James Bond Retrospective: GoldenEye (1995)

Pre-Credits & Theme Song The film opens in style with a sequence of events that quickly establish the new Bond and sets the tone for which the rest of the film will follow. Beginning with the kind of jaw-dropping stunt that has set the Bond films apart from the average action film, GoldenEye€™s signature opening features a bungee jump that set a new world record. Filmed at the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland, the jump was performed by stuntman Wayne Michaels leaping a total of 220 metres (720ft) setting the record for the highest bungee jump from a fixed structure. The cinematography of the scene really emphasises the scale of the dam and the true audacity of the stunt with the dam so large it requires the camera to tilt up for what seems an eternity to capture the whole structure from bottom to top. Following the spectacular opening, Brosnan makes his first appearance on screen as he infiltrates the enemy weapons factory gaining entry through the ceiling of a toilet cubicle. It is a humorous introduction to the actor and a demonstration of the ease with which he affirms his claim on the lead role. Joining forces with fellow agent 006, Alec Trevelyan, the two men work their way through the facility planting explosive charges. After splitting up, Trevelyan is captured by Colonel Arkady Ourumov who shoots 006 in front of Bond. Making his escape from the factory before the explosive charges detonate, Bond manages to by commandeer a motorcycle to catch-up with a plane already taxiing on the runway of the mountaintop facility. As the pilotless plane plunges off the end of the runway Bond follows leaping from the bike before freefalling after the plane. Catching the plane in mid-air Bond climbs into the pilot seat and flies to safety just as the factory explodes. While this scene verges on the edge of the preposterous, it still provides a much talked about Bond moment and with a little suspension of disbelief in the overall scheme of things it seems almost plausible. The stunt required two doubles for Brosnan, Jacques €˜Zoo€™ Malnuit who rode the motorcycle to the edge before jumping off the cliff and Bond stunt veteran, B. J. Worth who actually skydived after a real plane. With footage of Brosnan freefalling after the plane and climbing on board filmed in the studio, the combination of physical stunt-work and visual effects come together to make another memorable pre-credits sequence. Maurice Binder, the designer of the iconic title sequences that had become a huge part of the Bond series sadly passed away during the franchise€™s hiatus in 1991. Taking on the unenviable task of following in Binder€™s footsteps was British television commercial and music video director Daniel Kleinman. Bringing the title sequence up-to-date by utilising CGI, Kleinman still retained the overall feel ingrained in the titles by Binder. Cleverly incorporating Cold War imagery to signify the changing times as well as the requisite scantily clad women, Kleinman€™s work offered continuity for the titles and would continue to provide the opening titles for the series until Casino Royale in 2006. In a move that harked back to the style and delivery of the theme songs of old, in particular those sung by Shirley Bassey, the theme song was a big, bombastic number performed by Tina Turner. Written by Bono and The Edge from U2, the song features a distinctive Bond sound reminiscent of the John Barry scores that had established the aural feel of the series. Swedish pop group Ace Of Base had originally been lined up to write and perform the theme song but were pulled from the project by their record label. The song was re-written and appeared on their album 2002 Da Capo under the title The Juvenile. Turner€™s theme song was written independently from the film€™s score which after Barry turned down the offer to return to the series, was provided by French composer Eric Serra, best known for his film scores for the films of director Luc Besson. Serra took the series in a completely new direction with his experimental synthesizer based score eschewing the more traditional orchestral elements that had formed the sound of the series since its inception. At one point, the Bond theme is played purely on drums and as with all previous Bond scores that have deviated from the established sound, it has not dated well. Even the producers must have felt unsure about Serra€™s contribution as they employed the services of John Altman and David Arch to provide the more traditional symphonic accompaniment for a number of the film€™s key scenes, most notably the tank chase through St. Petersberg. During the film€™s end credits, Serra used his own song, The Experience Of Love which he had written during his scoring session for the film Leon. The Movie Nine years after the events of the pre-credits sequence have taken place, the prototype of a new helicopter, capable of withstanding an electromagnetic pulse, is stolen and British agent James Bond is assigned to investigate. With the helicopter traced by MI6 to a remote satellite control installation in Severnaya, Russia it soon becomes apparent that the facility has been used to test-fire a top secret GoldenEye satellite weapon. Bond travels to St. Petersberg to meet with CIA agent Jack Wade who informs him of the possible involvement of the Janus crime syndicate in the operation. After meeting with Russian Mafia head Valentin Zukovsky, it is arranged for Bond to meet Janus in person where it is revealed that Janus is in fact Bond€™s fellow agent Alec Trevelyan thought to have been shot dead during a previous mission eight years ago. Trevelyan intends to use the GoldenEye weapon on London to destroy every computer system in the country, erasing financial records while transferring billions of pounds into his own account in the process. Bond travels to Cuba and with the help of Natalya Simonova, a technician from Severnaya, they infiltrate Trevelyan€™s secret base and attempt to put a stop to his plans. Considering GoldenEye marked another change in direction for the series providing something of a reboot for the character, the film is surprisingly one of the most formulaic of the entire series. It is as if the writers literally made a list of all the expected elements of a Bond film and ensured they were all included in the screenplay. From Bond€™s famous catchphrases to the villain€™s secret lair nothing is forgotten but it is this familiarity that makes the film so appealing. It is an affectionate pastiche of the previous films and a homage to all that makes the character great rather than a self-mocking parody. As part of the series update and in a reflection of the times, Bond€™s superior M was played by a woman for the first time in a move inspired by the real head of MI5 between 1992 and 1996, Stella Rimington. Judi Dench was cast in role and instantly changed the dynamic between the two characters and would go on to have a much more integral role in films from this point on. In some nicely written dialogue exchanges she quickly establishes her view of Bond, putting him in his place and making it clear that the world has changed around the character rather than him changing with the times. Even Bond€™s relationship with Miss Moneypenny differs from that of previous films with Bond€™s flirtations calmly disregarded in favour of the job in hand. Their brief interactions are still good natured but Samantha Bond€™s approach to the role of Moneypenny is a far more naturalistic portrayal than the forced schoolgirl crush of Dalton€™s Moneypenny, Caroline Bliss.

