The first spy & action film I ever saw.
Originally, a third Bond film to fulfill Timothy Dalton's contract was due out by late 1991, with a script being written by Michael G. Wilson & Alfonso Ruggiero Jr in May 1990, rumored to be based off Ian Fleming's story "The Property of a Lady" which was featured in "Octop*ssy and the Living Daylights" (1966). However, an Australian based broadcasting company Qintex bought MGM/UA in 1989 with the intention to broadcast all the Bond films without payment to Danjaq--the company which owned EON Productions. Thus began a several years long legal dispute which resulted in Dalton getting fed up and officially resigning from the role in April 1994, which was permitted by his three film contract as legal battles were preventing filming which was otherwise ready to go. But of course, during the interim, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the forty-six year long Cold War finally came to a close. Along with it as many believed, the James Bond franchise.
Albert Romolo Broccoli then cast Pierce Brosnan in the starring role, as he'd been wanted for it since 1986. Judi Dench was then cast as the new M, which was deemed controversial at first, though is generally believed to have been done due to Stella Rimington becoming the head of MI5 in 1992. Due to Cubby's ailing health, his stepson and producing partner Michael G. Wilson, and daughter Barbara would produce the new film, with Cubby acting as consulting producer. John Woo was first approached by MGM to direct the new film, and while honored at having been offered the job, he turned it down. Their second choice Martin Campbell however said yes.
As for the story, veteran screenwriter Richard Maibaum passed away in 1991, and so a script by Michael France written around 1993 was rewritten by Jeffrey Caine, who kept many elements, and added the thrilling prologue. Screenwriters Kevin Wade & Bruce Feirstein polished the script which centered heavily on Cold War grievances for the main theme, as since everyone believed Bond could only work as a Cold War hero, it was thus absolutely crucial that the next film prove them wrong. The filmmakers decided that the best way to go about doing that was by making the seventeenth Bond adventure a bridge to new territories, relying on Cold War themes, while incorporating a totally new style for future installments. So essentially, Bond17 was a make it or break it production.
For the title, the name of Ian Fleming's residence in Oracabessa, Jamaica where he wrote the novels was chosen. The famous beach from "Doctor No" wasn't far from it. Fleming in turn named the residence after "Operation Goldeneye" which was an OSS program for monitoring developments after the Spanish Civil War (7/17/36-4/1/39). While writing the books, Fleming was inspired to name his secret agent after an ornithologist who's coffee table book was at Goldeneye.
In casting the film, Sean Bean who'd previously been considered for Bond on "The Living Daylights" (1987) was instead chosen as his partner 006, aka: Alec Trevelyan; the character would be a unique addition to the Bond franchise who'd add a whole new layer of mystique that we'd yet to see in the saga, yet there was one somewhat cheesy exchange between the two. To replace Bond's CIA ally Felix Leiter was the colorful personality of Jack Wade, named after screenwriter Kevin Wade, and was played by Joe Don Baker who'd apparently made enough of an impression on the producers as Brad Whitaker in "The Living Daylights" that he was cast in the new role here. For the two new Bond girls, pop singer Izabella Scorupko was cast as the feisty computer programmer Natalya Simonova, and Famke Janssen was cast as the lust assassin Xenia Onatopp. Janssen was by far among the most popular Bond girls. For the conniving little twit, yet genius programmer Boris Ivanovich Grishenko, the very colorful Alan C*mming was cast. And as yet another renegade Russian General--Arkady Grigorovich Ouromov--german actor Gottfried John was cast. He was by far the most competent and intelligent renegade russian general in the series. Lastly, as Bond's other new, yet very unlikely ally, Robbie Coltrane was cast as the former KGB agent turned russian gangster Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsy [It seems that you can leave the KGB after all]. Rounding out the cast was Samantha Bond as the new and far younger Moneypenny, and the ever loyal Desmond Llewelyn returning as Bond's quartermaster 'Q.'
