Goldeneye (Ultimate Edition) Review
With hindsight, it’s very easy to forget how improbable Goldeneye’s success was back in 1995. Nowadays successful relaunches of apparently dead franchises feel like ten a penny, what with Batman Beginning and Superman Returning and Doctor Who, erm, turning up once more, but back then it was a far less likely prospect. The common consensus in the industry was that once a property had run its course - especially if that course had followed the usual law of ever-decreasing quality - that was it, and no one with any sense should go anywhere near the title again. The Bond films were a typical case; the misfire of License to Kill had shown the venerable agent attempt to keep up with the late Eighties trend of violent action thrillers only to find it a style totally unsuited to his character and one which only showed up his quaint shortcomings all the more sharply. Here was a character out of time: with the by-then inevitable ending of the Cold War what use did the world have for a man who has spent his time battling supervillains intent on world domination, one who lived in an essentially fantasy world? That sort of thing wasn’t in vogue any more; the supervillain Russian Bear had been neutered and, with no other power emerging at that time to take its place on the world stage, thrillers were turning to the more unpleasant concerns of drug-traffickers and large business roguishness, a dirty amoral world coloured in shades of grey rather than the apparent black and white of earlier time, one in which a cheerful quip and a Vodka martini just didn’t fit in. Bond films, for all their blood and mayhem, were almost naïve in their worldview, and certainly of little relevance to the emerging battlegrounds of the last decade of the twentieth century. As someone once said to another iconic hero, he belonged in a museum, consigned to the relaxed atmosphere of Bank Holiday afternoons rather than the serious matter of the local multiplexes. It’s somewhat unsurprising then that when Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, who had taken over the reins of Bond production following Cubby’s retirement from the front line, announced that the seventeenth Bond film would enter production in 1995 there was at best scepticism and at worst outright derision. Bond’s day had past. Let the agent retire.
More fool the doubters. Not only did Bond return, he returned triumphantly, in a film which examined what made the franchise great and rejigged it to restore the character to a significance some had thought impossible. The makers’ masterstroke was to make the doubts about Bond’s relevance the central premise of the film itself. Literally asking the question: What place does Bond have in the modern world? Goldeneye manages to not only provide a convincing answer, but also succeeds in both adhering to the formula of all Bonds before it and also deepening and widening the palate, making Bond, and the world in which he lives, a more convincing, three-dimensional place, rather than the cartoon backdrop of even (arguably) the two Daltons. It examines its hero and his raison d’etre in a way never seen before, literally turning him inside out to discover if he is still pertinent to the world of the Nineties and beyond or whether his filmic persona has dated as much as the novels have. It’s this willingness to confront the issue, and the way that it successfully manages to counteract the arguments set against its success, that makes Goldeneye such a brilliant film.
The plot sees Bond investigating the theft of the Goldeneye, a weapon that can wipe out all electromagnet signals from an orbiting satellite. Stolen by the mysterious Janus syndicate, Bond travels from Monte Carlo to Russia and then on to Cuba in his quest to hunt down the weapon before it can be deployed. Little does he realise, however, as he embarks on his adventure that the mission will become far more personal than usual when the head of Janus is revealed to be one Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), a man he’d previously known as fellow MI6 agent 006, an agent he thought he’d seen shot dead during a mission eight years previously. Together with his feisty female sidekick Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) Trevelyan plans to exact revenge on the British Empire for sending his grandparents to their deaths during the war and to get rich in doing so by using Goldeneye to stage the biggest bank heist in history, crippling the world’s economy. Can Bond put aside his own demons as he faces the man he once considered his closest friend?
