“They always said the pen was mightier than the sword.”
– James Bond
André here. Since I grew up with Pierce Brosnan as my Bond, I insisted we watch a Pierce Brosnan Bond movie as part of this series. Goldeneye seemed the natural pick, since it was the best reviewed movie by far and I also had fond memories of the Goldeneye video game, with its pencil guns and crazy C-button-based aiming controls. I tried playing that game a couple months ago and I realized that the game really wasn’t that great – the controls sucked and the multiplayer was laughably unbalanced. Unfortunately, the Goldeneye movie aged even more poorly. More on that later – first, the food!
We did our best to cook up an authentic Russian meal, the kind Bond might have had while he was infiltrating Russia in Goldeneye. Bond is the kind of man who eats what the locals do as a way of staying incognito. We started off with piroshky, using fresh-made bread stuffed with onions, caraway seeds, and Swiss cheese. The dough kept rising and rising over the course of the night, to the point that when we actually cooked it, we had enough piroshky to feed the entire staff of the secret underground Russian base. If you haven’t had piroshky before, you are missing out! These baked and fried buns with anything from apples to sausage in them are incredibly delicious and make a wonderful snack.
For the main course, we made borsch, a Russian stew primarily composed of beets and skirt steak. The beets made the stew delightfully red, and added a little sweetness to an otherwise savory stew. Top with a little bit of sour cream and dill and you have a hearty dinner. A good borsch like this can warm the entire body up, and keep you full for hours. This would have been perfect for Bond to fill up on before he went digging through the remains of the satellite base.
This time, we went with a classic martini with a fired up twist. After a quick vermouth wash in the shaker, we added in some vodka (it was a Russian meal after all) then made it dirty with extra olive juice. To top it all off, we used our new blowtorch to toast the olives. The result: a delicious martini with a nice smokiness added by the olives.
We also had the No. 9 Baltika, which came in a gigantic plastic bottle. It looked pretty gross in the grocery store, but it was that or the No. 7 Baltika, and we figured the bigger number must be better, right? Ben had never had alcohol out of a plastic bottle, and needless to say it was quite the experience. We all felt it added to the Russian feel of the movie.
Our standard rules for the Bondathon series are:
- Drink whenever Bond uses a new gadget.
- Finish your drink whenever a woman dies.
- Always have a martini in hand.
The Plot – 2/5
How entertaining was the story?
Geez. We couldn’t really tell you what this movie was about. Maybe it had something to do with all the martinis and Baltika, but it also might have just been a really terrible movie. There was something about Russians wanting to use Goldeneye to… blow up England? Not really sure. Also something about satellites hiding in lakes. It was not a very good movie. We were surprised that the first Pierce Brosnan film to kick off his Bond career was such a dud. It may have had a major twist during the course of it and some interesting gadgets, but as a whole we were left wanting. Maybe this is what Bondoisseurs expected out of Bond until Daniel Craig-Bond came along and switched everything up.
The Bond – 2/5
How well does Bond embody the quintessential British spy?
Pierce was not as good of a Bond as we remember him being. He wasn’t cunning at all: most of his fights were won by pure luck. There was hardly a spy-like bone in his body. There was one scene where he drives a tank through several historic buildings (not very subtle, Bond), and somehow ends up with a giant Soviet Union-era statue on his tank. He then drives under an underpass and by sheer luck the statue gets knocked off his tank and lands on top of the two cars pursuing him. Even if it was representative of the Cold War coming to an end, it just felt really corny, and we were not convinced this maneuver was planned by Bond at all. Then, when it came to actual fighting and impressive spy-like stunts, they were either over in a boring quick-fashion, or a success by sheer luck alone. There’s a particularly cringe-worthy moment where Pierce-Bond, in a most “stealth-like” fashion, runs to try and catch a helicopter and then is captured and manhandled by a couple of bodyguards. He never thought of the attention that would bring, and it hardly seemed like he thought through the next couple steps, let alone why he was there in the first place. During the movie, it was hard not to think that maybe they shot the movie like this so that Pierce Brosnan didn’t need to be present in many fight or stealth scenes.
The Bond Girls – 3/5
How did the writers and directors treat the female characters in the movie?