In his seventeenth adventure, 007 James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is tasked with retrieving the key to the GoldenEye satellite which was used to destroy its own control center in an apparent cover up for its theft by a highly decorated russian general (Gottfried John). But why would Ouromov steal the key to what is essentially his own satellite? Why would we ally himself with some completely unpredictable, yet sexy mercenary (Famke Janssen) rather than an extremely loyal subordinate? Who or what is the mysterious Janus Syndicate who's name keeps popping up everywhere? And why the hell isn't the new Bond girl instantly giving in to Bond's charm like all the others did? The answers to all these questions amount to what is unequivocally the greatest comeback of all time in an action packed, well executed story rife with Cold War grievances, betrayal, mystery, vastly different personalities, and an all around awesome Bond performance. So sit back and enjoy the thrill ride that is GoldenEye.
Production began on 16 January 1995. However, because the Sean Connery medieval film "First Knight" (1995) had reserved Pinewood Studios in advance, EON Productions was forced to relocate to an abandoned Rolls-Royce factory at the Leavesden Aerodrome where the St. Petersburg tank chase was filmed, with reference footage from the real city to match it. The producers insisted that Pinewood Studios would've been too small to accommodate the production anyway, which for that very effective scene was absolutely true. The Russian T-54/55 Tank on loan from the East England Military Museum was modified with rubber tires for street scenes, and fake armor plates rigged to explode for filming. Modifications involving a cut in the glacis plate which was tinted with Perspex to allow a stunt driver to drive the tank while Brosnan pretended to be in control. For the climatic duel, Campbell wanted to recreate the fighting style between Bond & Red Grant from "From Russia With Love" (1963), and when Bond seems to injure his hand from a ladder fall, he did, resulting in a schedule change which didn't hinder the overall schedule. And a true treat, the very same Aston Martin DB-5 from "Goldfinger" (1964) made a surprise appearance in the beginning in a race with a flaming red Ferrari F355. A BMW Z3 was also featured as the official Bond car as part of a three film deal with BMW, though despite that 'Q' showcases the car's gadgets, none are used in the film.
At the 720' tall Contra Dam (Verzasca/Locarno) in Ticino, Switzerland, stuntman Wayne Michaels had the privilege of performing a bungee jump which is widely considered to be among the best film stunts of all time. As a result, it is a popular bungee site till this day. Likewise, B.J. Worth skydived once again for Bond, this time after a working airplane in a free fall nosedive. Montecarlo stood in for a new exotic location that unbelievably hadn't been used as a location in a Bond film up to that time. And of course, Montecarlo stood in for a casino. The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico served as the climatic satellite dish duel; a true privilege for a Bond film. And a new plus, the exterior of the real MI6 HQ was used for the remainder of the Brosnan Era. The French Navy supplied the FS La Fayette, and their new helicopter: the Eurocopter Tiger. Second unit travelled to St. Petersburg, Russia, making it the first Bond film to shoot in Russia, which was a true milestone in the Cold War saga, although, they did require bodyguards, so not everything was perfect. Lastly, a British Rail Class 20 Diesel Electric Locomotive and two BR Mk 2 coaches made up the mothballed Soviet Missile Train. Its sequences were filmed on the Nene Valley Railway where Octop*ssy's Circus Train was filmed in "Octop*ssy" (1983). And as odd as it sounds, the french military logos in the film which were meant as a tie in created complications because Pierce Brosnan was opposed to the french nuclear weapons testing, and was a member of Greenpeace, thus resulting in the cancellation of the french premiere, but not their military logos. Filming was completed on schedule on 6 June 1995.
As James Bond, Pierce Brosnan proved to be the closest yet to Sean Connery. He definitely wasn't the proper english gentleman that Roger Moore was, and he certainly didn't seem to be pretending to be Bond like George Lazenby, nor did he come across as an independent action hero like Timothy Dalton. Rather Brosnan maintained the clever wit & charm that Connery sported, while still being dangerous, yet compassionate without the misogynist side to his character like Connery's Bond. Such a remark from M in which she declares she regards him as a "sexist misogynist dinosaur" and "relic of the Cold War" somewhat breaks the fourth wall like Vijay Amritraj did when he played John Barry's James Bond theme to catch Bond's attention in "Octop*ssy." By acknowledging that the filmmakers are familiar with the audiences belief that Bond was indeed a relic that couldn't thrive without the Cold War, they were in a sense reassuring fans from the outset that they too understood this, and had taken necessary steps to update Bond, and Pierce Brosnan is a perfect example of this. Director Martin Campbell let's him be somewhat modern, but doesn't lose sight of Bond's classic mannerisms and deceptive behavior towards everyone he meets. Yet unlike Lazenby & Dalton, Brosnan doesn't appear like he's being directed, as he just sort of does his own thing, without losing sight of those character traits. Overall, Brosnan was the best since Sean Connery, though not just because he was the most like him, but because he also made it his own without losing the essence of James Bond.