The first question that has to be asked about the film is: Is Goldeneye an authentic Bond film or just a calculated pastiche? The opening titles certainly seem to suggest the latter: the first title sequence designed after the death of the incomparable Maurice Binder (who designed all bar two of the previous sixteen films’ openings) looks exactly like a student’s attempt to copy his style and is accompanied by a song, written by Bono and U2 and sung by Tina Turner, that sounds like it wants to be Goldfinger when it grows up. Looking on a surface level at early events in the film, it would appear that after the qualified disaster of License to Kill Broccoli and Wilson, together with writers Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein and director Martin Campbell, have felt they had to go back to Bondian fundamentals, so much so that a dispassionate glance at the screenplay might seem to show more a collection of stereotypical scenes from past Bond movies rather than a complete narrative in its own right. There’s a casino scene, a bland car chase, a key plot element set in outer space and so on, while the climax takes place in a massive villain’s lair located underneath an exotic location. Who’s to say that these elements weren’t assembled first on a giant whiteboard, with a plot subsequently manufactured to glue them together? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time such an approach to putting a 007 picture together had been employed; during the Moore years the locations were nearly always chosen first and the story woven around them afterwards. And it’s true to say that at least one of the above mentioned scenes is crowbarred in when it’s not really needed; Bond’s two initial encounters with Xenia Onatopp, the car race followed by the casino game, are basically the same Act One flirtation scene with the second replacing cars with cards, and with both having the same competitive dynamics there is a repetition that really demands one is dropped.
There is, however, a counterargument to these claims. As with all iconic characters from film, Bond is indelibly associated with certain fundamental moments. Launching a new actor in the role, it would be very easy for lazy critiques to claim “He’s not a real Bond because he didn’t gamble/race/bed multiple women.” There’s a certain element of popular culture that new people coming into existing roles have to “prove” that they are who they have the impudence to claim to be. In Doctor Who actors in the lead role always say they didn’t feel like a real Doctor until they’d encountered the Daleks while those playing Sherlock Holmes only really look the part when they start smoking a calabash and don the deerstalker. So it is with Bond, and with the entire franchise’s future resting on Brosnan’s shoulders it’s little surprise Campbell puts him in the same positions his predecessors thrived in so early on in the movie. In doing so Brosnan is not only reflecting those past actors but also competing with them, showing that he’s just as able to exchange meaningful glances over the baccarat table or spar on the roadside. These early moments are as much a case for the prosecution of Brosnan’s suitability to the role as they are essential to the narrative itself. Once the actor has proved himself - announced himself as “Bond, James Bond” and ordered his first vodka martini (two lines that follow each other within seconds) - he can get on with the job at hand.
And what a job. Indeed, the real answer to the question asking whether Goldeneye is a pastiche lies not in the material discussed above, but in the central thrust of the narrative itself, which starts properly as soon as Bond has stopped following Onatopp around and returns to London for his briefing. From then on the film kicks into its thematic drive and, after its first half hour looking back, is never again remotely stereotypical. It’s plain from the moment M starts ranting at him that this is a Bond in a very different world to those that came before. At the same time as Brosnan is busy proving he is Bond, the film he finds himself in the heart of is busy subverting everything that went before, resulting in a Bond that is both very old school and also clearly looking towards the future.
In 1989 Francis Fukuyama famously declared that the fall of Communism marked “the end of history,” explaining that the triumph of democracy over all other forms of government meant that man’s search for an ideological ideal had come to an end. A daft hypothesis which, sadly, has been proven over the intervening period to be at best optimistically premature, but one which still held resonance for Bond. The old truism that you can define a man by his enemies is certainly valid for Bond and, while his film adversaries replaced the novels’ Russian organisation SMERSH with Blofeld’s independent SPECTRE which enjoyed causing trouble between Moscow and the West, the pervading presence of the evils of Communism were never far away. What does Bond do when that problem has receded? What is there left for him to fight?
