need saving?  Well in Bond’s world there were still secrets, there were still enemies to defeat – the war was not over and Goldeneye was the perfect transition.  Bond was updated to the new era (with a new female boss in hand) and to the new 90s decade.

Bond became a hit again.

And in terms of pop culture, let’s not forget, Goldeneye not only spawned one of the best video games on the Nintendo 64, but one of the best video games ever, period.  Playing Goldeneye 64 recently brought back memories of how much fun I had…and how frustrating it can be.  Who remembers the level where you had to escort Natalya?  Why is this woman so friggin’ slow like its some cruel A.I. joke?   No wonder it inspired this gaming parody.

Back on topic, am I the only one who loves Eric Serra’s Bond Soundtrack?  Apart from the awful track used for the Aston Martin/Ferrari car chase (although the real debate is whether that Aston Martin really had the same speed as the Ferrari) and the end credit track, everything else fits so well.  It’s not John Barry, but the soundtrack is certainly unique, like he made each track using industrial scrap yard junk with moody 90s techno beats.  The Bond theme is updated (yet not too distracting) and the tracks suit the overall theme of a post Cold War nation.

Pierce Brosnan owns the part of Bond.  It’s definitely my favourite Bond performance by him and easily his best one.  He looked like a cold killer spy and had awesome charm and delivery. Before Brosnan was cast (Cubby Broccoli’s last act before he passed away), the writers based Bond on Dalton’s tenure (smart move).  Yet Brosnan’s underrated performance is done with such ease as if he was born to play the role and in this case, it was second time lucky after missing out on the role when The Living Daylights was being filmed due to contractual agreements on Remington Steele.  To be honest, I think he would have been a bit too young to be Bond back then.  He had a babyface, poster boy look on Remington Steele.  Probably would have come off like James Bond Jr.  But in Goldeneye, he seemed to be at the right age (and screen presence) to believe in Bond once again.

I really wished they kept the same tone in his films after Goldeneye. Out went the coldness and character development, and in came the clichés and the one liner jokes, sort of like Roger Moore’s Greatest Hits revisited.  I can almost hear the Top of the Pops countdown – “and at #1, it’s the “and I thought Christmas only came once a year!” from The World is Not Enough.”

But I savour the quips in Goldeneye because they are kept at a minimum.  The heart of the story is betrayal by Bond’s friend and fellow government agent, Alec (Sean Bean).

Sean Bean (who seems contractually obliged to die in every acting role he takes on – spoiler alert) matches Bond both physically and mentally.  His character feels like an alter ego of Bond.  If Bond was in the same position as Alec and had the same past, he may have fallen into the same trap.  Alec wanted revenge for what happened to his parents who died at the hands of the British.  But no revenge job is without financial benefits.  He tries to steal money digitally from the Bank of England before crippling the United Kingdom with an EMP satellite (aka Goldeneye).

Suddenly the mission for Bond is not just any mission, where he could act dispassionately.  The mission became personal.  It pits Bond and tests him on his loyalty and his essence for being an agent for her majesty’s government.  As an outsider looking in, Natalya constantly questions/pushes Bond to ask the burning questions. What are Bond’s reasons for being a spy?  Why must he pursue his friend and why does he act so cold?  Bond reacts the only way he knows.  Because a spy life is the only life he knows.  “It keeps me alive,” he replies.  “No, it keeps you alone.”  That exchange makes Bond a sympathetic character.  That ethic protects him so he never loses his objective.  It’s a complete opposite from the “sexist, misogynistic dinosaur” trait as M (Judi Dench) brands him.

Yes there are some silly yet funny moments such as the sexually charged name of Famke Jannsen’s character, Onatopp (try saying that with a straight face!) and her crushing legs.  In the end, Goldeneye never loses sight what this film is about.  The spy game is all about secrets and betrayal and if you are a spy – keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  Goldeneye epitomizes that phrase.

“For England James?”

“No…for me.”

Well said 007.  Well said.

The Countdown So Far:

Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #6


  1. I wouldn’t have Goldeneye this high, but I agree that it’s Brosnan’s best Bond film by a mile. It’s the only one with an interesting villain and a plot that holds together. I loved this when I saw it in the theaters. What doesn’t hold up so well now are some of the sillier moments. Jannsen made her career on this part and had a blast, but she’s also in a different movie. Alan Cumming is also pretty irritating. Even so, there’s enough to like to put it in the top half for sure.


    1. Thanks Dan. I don’t think any of Brosnan’s Bond films have aged well. Too many clichéd silly moments and the complete abandonment of any character development. Definitely agree on the villain and the plot – it’s the reason why Goldeneye is easily a top 10 film.


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