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Hal Hinson - Style section,
‘Goldeneye’: Traditional Bond
James Bond is back in the U.S.S.R., about to sabotage a massive weapons facility with his partner, Agent 006 (Sean Bean). However, the plan goes awry, and Bond manages to escape (in one of the most spectacular feats in the history of the series) by the skin of his sparkling white teeth.
When the story picks up nine years later, there is no U.S.S.R. Agent 007 is in the midst of a government psychological evaluation during which he meets Xenia Onatopp (the man-eating Famke Janssen), a foxy former KGB agent with a taste for high-stakes thrills. Along with Gen. Ourumov (a deliciously villainous Russian hard-liner played by Gottfried John), Onatopp initiates a plan to steal a Soviet super-weapon known as "Goldeneye" for a nefarious Russian mafia kingpin. -- Hal Hinson
‘Goldeneye’: Bona Fide Bond
Men can no longer carry on as they used to. But no one seems to have debriefed James Bond. In "Goldeneye," an entertaining collision of old values and new, the latest Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is still a dashing rascal in a tuxedo, defending queen and country from megalomaniacal psychotics, but never too busy for a little lady-killing.
Oh, this movie pretends to tackle the politics. M, Bond's imperious boss at MI6, is now a woman (Judi Dench), who takes a withering view of Bond's sexual shenanigans. But she's seen as a humorless, cobwebby bean-counter, rather than the new spirit of liberation.
There's another politically correct moment when Miss Moneypenny (an old character played by new actress Samantha Bond) playfully informs 007 that his flirtatious comments are grounds for sexual harassment.
"What's the penalty?" he asks.
"Someday you'll have to make good on your innuendos," she says.
In other words, Carry on Bond, old boy. Do it for the Empire.
At the most basic, crowd-pleasing level, "Goldeneye" (Bond producer-for-life Albert Broccoli's 17th) does the trick. Naturally, the world's in big trouble again. Russian military renegades and a mysterious mastermind want to destroy the London financial market with state-of-the-art electromagnetic satellite zappers.
Bond, whose mission takes him to Russia and Cuba, needs to identify the saboteurs and, as usual, fight his way out of a plethora of tricky, breathtaking situations. In a scene that's likely to produce the loudest audience response, for instance, Bond chases the bad guys through downtown Moscow in a tank.
Nowadays, you can almost program an exciting action movie (see "Batman Forever," "Die Hard With a Vengeance" and "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" for further details). And as these kind of spectacles go, Bond pictures are among the easiest to reprise. "Goldeneye," written by Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein, leaves few cliches unturned.
There's a girly opening song (written by Bono and the Edge, performed by Tina Turner), in which golden-hued babes undulate among Lenin-era statues and relics. Once again, super-inventor Q (regular Desmond Llewelyn, who's appeared in 15 of the 17 Bond flicks) shows 007 a new bag of deadly toys, including an explosive ballpoint pen that proves—in Bond's cheesy-witty parlance—the pen can be mightier than the sword. Then of course, there's Bond's perpetual martini order—shaken, not stirred.
On naughtier fronts, Bond dabbles romantically with nice girl Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), a computer programmer who survives an attack on a Russian space station and becomes an ally. He also has some bruising run-ins with bad girl Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), who experiences quasi-orgasms whenever she participates in violence (sex and fighting are pretty much the same thing for her).
New Bond man Brosnan can't be faulted for much. He's always been generically sexy, a sort of programmed cover boy. In this new venture, he's appropriately handsome, British-accented and suave. He doesn't have a soul to speak of. But then again, not everyone can be Sean Connery. And given the inevitability of sequels and new blood, he's as dynamic a chiseled operative as anyone could hope for.
GOLDENEYE (PG-13) — Contains sexual situations, nudity (in that opening number) and violence.
14-Karat ‘Goldeneye’: A Polished New Bond
By Hal Hinson
These days, it's hard being Bond. With our bombs trained on them, and theirs on us, Bond's mandate was clear. Today, in "Goldeneye"—the first Bond of the '90s and the 17th in the Ian Fleming spy hero series—007 (a suave Pierce Brosnan) can't even catch a break from his boss. "I don't like you, Bond," she says. "You're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur."
Of course, she's right. Bond is a dinosaur, as sexually and politically antique as Hugh Hefner. And yet, "Goldeneye" proves the character's viability as a pop icon: It isn't a great movie, but it's great, preposterous fun. Directed with top-dollar proficiency (and some real wit) by New Zealander Martin Campbell, "Goldeneye" does for Bond what "Batman Forever" did for the Caped Crusader—it resuscitates the franchise. All the expected ingredients are in place—the custom cars, phenomenal stunts, atrocious puns, high-tech hardware and voluptuous software. And with Brosnan in the lead, the film's producers seem to have found a sturdy, functional (though somewhat smaller-than- life) Bond.
Normally, we see a Bond film expecting to be shaken, not stirred, and this adventure of Her Majesty's Secret Servant is as superficial as you'd expect. But screenwriter Bruce Feirstein and novelist Jeffrey Caine ("The Cold Room") have added a level of political astuteness that even the best Bond films lacked. At stake here is nothing less than Bond's future—and, by extension, that of Great Britain's—as an international player. As the picture begins, Bond is back in the U.S.S.R., about to sabotage a massive weapons facility with his partner, Agent 006 (Sean Bean). However, the plan goes awry, and Bond manages to escape (in one of the most spectacular feats in the history of the series) by the skin of his sparkling white teeth.
When the story picks up nine years later, there is no U.S.S.R. Agent 007 is in the midst of a government psychological evaluation during which he meets Xenia Onatopp (the man-eating Famke Janssen), a foxy former KGB agent with a taste for high-stakes thrills. Along with Gen. Ourumov (a deliciously villainous Russian hard-liner played by Gottfried John), Onatopp initiates a plan to steal a Soviet super-weapon known as "Goldeneye" for a nefarious Russian mafia kingpin.
In terms of plot, this is pretty much standard operating procedure: The world is in danger from a homicidal maniac, and Bond must come to the rescue. Dressed in his dapper Savile Row threads, this Bond is portrayed as a slightly absurd figure. When a CIA agent (played with corn-pone verve by Joe Don Baker) meets 007 for the first time, the Yank takes one look at the perfectly manicured Brit and says, "Why don't you guys just pack it in?" That question resonates through the movie.
As a sexual soldier, too, Bond sticks to his old playbook, loving them and leaving them—mostly dead. His one friendly relationship here is with Natalya (Izabella Scorupco), a gray-eyed Russian computer programmer. But though the love affair goes no deeper than usual, the script does acknowledge the price that the spy has paid for remaining emotionally numb.
Such things are not why we keep going to Bond movies. Before Superman, Batman or Indiana Jones, there was Bond, the bespoke superhero, blowing up stuff and nonchalantly risking life and limb for God and country. Granted, Brosnan is no Sean Connery, but no one expected him—or anyone—to be. Still, he is suitably unflappable, and the twinkle in his eye suggests, perhaps, that his Bond will be a colder, warier hero than in the past. While seldom inspired, "Goldeneye" does deliver on the old-fashioned pleasures of the series. It doesn't come close to surpassing the best Bond films from the past, but it belongs right alongside them.
Goldeneye is rated PG13.