On a surface level the ironic answer to that is that he has to start fighting Capitalism. Looking ahead, all four Brosnans have featured villains trying to exploit the West’s pervading interest in some way (with Tomorrow Never Dies’s Elliot Carver trying Blofeld’s old trick of creating war between East and West for the entirely different reason that he wants to make money out of the broadcasting rights) but it is at its most blatant here, with Alec Trevelyan’s plans to cripple the world’s economy. However in the grand scheme of things that is almost insignificant compared to the real battle going on. Goldeneye is as much about exploring the motivation of Bond, the debate about whether he is worth still making films about or whether he is past his sell-by-date. As such his real adversary is not so much anything the world can throw at him, but he himself. When Brosnan was first cast, and in virtually every interview he did during his time as Bond, he constantly emphasised how he wanted to reflect the dark side of Bond and explore his personal demons, and in the first film this was extended to include the personal demons of self-doubt and insecurity, and are personified in his two main adversaries.
Although they don’t stand up to the truly iconic villains of Bonds past, the Ernest Stavros Blofelds and the Pussy Galores, Goldeneye’s villains, Trevelyan and Xenia Onatopp, are easily the best Brosnan’s Bond would ever face. The key to their success is not so much their villainy in its own right - although Onatopp is unarguably the most memorable female Brosnan will play opposite in his four films - but in the way they act as reflective commentaries on the Bond persona itself. Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan is often overlooked in discussions about the series’ gallery of rogues, almost entirely down to the fact he is relatively low-key and therefore not in keeping with the maniacal extroverts seen in past films. He doesn’t conform to type, and as such is relatively easy to dismiss when one thinks back over the years, but the brilliance of the character is that that quietness is exactly the point. He is the literal opposite to Bond, the raging id to 007’s superego, the introverted self-doubt and tortured conscience our hero works so hard to bury within himself, made flesh. Usually Bond finds himself facing a main villain as over-the-top and flashy as himself, the pair only separated by a complete difference of morals. Here it’s something more insidious, more primal, a reflection he doesn’t want to see. This is a man who for many years was his equal, his best friend, someone he assumed thought in the exact same way he did, now exposed as something else entirely. By seeing Trevelyan’s downfall, he sees himself stripped bare, and is forced to wonder, if they had swapped places, whether he wouldn’t be the same himself. He even has the same general appearance as Bond. (One of the reasons Bean was cast was that his was a name bandied about when the casting of Bond was discussed).
Trevelyan knows Bond. He knows what makes him tick, he knows what makes him live and, most importantly, he knows what scares him. Again and again he’s able to burrow beneath his former partner’s surface, again and again he’s able to expose the past scars in the way his own scars are shown on his face. (On a side, academic, note, it’s interesting to note that he doesn’t mention Tracy; one would assume, given the timescale involved, that Bond’s marriage would have occurred at some point before the main events in Goldeneye but nothing is made of it. In a later Brosnan - I’m ashamed to admit I don’t recall which at this moment - the marriage is tacitly acknowledged.) His quiet, insidious annihilation of Bond’s psyche makes him one of the most dangerous baddies we’ve seen, far more so than a purely physical ogre such as Jaws or an Oddjob. When Bond finds himself with a weapon pointing at him he feels alive; it’s only when his own subconscious is attacked that he is really under threat. Trevelyan taunts him, asking “What’s the matter, James, no glib remark, no pithy comeback?” knowing full well what those one-liners are actually covering, the same thing as the “vodka martinis (which) silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed,” while he searches for forgiveness “in the arms of all those willing women for the dead ones you failed to protect.” For the first time since On Her Majesty's Secret Service Bond's whole persona is under attack; it's no coincidence his first line to Trevelyan in the movie is "I'm alone." It’s not just a purely personal attack either. Trevelyan’s main beef is with the British Government’s betrayal of his forefathers, the Cossacks at Lienz, during WWII - “not our finest hour,” as Bond puts it. Bond must wonder about his own missions. Trevelyan is reflecting the doubts of both the man and his institution, assaulting him nearly every way he can. The final fistfight between them in the antenna room is exceedingly brutal, realistically visceral compared to some of the cartoonish violence from earlier on, because this is perhaps the hardest, toughest fight Bond will ever have - the one against himself. He's fighting not just to save the world, but to save his own franchise.
