GoldenEye (1995) is the seventeenth spy film in the James Bond series, and the first to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 officer James Bond. The film was directed by Martin Campbell and is the first film in the series not to take story elements from the works of novelist Ian Fleming. The story was conceived and written by Michael France, with later collaboration by other writers. In the film, Bond fights to prevent an ex-MI6 agent, gone rogue, from using a satellite against London to cause global financial meltdown.
GoldenEye was released in 1995 after a six-year hiatus in the series caused by legal disputes, during which Timothy Dalton resigned from the role of James Bond and was replaced by Pierce Brosnan. M was also recast, with actress Judi Dench becoming the first woman to portray the character, replacing Robert Brown. The role of Miss Moneypenny was also recast, with Caroline Bliss being replaced by Samantha Bond; Desmond Llewelyn was the only actor to reprise his role as Q. GoldenEye was the first Bond film made after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, which provided a background for the plot.
The film accumulated a worldwide gross of US$350.7 million, considerably better than Dalton’s films, without taking inflation into account. The film received positive reviews, with critics viewing Brosnan as a definite improvement over his predecessor. The film also received award nominations for “Best Achievement in Special Effects” and “Best Sound” from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
The name “GoldenEye” pays homage to James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. While working for British Naval Intelligence as a lieutenant commander, Ian Fleming liaised with the American OSS to monitor developments in Spain after the Spanish Civil War in an operation codenamed Operation Goldeneye. Fleming used the name of his operation for his estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica.
In 1986 at Soviet-Era Arkhangelsk, MI6 agents James Bond and Alec Trevelyan infiltrate a Soviet chemical weapons facility and plant explosives. Trevelyan is captured and shot by Colonel Arkady Ourumov, but Bond flees as the facility explodes.
Nine years later in 1995, in Monte Carlo Bond follows Xenia Onatopp, a member of the Janus crime syndicate, who has formed a suspicious relationship with a Canadian Navy admiral. As Onatopp crushes the admiral to death with her thighs during sex, his credentials are stolen by a lookalike, which he uses board a French Navy destroyer with Onatopp to steal a Eurocopter Tiger helicopter. Orumov and Onatopp later fly the helicopter to a bunker in Severnaya, Siberia, where they massacre the staff and steal the control disk for GoldenEye, an electromagnetic Soviet satellite weapon from the Cold War. They program the GoldenEye to destroy the complex, and escape with programmer Boris Grishenko. Natalya Simonova, the lone survivor, contacts Grishenko and arranges to meet him in Saint Petersburg, where he betrays her to Janus.
In London, M assigns Bond to investigate the attack. He flies to Saint Petersburg to meet CIA officer Jack Wade, who suggests that Bond meet with Valentin Zukovsky, a former KGB agent and business rival of Janus. Zukovsky arranges a meeting between Bond and Janus. Onatopp surprises Bond at the Grand Hotel Europe and attempts to kill him, but he overpowers her. She takes him to Janus, who reveals himself as Trevelyan; he has faked his death at Arkhangelsk, but was badly scarred from the explosion in the process. A descendant of the Cossack clans who collaborated with the Nazi forces in the Second World War, Trevelyan had vowed revenge against Britain after they betrayed the Cossacks, which drove his father to kill Trevelyan’s mother and himself. Just as Bond is about to shoot Trevelyan, Bond is shot with a tranquiliser dart.
Bond awakens, tied up with Natalya in the helicopter programmed to self-destruct. They escape, but are captured and brought to the Russian military archives, where Minister of Defence Dimitri Mishkin interrogates them. As Natalya reveals the existence of a second satellite and Ourumov’s involvement in the Siberian massacre, Ourumov arrives and kills Mishkin. Intending to frame Bond for the murder, he calls the guards, but Bond and Natalya escape. In the ensuing firefight, Natalya is captured. Bond steals a tank and pursues Ourumov through St. Petersburg to Trevelyan’s train, where he kills Ourumov. Trevelyan escapes and locks Bond in the train with Natalya, setting it to self-destruct. As Bond cuts through the floor with his laser watch, Natalya triangulates Boris’s satellite dish to Cuba. The two escape just before the train explodes.
Bond and Natalya meet Jack in Cuba and borrow his plane, where the same night, they make love. The next day, while searching for GoldenEye’s satellite dish, they are shot down. Onatopp rappels down from a helicopter and attacks Bond. After a fight ensues, Bond shoots down the helicopter, which snares Onatopp and crushes her to death against a tree. Bond and Natalya watch water draining out of a lake, uncovering the satellite dish. They infiltrate the control station, and Bond is captured. Trevelyan reveals his plan to rob the Bank of England before erasing all of its financial records with GoldenEye, concealing the theft and destroying Britain’s economy.
Natalya programs the satellite to initiate atmospheric re-entry and destroy itself. As Trevelyan captures Natalya and orders Grishenko to save the satellite, Grishenko unwittingly triggers an explosion with Bond’s pen grenade (received earlier from Q) which allows Bond to escape to the antenna cradle. Bond sabotages the antenna, preventing Grishenko from regaining control of the satellite. Bond and Trevelyan fight on the antenna’s suspended platform, which ends with Bond holding a dangling Trevelyan by his foot. Bond releases Trevelyan, who plummets into the radio dish and is subsequently crushed to death by falling debris. Grishenko survives, but is killed by liquid nitrogen. Natalya commandeers a helicopter and rescues Bond. It drops them in a field, where the couple are rescued by Jack and a team of Marines.
Following the release of the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill which was released in July 1989, pre-production work for the third James Bond film starring Timothy Dalton, fulfilling his three-film contract, began in May 1990. A poster for the then-upcoming movie was even featured on the Carlton Hotel during the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. In August, The Sunday Times reported that producer Albert R. Broccoli had parted company with writer Richard Maibaum, who had worked on the scripts of all but three Bond films so far, and director John Glen, responsible for the previous five instalments of the series. Broccoli listed among the possible directors John Landis, Ted Kotcheff, and John Byrum. Broccoli’s stepson Michael G. Wilson contributed a script, and Wiseguy co-producer Alfonse Ruggiero Jr. was hired to rewrite. Production was set to start in 1990 in Hong Kong for a release in late 1991.
Dalton would declare in a 2010 interview that the script was ready and “we were talking directors” before the project entered development hell caused by legal problems between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, parent company of the series’ distributor United Artists, and Broccoli’s Danjaq, owners of the Bond film rights. In 1990, as MGM/UA was purchased by French-Italian broadcasting group Qintex owner of the French production company Pathé and merged it with his Pathé Communications Group to create MGM-Pathé Communications in 1990, Pathé CEO Giancarlo Parretti intended to sell off the distribution rights of the studio’s catalogue so he could collect advance payments to finance the buyout. This included international broadcasting rights to the 007 library at cut-rate prices, leading Danjaq to sue, alleging the licensing violated the Bond distribution agreements the company made with United Artists in 1962, while negating Danjaq a share of the profits. The lawsuits were only settled in 1992, while Dalton’s original contract with Danjaq expired in 1990.
by Simon Schofield