Classic Line

M: You don't like me, Bond. You don't like my methods. You think I'm an accountant, a bean counter more interested in my numbers than your instincts.

James Bond: The thought had occurred to me.

M: Good, because I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you.

James Bond: Point taken.

Bond is assisted during his mission by Jack Wade, played by Joe Don Baker, fulfilling the kind of expositional role usually taken by Felix Leiter. Much like actor Charles Gray, who went from playing Bond€™s ally in You Only Live Twice to the main Bond villain in Diamonds Are Forever, Baker, who had portrayed Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights returned to the series as Bond€™s St. Petersberg ally. Baker plays the role as a stereotypical American abroad with little respect for the kind of protocol required in the secret service, describing Bond as a €œstiff-assed Brit€ at one point but despite some initial misgivings they develop a mutual respect that continues into the following film Tomorrow Never Dies. The film features a number of scenes that utilise the miniature and model making expertise of series veteran, Derek Meddings, in particular the external scenes set at the Severnaya satellite dish. The majority of this sequence was filmed using scale models including remote control Mig-29 fighter jets and miniature buildings rigged for destruction. The climactic scenes in Cuba were also achieved with a combination of visual and practical effects after the search for a suitable lake failed to find one that would match the satellite dish€™s real location in Areciboin Puerto Rico. Meddings€™ miniature set was used to film the transition from lake to exposed dish to great effect. Sadly Meddings, who had been involved with the series on and off since Live And Let Die, passed away during post-production on the film and as a result the film was dedicated to his memory. Another seasoned series stalwart was called upon to provide the film with a distinctly different car chase for the scene immediately after the opening titles. French stunt co-ordinator Remy Julienne was tasked with a sequence that would see Bond€™s iconic Aston Martin DB5 pitted against the latest sports-car from Ferrari, the F355. The chase features the two cars speeding along the winding roads of the French Riviera dodging hazards from slow moving tractors to a large group of cyclists. Actress Famke Janssen reportedly did much of her own driving behind the wheel of the Ferrari during the sequence but despite the scene€™s brilliant choreography the two cars were not immune from accidents during the shoot which saw both cars collide on a bend causing $80,000 worth of damage. Coming so early in the film, the scene is another demonstration of Brosnan€™s confidence in the role and establishes the quick-witted dialogue style of the actor. The real standout action sequence of the film is the moment where Bond steals a Russian T55 tank to pursue Colonel Ourumov through the streets of St. Petersberg leaving a huge trail of destruction in his wake. Originally written as a motorcycle chase through the city, there were concerns that the sequence would lack the spectacle required so the mode of transport was changed. Taking six weeks to shoot, the chase was filmed mostly on location in St. Petersberg and partly at Leavesden studio. The steel off-road tracks of the tank were replaced with rubber tracks at the request of city officials to protect the roads of the historic city. The special effects team lead by Chris Corbould built buildings with breakaway false fronts along with strategically placed landmarks designed to be obliterated by the rampaging tank. The scene has a glorious sense of fun and a gleeful disregard for convention lending the film its most memorable moment. The film€™s finale harks back to well known elements of the series in having a villain€™s lair hidden in plain sight much like Blofeld€™s volcano base in You Only Live Twice. Trevelyan€™s satellite facility hidden beneath a lake is a typically Bondian frivolity that can only exist in Bond€™s world but in the overall structure of a film, with so many nods to the past, it plays a hugely important role. The final fight atop the dish between Bond and Trevelyan is the kind of confrontation usually reserved for villains€™ henchmen rather than the lead villain however with the two characters closely matched in their abilities, training and physique it is a fitting conclusion to their soured relationship. Bringing the series back from the brink, GoldenEye offered a perfect reinvention for Bond, up-dating him for the nineties audience. Rather than a complete overhaul for the series it brought back all the most successful elements, catchphrases and iconography of the series without becoming too self-referential or parodying and in the process assured the future of the franchise.

Chris Wright hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.