That said, there’s one area Trevelyan can’t really attack him, his sexuality, which instead is delegated to Miss Onatopp. Xenia doesn’t believe in safe sex. In fact, she positively abhors it, getting her jollies only when her partner ends their sessions literally out of breath… forever. It’s no coincidence such a lascivious, out-of-control woman is facing this particular Bond - is sex dangerous, as the Eighties told us, or can Bond continue to womanise at will? - but what marks the maturity of the handling of the character is that, even though the question is plainly there, the conclusion is not. Together with Trevelyan they complement each other perfectly in their differing examinations of Bond; just as Trevelyan is Bond’s internal demons made flesh, Onatopp is his outward persona, a sexual killing machine who plays hard and fast - at one point, she even makes a quip following her latest bout of slaughter. She is the utterly selfish, have-it-all-at-any-cost face of the Nineties, the side which is more obsessed with glamour and self-gratification than doing one’s duty to king and country. Famke Janssen thoroughly enjoys herself as she orgasmically writhes through the film, and is a suitable continuation of the memorably-one-note villain motif that has stretched all the way through the Bond films from Oddjob to Mayday. She’s also a tongue-in-cheek manifestation of the other problem Bond faced in the caring Nineties, the threat to his masculinity. This was a decade where Feminism was not so much the movement of the day as the movement of yesterday. What does Bond do when the women can fight back, as Onatopp does literally?
And it gets worse - even M is now a woman, played with pinched relish by Judi Dench. Although initially her casting would appear to be a bit of amusing, stunt-PC casting in the more egalitarian Nineties everyone liked to imagine they were living through (and, of course, reflecting the appointment of Stella Rimington, the first real-life boss at MI5) it does, in fact, have a key part to play in the analysis of Bond's relevance. The Secret Service has always been a very masculine world, one in which woman are good only for typing up letters and some brief flirtation before proper men's business can begin. Both M, in the much-quoted scene, and Samantha Bond’s Miss Moneypenny, let Bond know that things have seriously changed. Indeed, although the M/Bond scene is vitally important as far as the themes of this particular film are concerned, it is the Moneypenny scene which provides a better indication as to where the franchise wanted to head, one in which Moneypenny is quite able to spar at an equal level to Bond (“As far as I can remember, James, you’ve never had me”) but at the same time is also able to acknowledge she is still attracted to him - and that the attraction is, it seems, mutual. Never mind the ball-busting M who, as the early scene in which she first appears indicates, is still struggling in a male world (shown by the disparagement of one of her underlings when he describes her as “the Evil Queen of Numbers”), it is in the mutual flirtation that true sexual egalitarianism is found, and where Bond’s salvation lies. It’s okay, we see, for him to still be the womanising secret agent who beds everyone he can, because woman are now equally predatory and able to hold their own (so to speak). It might not just be the case that he is seducing them any more, so much as the other way round. Even his traditional conquests - here, Natalia - are aware of exactly what he is, his inner nature. She asks him at one point: “How can you be so cold?” and, to his answer that it’s what keeps him alive, she replies tartly, “No, it’s what keeps you alone.” She goes to bed with him fully aware of the kind of man he is, not blown over by his charms like the women of old.
It's in that self-awareness that Bond manages to win the day, both personally and professionally. Trevelyan might lay his demons bare before him but 007 wins through because he shows that not only is he aware of them but that he can handle them. By defeating Trevelyan, he shows he can't be brought down by attacks on himself, and the last scene of the film - in which he thinks he is alone with Natalia but it is revealed Wade's men are actually surrounding him - shows that Bond has a lot more support than Trevelyan thinks. Okay so he's alone, but he can live with that; it's the price he has to pay for the job he does and the end finds him, if not reconciled to that problem, at least able to face up to it and confront it head on. In the same way the film shows us he has changed and that there is a place for him in the world, for just because the motivation of the enemy changes his methods needn't; Capitalists can be just as mad as Communists, and are quite as able to construct massive plans for destroying the world. We still need a James Bond.
