Short Films
Interviews Contact Links Cheez Blog

Goldeneye (1995)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scoupco, Famke Janssen, Judi Dench, Alan Cumming

Written By: Jeffrey Caine, Bruce Feirstein, Michael France (story) Directed By: Martin Campbell

The Short Version

James Bond returns after a six and a half year hiatus, and this time, he’s played by the man everyone wanted.

And he brought an outstanding new “M” with him… not to mention a post Cold War world.

Call it a soft reset without resorting to the hard reboot.

For once, a highly anticipated movie lives up to and even exceeds most of its hype.

Pierce Brosnan’s first turn as 007 is his best; for Bond fans, Goldeneye is a must-own.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


English Cheddar.  For England.

Pairs Well With...


A movie that takes place largely inside Mother Russia, and they want to peddle American vodka (Smirnoff)?  Nyet, Comrades.

“James Bond, stiff-ass Brit.”

For just shy of three decades, the silver screen adventures of James Bond, 007 had been a reliable staple of the cinema.  But then came the 1990s, and suddenly, the familiar musical cues of Monty Norman stopped playing ahead of pre-credit sequences.

Six and half years after the world’s most famous secret agent had last graced the multiplex, audiences were more than ready for Eon Productions to make good on the promise that “James Bond Will Return,” and they were especially more than ready to see him do so in the form of the man they’d been wanting to see in the role since Roger Moore left: Mr. Pierce Brosnan.  One could even suggest that Goldeneye was far and away the single most anticipated movie of 1995.

And we all know what that means, don’t we?

Surprise!  For once, a highly anticipated movie actually lived up to and even exceeded most of its lead up hype.  Against all odds, Goldeneye turned out to be pretty awesome, and has since come to be recognized as one of the franchise’s landmark films.

What makes it a landmark?  Okay, fine.  No more foreplay.  Let’s have a very quick look at the highlight reel.

Bond.  James Bond.  Of course the single most important factor here has to be the debut of Pierce Brosnan as the world’s most popular Walther PPK user.  Fans had wanted him for the role before and been denied; now that they had their man at long last, was he going to deliver the goods?  For the one shining moment that is Goldeneye, the answer was and is an undisputable “yes.”  Brosnan steps very comfortably into 007’s shoes, displaying not just confidence, but real joy and enthusiasm for the part.  He also avoids a trap that some had feared might happen and refrains from giving the audience any “Remington Steele” flashbacks.  He does everything that any established franchise fan could have asked for and then goes that extra step beyond to put his own signature on the role that transcends what the script alone provides.  (The screenplay was originally written for Timothy Dalton, but that at least some rewrites happened is obvious.)  He gives Bond a slight edge and a dash of 90s melancholy while bringing back some of the humor that had been lost in the late 80s… and even goes for a signature sex move.  (Brosnan’s Bond is a biter.)  New life to the old boy?  Oh, yes.

The More Things Change… Goldeneye represents a soft reset of the world’s most venerable motion picture franchise, presenting a very different, decidedly modern world for 007 to play in without technically disowning established canon.  Still the unrepentant womanizer, Bond is none the less referred to as a “misogynist dinosaur” by his new boss... herself a woman (played brilliantly by Judi Dench).  She goes on to call him “a relic of the Cold War,” which he is in this first series film to be made after its end.  Indeed, Goldeneye goes out of its way to point out that little fact of history, basing itself largely within the boundaries of a very different post-Communist Russia populated by corrupt generals, cyber criminals, and ex-KGB gangsters.  It makes for a fascinating setting while at the same time providing ample symbolism to show that not only has the world changed, but so, in many tangible ways, has James Bond.  And yet…

