We all know that Daniel Craig helped effectively reboot the James Bond movie franchise in 2006 with the amazing Casino Royale. But let’s not forget that Pierce Brosnan was at the helm of the first Bond “rebirth” in Goldeneye. Brosnan was the darling of Bond producer Albert Broccoli in the mid ’80s, but was unable to take the role because of his then-current commitment to the television show Remington Steele. Assuming he could have gotten the job back then, he would have followed Roger Moore after A View to a Kill. But alas, Timothy Dalton had to come aboard and appeared in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. When Brosnan finally was available, the decision was made to quickly snap him up.
Goldeneye was the first of Brosnan’s four movies as the guy who likes his martinis shaken and not stirred. It covers Bond in a new way, now that the Cold War is over and Russia isn’t what it used to be. He is forced to flee a Russian stronghold from the grasp of a Russian general who executed a friend and fellow agent Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean, Ronin). Fast forward several years later, Bond is dispatched to find a Russian device called Goldeneye, which is a electromagnetic pulse that wipes out any electronic device.
The basic tenets of the story are nothing too special, but it’s notable for several reasons. It’s the first film directed by Martin Campbell, who has been the director of choice for almost all of the Bonds since, including Casino Royale. Judi Dench was in her first appearance as Bond’s superior M. But in the film, there’s a pretty good mix of action and lightheaded comedy. Brosnan as Bond really invigorates the franchise, taking the one-liners for what they’re worth, but also being someone vigorous enough that he’s believable in the role.
Are there villains? Sure. Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen, X3) is a mix of sex and violence, but she’s more the evil henchman, er, henchperson, than anything else. Are there Bond girls? Well, the main one is Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco, Reign of Fire), and she kicks more butt than drops a man’s jaw. The Felix Leiter equivalent is Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker, Fletch), and there are more than adequate supporting performances by Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Alan Cumming, (X2). The sum of their parts exceed the total in this case, and it’s one of the better Bond films overall.
For the work that Lowry Digital has done for the older Bond films, it seems like they’ve forgotten a little about the new ones. The overall print is OK, blacks are pretty solid and it’s not too colorful a film overall, but it’s not a consistently sharp image on the DVD.
Even though the video may be a little on the bland side, the audio seems to more than make up for it. The DTS track is active throughout (with every reason to be, since the movie is all about explosions and stuff), with effective surround panning and some isolated surround effects (like in the first scene when Bond fires a gun with an anchor hook of some sort on it), along with some subwoofer activity during said explosions. Well worth the time.
The commentary with Campbell and longtime producer Michael Wilson has been retained on this new edition and is the only extra on the first disc. It’s a pretty laid back commentary with not a lot of exciting information on it. The two share the usual thoughts on the actors in the film, and Wilson provides a lot of production details to boot. Campbell does discuss his influence of American westerns in British action movies, and provides some detail on the backlash of casting Dench as M. It runs out of steam about halfway through and isn’t really earth shattering, so it can be skipped.
Moving onto Disc Two, there has been quite a wealth of material that is new to the DVD releases. First off, the “Declassified MI6 Vault” starts with four deleted scenes with introductions that run about four minutes long. They’re pretty bland and it’s easy to see why they were cut.
Next are a series of quick featurettes on various production aspects of the film. First is a look at the stunt driving in the film with longtime Bond crewmember Remy Julienne, followed by a look at the scene involving a tank and a stunt chase. There’s another look at the pre-production of the film that runs about 10 minutes long. The introduction of Brosnan to the franchise gets some screen time, followed by the process to expand the soundstages at Pinewood (where the Bond production has its home of record). “Goldeneye: Secret Files” is a half hour look at the film that repeats the last featurette, except it’s given a lot more time and gets more time to talk about the production. Sure, there’s more interview footage with Brosnan, but you see more of the pre-production, along with miniature effects, set design, and lots of camera time in the various locations of the film.
The other “secret files” part of the disc focuses on the cast for about 10 more minutes and is pretty cast exclusive, with interviews from Dench, Janssen, Coltrane, just about every major player to speak of. Another longtime Bond crewmember in Peter Lamont gets 10 minutes to show footage from various location scouting trips, and discusses the footage, which is handheld and without sound. Lamont discusses the process to get his job done and recalls some of the trips. Some of the preliminary tank footage is shown near the end, but otherwise it’s a nice inclusion. The miniature effects (and supervisor Derek Meddings) are given three minutes to show off their wares, with an introduction by Campbell. The press conference with Brosnan’s introduction is included, along with the introductions of all the other cast members. Brosnan and Coltrane are the most animated before their intros, but it’s an interesting clip to have in the set.
There’s a look at the pre-title sequence done via storyboards, and Campbell is the subject of a look at his work ethic and the type of direction he provides on set, and there is enough rib poking by some of the crew (including Brosnan) for its own brand of levity. But he appears to be a little cantankerous on set overall, with some kid gloves towards the talent.
There are a couple of quick commentary segments by Campbell that serve as a minor rebuttal to the teasing he suffered in this piece. Moving onto the “007 Mission Control” section, you get the usual interactive look at weapons, girls, villains and the like, and from there, the “Mission Dossier” section starts with a TV special on the Bond legacy. Filmed around the time of the 1995 theatrical release and hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, she gets a chance to wear a lot of Bond-ish outfits a la Austin Powers, and she helps show the world the legacy of Bond, from a girls, villains, locations and actors standpoint. Sure, it doubles as a promotional piece for Goldeneye, but there’s quite a handful of footage here, and some interview footage (most of it dated) from the relevant cast and crew members.
Next is a 15 minute “video journal” for the production, most of it focusing on the opening stunt, you know which one. Thereï¿½s a quick 5 minute promotional featurette that’s pretty redundant after you’ve watched everything else. The “Ministry of Propaganda” section houses 2 trailers and a dozen TV spots, and the “Image Database” is your usual stills gallery.
Goldeneye is one of the better Bond films of the bunch, I’d maybe put it in the top 5 just to shake things up and be controversial. As a disc, the only thing that’s missing is a commentary with Brosnan, but it’s a forgivable omission, as it seems like this is as exhaustive as the title is going to get on DVD. Definitely worth picking up as part of Volume 3 of the Bond collection, and you can skip the single disc version that was just released.