So many questions are asked about Bond in the film that the part was potentially a tricky one to pull off for the lead actor; how does one conform to type while trying to add the extra dimensions to the role the film, and the times, demand? Because of the nature of Bond’s battle in the film, it was an even bigger challenge for the new incumbent in the role than normally faces a debuting 007, with the burden of the film’s success being an even heavier weight than normal. Fortunately Brosnan was well up to the task. It’s difficult to give a critical appraisal of Brosnan nowadays, given he is so ubiquitous with the role to a modern cinema audience, but the one thing that is extraordinary to note is how seamlessly he fits into the role, as though he’s been playing it for years (which, in a way, he had been with Remington Steel). Taken out of the context of the fact this is his debut, it’s difficult to discern much difference between his playing of the role here and his last appearance in Die Another Day six years later. He has a confidence and an assurance in the role which no doubt belies the considerable nerves he must have had in taking on such a dangerous role - if nothing else, it could have killed his career stone dead. It must be very difficult for any new actor coming into such a familiar, iconic role to have to reel out such famous lines as “Vodka martini, shaken not stirred” but his delivery of such, as in his slipping into Bond’s skin in general, is effortless, without the slightest sign of a knowing wink to the camera or the self-consciousness that Moore seemed to have from the start, the tricky mixture of having both a humour and brutality in the eye that Lazenby never mastered and that only Connery had before.
Only once does his mask slip, and that’s in the Q scene. Here he can’t seem to keep a boyish smirk off his face, as if to say “I can’t believe it, look at me, I’m being Bond with the real Q, how cool is that?” Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) the Q scene by this time doesn’t really matter in the main thrust of a Bond film; unlike the early years, the Brosnan-Q moments are not important to the film’s plot but instead are a chance to let their hair down and have a bit of indulgent, inconsequential fun. Llewelyn is playing to the camera - or, more accurately, to Brosnan - just as much as Pierce is, two actors joshing with each other and not really caring much about the fact they are appearing in a film. This is an attitude that extends to the scene as a whole, the filmmakers throwing any pretence of realism to the wind in an effort to out-Naked Gun the Naked Gun films, with sight gag upon sight gag threatening to crowd out what’s going on in the foreground. They’re great fun, but not really part of the same universe as the rest of the film. The remainder of the time Brosnan is admirable, with the insouciant charm in the light scenes that Connery had, and the dark, brooding side that Dalton promised to deliver had he had the material.
He’s also bloody lucky that he was cast here, rather than in 1986 when he was first up for the part - although he didn’t think so at the time, the producers of Remington Steel were doing him a favour when they refused to release him from his contract. Everything worked out for the best: it’s difficult to see Brosnan being so good in The Living Daylights just as it’s impossible to imagine Dalton, who was originally asked to reprise his role here, fitting in seamlessly with this film. As good as Dalton was, he didn’t have quite the twinkle in his eye that Brosnan has here, a twinkle necessary for when the film unleashes the set pieces.
