The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


By 1995, the James Bond franchise was at a bit of an impasse.  Timothy Dalton had made two 007 flicks, the last one coming in 1989.  Both were solid movies, but audiences didn't necessarily fall in love with the tough, icy cold portrayal that Dalton brought to the franchise. So with six years since the last movie, the franchise turned to a new star, a British actor known mostly up to that point in his career for his starring role in Remington Steele, Pierce Brosnan.

Making his debut as the infamous MI6 agent with a license to kill, Brosnan helped reinvigorate the franchise with 1995's Goldeneye. He only made four movies, ending with one of the worst Bond movies ever in 2002's Die Another Day, and his second and third entries are not the best entries either. It has to do at least a little with no more Ian Fleming novels to base stories off of, but there were other problems, few of them having to do with Brosnan's actual performance. But for starters, Goldeneye is one of the best that has actually gotten more popular over the years thanks to a Nintendo 64 game and more recently, a Nintendo Wii version with Daniel Craig digitally inserted where Brosnan would have been. So, Pierce, welcome to the franchise.

Working a mission with fellow 00 agent, Alec '006' Trevelyan (Sean Bean) at a secret weapons facility deep in Russia, MI6 agent James Bond (Brosnan) barely survives when Russian troops discover his presence in the facility. He struggles knowing Alec was killed in the process, but moves on, and nine years later continues his work. A new mission pops up when a new prototype for a high-powered offensive helicopter is stolen. Bond begins to think it's related to a mysterious Russian arms dealer named Janus who no one ever has actually met. When a Russian radar station is knocked out by a satellite firing an EMP pulse, Bond investigates, trying to find one of the two survivors, a computer technician named Natalya (Izabella Scorupco). But as clues start to mount, Bond begins to wonder. Is his supposedly dead partner Alec somehow involved in this scheme?

Besides the obvious transition from Dalton to Brosnan, Goldeneye is also noteworthy because it's the first Bond movie to be released since the Soviet Union collapsed. The evil Commie Russians were always a prime enemy for Bond to battle. So in a lot of ways, this is a transitional 007 flick. Director Martin Campbell (who would return for Craig's first movie, Casino Royale) brings the right energy to the franchise. There's action, but not too much. It's over the top, but never cartoonish or comic book stylized. There is humor and one-liners, but they're never over-done. Goldeneye is not only a good James Bond movie, but just a good movie overall. Brosnan's later entries struggled to stay in that middle ground, instead bouncing around too much into humor and ridiculous, even stupid, action.

Sean Connery is and always will be the best James Bond. Daniel Craig certainly has the potential to be second best, and of course depending on who you ask, any Bond fan is going to have a personal favorite. Brosnan is an interesting mix because he's a solid mix of all of those previous Bond actors while still putting his own spin on the character. He's smooth and stylish but can be equally cold. He's calmly efficient in his workings, but he is also troubled by his past failures. Much the way Connery did, Brosnan delivers his lines impeccably. James Bond one-liners have a tendency to sound forced and awkward if not handled just the right way, but Brosnan has a way of throwing them off the cuff that feels natural. As the series went forward, Brosnan as Bond was the least of the franchise's troubles. He was never in question, just the movies he starred in.

Just about any good James Bond movie has any number of reasons why it is successful. For me, one of Goldeneye's biggest selling points is the cast in support of Brosnan.  Sean Bean is one of the best and most underrated actors around at playing that villain you can't help but like a little bit. He's charming but with that hint of evil waiting to reveal itself. Scorupco isn't the best Bond girl, but she does have a good chemistry with Brosnan if nothing else. Famke Jannsen is one of the all-time best Bond girls as Xenia, Trevelyan's hench-woman, a killer who literally squeezes her victims to death with her thighs, getting some sort of sexual release in the process. Judi Dench is a great addition as M, head of MI6, Joe Don Baker plays Jack Wade, Bond's CIA counter, Robbie Coltrane is Valentin, a former KGB agent, Gottfried John is the treacherous Russian general, Orumov, Alan Cumming is conniving computer hacker Boris, Tcheky Karyo is Mishkin, Russia's defense minister, and of course, Desmond Llewelyn is Q, Bond's supplier of any and all needed gadgets.

Looking at the storyline this is an interesting addition to the Bond movies. The pre-credit sequence actually has something to do with the rest of the movie, and of all those sequences it is one of the best. But after Tina Turner's Bond song (listen HERE), the action goes by the wayside for most of an hour. Campbell doesn't rush the proceedings, giving Brosnan some room to breathe as Bond, laying out all the characters and situation. He does not disappoint then when the action does come around. A chase through a Russian facility followed by a tank chase through St. Petersburg is nicely executed as is a small-scale showdown with Trevelyan and Xenia on a Russian missile train. The finale at the necessary secret base as Trevelyan tries to rob the Bank of London through Boris' hacking is a great set piece, something you have come to expect from a Bond movie.

Partially because I love the N64 game so much, I probably give the actual movie a higher rating than I might if I was just judging purely on the movie alone. But it is still one of the best James Bond movies, and a fitting intro to Pierce Brosnan as 007.  Not quite a reboot like Casino Royale was, Goldeneye is by far the best Brosnan entry, and one any Bond fan should enjoy.

Goldeneye <---trailer (1995): *** 1/2 /**** 

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