Goldeneye is incredibly complex in how it treats its women, and we don’t mean that their characterizations are complex. Let’s start off with Dame Judi Dench, playing the role of M, the shining light of this film. In one of the most impressive lines in the movie, she calls out Bond for what he is: a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.” M is a woman who loves her bourbon, is not afraid to pull verbal punches, and fought her way to the top in a male-dominated world. Judi Dench is a breath of fresh air as M, and we are thrilled that she has made it through quite a number of other Bond films.
Next up, the actual Bond Girl of the film: Natalya Simonova played by Izabella Scorupco. She plays an incredibly smart woman who is able to handle herself as well as her computers. Her arc starts with her surviving an attack and subsequent destruction of a Russian base, a destruction in which the camera seems all too happy to continually highlight the near death she experiences. We couldn’t tell if they were showing how strong she was by making it through a series of falling girders, flames licking at her shoulders, as the base neared its collapse, or if they just enjoyed putting her through all of these trials to see if she could survive. She eventually escapes the base, clothes burnt and hanging in tatters, and she makes it to a nearby city. What starts as an unfortunate and vulnerable beginning to her arc, luckily meets a strong and cunning end. During the climax of the film and the assault on the villain’s base as he prepares to destroy England, Natalya and Bond find their way in, and then it is Natalya, not Bond, who overtakes the base computer and locks it from entry. She is capable, talented, smart, and pretty much sets up the ultimate end that the villains meet.
Finally, and before we get to the villain, we should mention Xenia Onatopp, aka Jean Grey, aka Famke Janssen. Xenia is the main henchwoman of the film and is really more evil than the bad guy himself. She’s a dominatrix who takes the life of her partners, just for the thrill. She has a distinctly vile, almost comic-book-like presence to her. She is interesting in how she is a despicable and compelling villain, but her sexual violence is something we still feel uneasy about in addressing her character.
The Villain – 2/5
How much did you love to hate the bad guy?
We’ll be honest, there wasn’t really a strong compelling villain in this movie. Yes, we know that Alec Trevelyan (we had to look up his name), played by Sean Bean, is technically the villain in this film. But his transformation from 006 to bad guy was hard to buy into, and he only showed his true villainy on a couple of occasions. Maybe it is our general appreciation for Sean Bean (and Ned Stark), but he did not have the gravitas that Auric Goldfinger did. He did forcibly kiss Natalya, and there is no telling what he would have done had Bond not interfered, so without a doubt he fits the profile of a reprehensible villain. But the movie was so into building up multiple evil character that Sean Bean didn’t get the opportunity to show that he was truly the villain. There was Boris, the hacker, Ouromov, the general trying move up the hierarchy, and even Xenia had enough screen time that you could think that she was the main driving force of malevolence in the film. There was never an opportunity to hate Sean Bean, and while his death was deserved, it did not seem like it was worth the build up and pop culture prominence his fall resulted in.
The Gadgets – 4/5
How cool were Q’s inventions?
The exploding pen offered a very nice, intense moment towards the end of the film, and the laser watch was also a nice touch, but the most memorable gadget-moment had to be when Bond used his grappling hook to jump off the dam at the beginning of the movie. You can never forget that scene.
Andre: Disappointed, really. Like the video game, the movie Goldeneye has not aged well. Pierce Brosnan was terrible, Sean Bean put on one of his worst performances ever, and the movie made no sense at all. I almost wish I didn’t re-watch the movie or replay the game so that I could look back on them both more fondly.
Leanna: Nope. Full disclosure, I was not in the best state of mind when we watched this movie: I was coming off of a long day of travel with very little sleep, and still decided to imbibe in the martinis and Baltika, leaving me quite tired and impatient when it came time to view the movie. I was bored, unimpressed, and just generally exhausted by it. Pierce Brosnan was a joke, and his successor has done a much better job with the role. With such an extensive collection of Bond movies available, don’t settle for this one.
Ben: 45%. Goldeneye was a combination of weird, campy, and disappointing. From moments in the film that remind you of Saturday morning cartoons, to the general lazy nature of this Bond, it was a movie that I am surprised to have watched and experienced. Hidden within the film are generally interesting moments (the opening sequence where Bond catches up to an airplane, and the intensity of the bomb pencil being clicked by Boris) but all of those are obfuscated by the weird choices for the henchman, the general comic like nature of it all, and a forgettable Bond. Goldeneye? More like Golden I Don’t Care.