For all this introspection might be well and good, but the majority of a cinema audience don’t come to watch a Bond busy miserably analysing his own reason for being, they come to see him embroiled in outrageous situations which can only be resolved by equally outrageous solutions, often involving some sort of explosion. And this is the other reason Goldeneye is such a brilliant film; amidst all the meta-textual analysis and reinvention it also remembers it’s a Bond film and regularly throws off the shackles of anguish to let rip with some truly top-notch set pieces, sequences which manage to be both outrageous and humourous without falling over the edge into parody. Enthusiastic and, yes, over-the-top, they are gleefully, exuberantly Bond. From the opening jump into the plane, through to the cheeky, joyful tank chase and on to the finale in a traditional, over-sized villain’s base (the exteriors of which were actually filmed at the extra-terrestrial-searching Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, also seen in Contact) they are all sheer good fun. The success of much of this area is down to Second-Unit Director Ian Sharp and also Derek Meddings, model-maker extraordinaire. Meddings, who had worked on the Bonds since Live and Let Die, would pass away shortly after completion of this movie, so it’s fitting that some of his most convincing work is to be found in the film. He was always a genius - after all, he cut his trade on Gerry Anderson’s puppet shows, and look how they still stand up today - but I would defy anyone to positively identify which shots are model work and which aren’t in this film, his triumph being one forgets that any model work is being used at all. Together the stunt team (the film opening as it means to go on with the bungee-jump from the dam) Goldeneye more than lives up to Bonds past and reassures viewers concerned that their hero’s battle with his demons means the end of Bond as they know him that for much of the time it’s business as usual. (That said, when I first saw the film I remember the most viscerally thrilling moment to be the scene in which Bond wakes up in the doomed helicopter with Natalia, so it’s not just in the big thrills the film delivers). These moments are complimented by Eric Serra’s fine score. His music came in for some criticism but I find it an exciting accompaniment to the onscreen action, his drum beats and updating of the Bond film more memorable than David Arnold’s subsequent, slightly anonymous, scores, although not in the same league as the great John Barry’s finest.
Among all the mayhem there is a fine cast. The leads have all been discussed already, with the exception of Izabella Scorupco as Natalia, who makes an attractive, feisty but curiously unmemorable “Good” Bond girl. Of the others involved, the aptly named Samantha Bond’s Moneypenny is nondescript - she plays her part light and well, but for some reason the actress never quite clicks in the role for me, and I find it hard to discern a believable chemistry between her and Brosnan - indeed, some of the time I feel an anti-chemistry, and find it difficult to believe there could be any attraction there at all. Of the secondary characters it’s Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky who charms the most. Coltrane is easily one of the most convincing of that breed of English-comics-turned-actors, and to this role he brings his easy-going humour. He lights up the screen for the brief time he’s on it, and has a good repartee with Brosnan - what a shame his character goes to waste in The World is Not Enough. Another comic-actor, Alan Cumming, has less to do with his character. Boris is not a particularly interesting creation, but Cumming enlivens what could have been a dull role slightly. The only real bum-note to be found, and fortunately he’s not in it much, is Joe Don Baker (who previously played the baddy in The Living Daylights) as Felix Leiter-substitute Jack Wade, a tiresome character who contributes little. That said, Campbell manages to tease convincing performances out of all of them, and one of his main strengths is his ability to work with actors. He is a competent journeyman who, given the right material, can light up the screen with his pace and lightness of touch (see also his first Zorro film) but this is, for me, his best picture. It was a brave film to take on, and he doesn’t drop the ball with it. He manages to get right the Big Moments of the picture - Bond’s first appearance, Trevelyan’s reappearance, the finale in the control centre - and, while he’s not the most visually arresting of film makers, he’s a safe pair of hands, and made all the right decisions while making it. Here’s hoping for a repeat performance in Casino Royale - he certainly made a vastly entertaining film here.
And entertainment, ultimately, is what Bond is about, and that is the point Goldeneye makes. All the hand-wringing of the Dalton years, particularly in The Living Daylights, about what is PC and what isn’t is now gone. It might be a changing world, with changing outlooks for men and women, a changing geopolitical situation and a different set of ethics by which those on Her Majesty’s Secret Service have to abide by, but there is still room for an action-packed, fantastical excursion with the man who men want to be and women want to be with (and, indeed, vice versa). Onatopp is only defeated because Bond can fight back, and play just as dirty as she did, while Trevelyan’s downfall comes because he only lives in the past, wishing to avenge the actions of the British Government from fifty years before. While we should always acknowledge the pain our past history has caused us and never forget, equally we shouldn’t let it run our lives today. Learn from the past, but don’t live by it. That’s the mistake Trevelyan makes but Bond won’t. Through this film, and the Brosnan era in general, he learns to adapt to changing circumstances, and shows, triumphantly, just what a durable hero he is. At one time it was thought he couldn’t possibly reinvent himself for our modern times - Goldeneye shows that up to be a nonsense. As long as there are vodka martinis to drink, beautiful women to bed (and who wish to be bedded) and villains with outrageous plans - whatever their motivation - there’s room for James Bond, and thank goodness for that. Here he fights his personal demons and overcomes them, ready to fight another day because that’s what he does and that’s why he lives. As the trailer tells us: “It’s a new world with new enemies and new threats but you can still depend on one man.” Goldeneye reminds us of that and in that way is just as important a film as Goldfinger was all those years ago, one that sets out the rules by which all subsequent films should live. For this reason, and for the fact it pulls off what many thought impossible with such panache, energy, confidence and humour, it is my favourite Bond.
It’s uncut! It’s uncut! Sorry, but that’s the most important thing you need to know about this edition. All previous R2 editions have had thirteen seconds chopped out, nearly all of which were that old BBFC no-no the headbutt: Xenia headbutts Natalia (“Wait your turn!”), and Bond and Trevelyan knock each other a couple of times in the climactic scene. All these have now been restored, together with another exchange of blows between the two adversaries at the end. As a result of this, and a couple of the extras, the DVD is classified a 15.
The style of this release is identical to the previous sixteen Ultimate Editions, with very stylish menus. Featuring a background that mixes up a typical Binder opening sequence with a techno-chrome finish, complete with silhouetted girls and guns rolling by, they capture a perfect Bond atmosphere which, together with the movie’s soundtrack accompaniment, put one in the mood for the film immediately, as do the clips that run in gun-barrel-shaped logos that drift slowly across the screen. Each menu has its own entrance motif, from an X-Ray shot of a bullet entering the barrel of a gun through to the world itself, being danced on by, of course, another female. Disk One holds the film itself and commentary, Disk Two all other extras.
For a look at more of the menus click here.
The film itself, and all extras bar one, are subtitled.
Disappointing, actually. It’s not a bad print per se, but the problems of the previous SE have not been resolved. There’s still a fair amount of what can only be described as dirty grain layered over the print, while the darker scenes are still not as delineated nearly clearly enough to be satisfactory, with those very black scenes (such as Bond and Natalia in the helicopter) suffering particularly from lack of definition. Sadly I no longer have my SE copy to hand so can’t provide some comparison screenshots but there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two prints; it’s slightly better but not a marked improvement, and certainly not worth upgrading for if you’re purely concerned with picture quality.
Fine. There’s the option of 5.1 and DTS with the music coming across particularly well. There’s enough bang for your buck, and your speakers will shake a few times, but I did find the score the most noticeably predominant feature of the tracks, so one’s appreciation of the aural experience will depend to a certain degree on how one likes Serra’s music. Fine for me.
Disk Two is divided into several sections, namely Declassified: M16 Vault, 007 Mission Control, Mission Dossier, Ministry of Propaganda and Image Gallery, and these are delineated below. The reviews have been divided into Old Extras and New Extras, indicating which have appeared on a previous release.
Declassified: MI6 Vault
Deleted Scenes With Introductions From Martin Campbell Exactly what it says on the tin, these are four very shot segments that ended up on the cutting room floor, each prefaced by Campbell talking to camera about why they went excised.
Anatomy of a Car Chase: Remy Julienne (2:55) Not terribly enlightening piece with stunt driver Julienne talking about the filming of the car chase between Bond and Onatopp. He spends most of his time venerating the Astin Martin, and doesn’t speak about the actual technical aspects that go into making such a scene beyond vague generalities.
Anatomy of a Stunt: Tank Versus Perrier (6:06) The Second-Unit director Ian Sharp (who made Who Dares Wins) all but rubs his hands together with glee as he tells us about the shot they are about to film, in which Bond’s tank drives through the Perrier truck. Again, not terribly enlightening, but quite good fun.