…The More They Stay The Same.  Goldeneye begins with a flashback to, interestingly enough, roughly 1987.  (Why so interesting?  That’s the year in which Pierce Brosnan was originally supposed to have debuted as 007.)  Bond is doing actual Cold War spy stuff, breaking into a Soviet weapons facility with the help of a compatriot: Alec Trevelyan, 006 (Sean Bean, himself a fantasy Bond candidate to some).  During the course of this opening sequence of events, the production team works hard to assure nervous audiences that even though they’re about to turn the world upside down, they still haven’t forgotten the franchise’s roots.  Kick off with a record setting bungee jump.  Then introduce the new 007 with a one-liner as he drops in on a Soviet soldier reading Pravda on the porcelain throne.  Move on to an exciting firefight with an awesome twist that’s so amusing that even the nasty Soviet officer has to smile at it.  Finally, finish the sequence with a ridiculous stunt involving jumping a motorcycle off cliff and freefalling into the cockpit of a crashing plane, only to gain control just in time to escape a massive explosion.  No fear, ladies and gents: Bond time is still very much adventure time.

Over The Top?  Onatopp.  And then, of course, there’s the introduction of one of the most memorable Bond characters ever: Xenia Onatopp (world at large, meet Famke Janssen), the homicidally orgasmic ex-fighter pilot and chief henchperson for the film’s overall villain.  Naughty name, check.  Sexual appetite, check.  Deadly adversary with an edge who’s always happy to go over it, check.  It’s an interesting choice to make the standout Bond girl the evil one he never sleeps with (spoiler alert), but I haven’t heard anyone complain.  Franchise purists, though, continue to rejoice.

A Fascinating Villain.  As for Onatopp’s employer… Alec Trevelyan proves to be one of James Bond’s most interesting adversaries, thanks both to a well-written backstory and to an outstanding performance by Sean Bean.  In a very real sense, Goldeneye can be viewed as Bond vs. Bond action; certainly the closest we ever will (or ever want to) get to an evil twin/clone story, for certain.  How could our hero’s former friend and close colleague be anything but a great match for 007?  Bonus: he can even get into a physical fight with Bond, which is never a given but always a treat.

And Now For Something Completely Different…  A Goldeneye highlight reel wouldn’t be complete without making special mention of the introduction of a very different ally for James Bond: KGB agent turned Underworld Boss Valentin Zukovsky (outstandingly played by Robbie Coltrane).  The idea of turning a former foe of 007 into an ally of questionable reliability is a brilliant one, and a great performance seals the deal.  Though he only has a few minutes of screen time, Zukovsky proves to be a character that would have audiences begging for his return in a future franchise installment.

So that, along with a tank chase and an exploding satellite monitoring station and a sneak appearance by the Arecibo telescope and a whole bunch of other stuff, is a quick tour of what makes Goldeneye one of the James Bond franchise’s great success stories.  Does that make it perfect?  Not really.  Though our naughty Bond girl is extremely memorable, the “good” one played by Izabella Scorupco is nearly as forgettable, despite being well and realistically written.  (Perhaps that’s the problem; she just doesn’t fit.)  Similarly, though Bond’s ex-KGB friend is cool, his new CIA buddy (behold cast recycling by way of Joe Don Baker) is an obnoxious pain.  And the score by Eric Serra, while making for a very good standalone chill album with synth and a few industrial overtones, absolutely does not fit the James Bond universe at all.  (Indeed, Serra’s score did not include any use of the classic Monty Norman cues; those were added later at the wise insistence of the Powers That Be.)  But given the adventure and intrigue that defines the majority of Goldeneye, these sins are easy to let slide without a second thought.

As always, a movie doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.

Bottom line, Goldeneye is indeed a great addition to the James Bond franchise, and just the shot in the arm that the series needed after a six and a half year hiatus.  Pierce Brosnan’s debut performance proves to be his best, and classic adventure elements find their way into the brave new post Cold War world with barely a hitch.  Whether one is a die hard 007 fan or just an action movie lover, this is a flick worth owning.

Doom Cheez Cinema is now Cinema on the Rocks. Thank you for your support!

Tweet this page!

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, January, 2014

This review is for my friend Eric Dewey, who is also my cohost on "Her Majesty's Secret Podcast."

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

Promotional/still images copyright their original authors. If you're going to drink, please do so legally and responsibly. Thanks.