Everything balances out in this film. It has the best ensemble cast of characters, including a Russian Defence Minister (Tcheky Karyo) in a supporting role on his own turf who can hold his own face to face with Bond; something which hadn't been done before with the russians in a Bond film. Being the first to take place in Russia, despite post-Cold War, it gave a very refreshing appearance to the film as it was like we were finally going into the lion's den so to speak. It felt very Cold War-esque if you get my meaning. It wasn't clear who was the villain from the outset, and thus provided a layer of government espionage to go along with it as we'd seen in a few previous installments. The action is also kept realistic to a point, meaning the filmmakers revisited the villain's mega-base stocked to the brim with henchmen, yet it didn't get too unbelievable, as for once, they all had a reason to be allied with the villain. On that note, Ouromov is a delight as a renegade general. He's not hilarious when he freaks out, which is good, but he can also keep his cool and display intelligence equal to Bond. Meanwhile, Xenia Onatopp provides the polar opposite of that, being an uncontrollable, unpredictable lust killer who's sexual prowess won over almost everyone with shock as she alone demonstrated that the filmmakers weren't afraid to cross the line in what was typically deemed acceptable in a Bond film to prove they meant business with their comeback. For example, the graphic violence in "License To Kill" (1989) received harsh criticism for not being proper for a Bond film, despite being typical for action films of the period. Too many expectations came with the Bond franchise, and the filmmakers were willing to break them all while still bridging it to a new era so this new film wouldn't seem like a gargantuan leap. For sticking to Cold War grievances was crucial to keep it in toe with the previous films so as not to be criticized as a cheap Bond ripoff.
As far as action & adventure goes, the film has both, taking us from England, to Russia, Cuba, and France. All were vastly different from each other, and each location served a crucial story point rather than some passing fancy to chew up runtime. Both were accomplished so well that you didn't necessarily require completely exotic locations like Thailand or India to get the job done. Going local was good enough, or at least local for a film crew. And on that note, the new Bond girl was anything but local. Granted Natalya is a computer programmer, which can be seen as the equivalent of the science geek from previous films, she doesn't at all jump into Bond's arms no questions asked. In fact, she even resists him openly and ferociously. Like most Bond girls, Bond doesn't meet her until the second half, but it still balances out nicely without Bond and the girl hitting it off right away. In fact it adds to the realism the filmmakers were trying to achieve here. So while Scorupko may not have been the first modern Bond girl (Triple X), she still does portray another sense of realism by not relying on Bond off the bat. The same can be said of Bond's allies that are typically found along the side of the road. Zukovsky is anything but. He's less than enthused to see Bond, and has what is perhaps the best line in the movie, and worst singer in his club (Minnie Driver). But I suppose having a bad singer in your entourage is better than a mute Dolph Lungren like Gogol had when confronting Zorin in "A View To A Kill."
When released, Cubby received a presenters credit, and most fans & critics alike were shocked at how much of a successful comeback this was for the Bond franchise. The most expensive budget in the franchise made bank with the biggest intake at $352,194,034. Tina Turner's title song was well received, while the music by Eric Senna was perfect. Pierce Brosnan became instantly acceptable as Bond, and the franchise was cemented for life. It also spawned the first in a long line of video games; this one being still hailed as the game which popularized the 'first person shooter' model. But ultimately "GoldenEye" proved that James Bond could be a post-Cold War hero, and for that, the fans will be eternally grateful for this installment which kept the franchise alive.