Building a Better Bond: Pre-Production Featurette (9:01) Now this is interesting. Made before the film had begun shooting, this was essentially a promotional piece distributed to cinema owners to sell the movie and as such has plenty of people such as Campbell talking up how great it would all be. However, it’s got some interesting stuff in there, such as a look at the bare bones of the studio before the sets were built and a very early debut for the buzzing saw from The World is Not Enough - originally the saw was to appear in Goldeneye but the sequence was cut, appearing four years later. Also, there’s some very brief footage of the press conference to announce Brosnan’s casting - why wasn’t there more of that included in this Ultimate Edition?
Goldeneye: The Secret Files (28:30) Making-of that focuses largely on the logistics of shooting in the various locations and the stunts involved therewith. Fine for what it is but a little flat somehow. Couldn’t read some of the text on screen either as it was white set against a white background.
Goldeneye: The Secret Files - The Cast (12:19) Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Famke Janssen, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Alan Cumming and Desmond Llewelyn briefly discuss their roles in the film in a companion piece to the above extra, one which is more satisfying, if only for Cumming camping it up to the camera and Scorupco chastising her interviewer for a “pathetic” question.
Location Scouting with Peter Lamont (12:31) Twelve minutes of unthrilling scouting footage shot on a camcorder, narrated by Lamont.
Making It Small in Pictures: Derek Meddings (2:37) Could have done with more of this. As Campbell says in this featurette, a lot of the success of the scale of the movie were down to Meddings’s model shots, and it would have been nice to have seen much more about the man and his technique in this film. Instead, we get Campbell talking very fondly of him, and we see a few shots of him at work.
The Return of Bond - The Start of Production Press Event (5:28) Small vignette which sees the cast schmoozing with the press in January 1995. An atmosphere piece rather than anything revelatory, this captures the mood of the occasion well. Coltrane taking the mickey is amusing as is Scorupco who, once again in these extras, appears to be rather stroppy.
Pre-Title Storyboard Sequence (1:32) Campbell talks over a slideshow of the storyboards of the plane going over the edge of the cliff, and includes a couple of interesting titbits along the way.
Directing Bond: The Martin Chronicles (10:16) “Action!” Enjoyable profile of Campbell on set, who apparently spends his days telling people to shut the fuck up. As with so many of these featurettes, it’s more concerned with the character of the man rather than his directing technique which is disappointing, but as a portrait of what he is like to work with it’s good fun, aside from the opening “comedy” monologue to-camera from a colleague, Campbell’s regular DP Phil Meheux, which is rather embarrassing.
Optional Commentary Segments by Martin Campbell Now this is a curious one. Campbell talks over two sequences from The Martin Chronicles, namely Meheux’s monologue and the sequence in which Campbell is effing and blinding during the shoot at Monte Carlo. Odd, in that it would appear Campbell saw the above documentary and felt he had to make excuses for those two moments. One of the weirder extras you’ll find on these new Bond disks.
007 Mission Control
This feature consists of series of clips from the film, organised into various categories, namely 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch and Exotic Locations. Most of these main categories lead to a submenu, in which individual character clips can be selected - for example, the Allies category lists M, Miss Moneypenny, Q, Jack Wade and Valentin Zukovsky. Each character has multiple clips, but no collection lasts more than a few minutes. The majority of this is utterly superfluous: does anyone really need to see all of M's finest moments collected together in one easy-to-watch package? Or all the fight scenes for that matter? Almost a section to avoid entirely. Almost: the two useful contributions being the chance to watch the opening sequence without any credits overlaid on them, and the Exotic Locations section, which is a three-minute sequence of clips accompanied by a commentary from Samantha Bond in which she disperses interesting trivia about the places we are seeing (the only extra not subtitled). These two aside, this smacks of padding the disks out.
This gallery has the same set-up as all previous galleries in this series, with the following headings: Introduction, Pierce Brosnan, Izabella Scorupco, Sean Bean, Famke Janssen, The Bad and the Good, Bond’s Team (and not Bond Steam as I originally typed), Casino Beauties, Classic Cars, