Countdown to Skyfall – GoldenEye (1995)

Flickering Myth’s writing team count down to the release of Skyfall by discussing their favourite James Bond films; next up is Oliver Davis with GoldenEye…

Oliver Davis hates to write in the first person, but for ‘favourite’ pieces, it’s kinda unavoidable.

I was introduced to James Bond through Wednesday nights on ITV. They had a 20-something week period where a different one was shown in chronological order. It always broke at 10-10.35pm for the news, my first ever taste of an intermission.

Older films didn’t entice me as much back then. Being an ignorant pre-teen, I preferred the more up-to-date ones; those of Pierce Brosnan. There will always be a special place in the heart for those portraying the character in your formative years, like when a baby chick takes the first thing it sees as its mother. It’s not a flawless process. Sylvester McCoy will forever by my Doctor.

But for Bond, it’s Bron-homme. GoldenEye was his first outing, as it was also for the still presiding M, Judi Dench. The director, Martin Campbell, had his Bond debut here, too. He wouldn’t return for just over a decade, in another revamp, Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.

Some memories had merged with the N64 classic, so I thought best to re-watch the film (spoiler, James never unlocks paintball mode). Unfortunately, I’d popped on Dr. No just the night before. That’s a truly excellent movie. GoldenEye could barely stand in its wake. Nostalgia helped it through.

And Ned Stark.

Sean Bean appears as 006, Bond’s buddy agent, in the film’s prologue. Boy, he looks young. ‘Sharper,’ one could almost say. The opening is paced slowly, fitting the sequence’s stealthly approach to breaking into a Russian arms facility. James enters the complex through a toilet ceiling. “Sorry, I forgot to knock,” is his first line as 007, before punching a pooing general on his throne.

Great scene

It sets up a double-cross for later, and introduces one of the film’s villains, the dastardly General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (Gottfried John). Later, he’ll try to make a load of money using GoldenEye, a nuclear space weapon. To be specific, nine years later.

What follows are the usual Bond tropes; the usual globe-hopping approach to settings. Cuba, Russia, England. There are gadgets (Q walking Bond through the testing room is a delight). There are deadly girls, the chief one being Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen). “Onatopp?” Bond asks with the slightest arch in his left brow upon first hearing her name. She’s an expert at choking men to death with her legs during sex, a regular Venus Flytrap. In Futurama terms, that’d be called ‘death by snoo snoo.’

In the light of today’s incarnation of Bond / Bourne, such a relentless delivery of entendres and innuendos becomes a tad exhausting. In some scenes, there’s one practically every other line. “GET US OUT OF HERE,” Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) yells, strapped into a soon-to-explode helicopter behind James. “I’m a little tied up right now,” the similarly incapacitated Bond quips, the timer ticking down to eight seconds. There’s a time and a place.

But for every bit like that, there’s a moment of transcendental coolness. In a psyche evaluation with Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond, no relation) near the beginning, James produces champagne after a breathtaking car chase with a side dish of suave. The man can pop a bottle of Bollinger from anywhere.

And there’s the tank.

It ain’t subtle. Bond pinches a tank and drives it through the streets of Moscow in pursuit of Ourumov. ‘Go down that narrow alleyway’, is a mistake they make one too many times. A tank makes its own alleyways. And, in one moment, James Bond adjusts his tie. It’s an act of overwhelming audaciousness. Not only does he have a tank. He looks good while driving it.

Bronsnan was an interesting Bond, quite boyish in a way. Playful, reckless, violent – there was a brutality to him which occasionally bubbled to the surface. Sean Connery possessed the same ruthlessness, as does Daniel Craig today. He might have been overburdened with innuendos, but the steeliness to his portrayal made the cheese bearable.

Read our ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ review of Skyfall here.

Oliver Davis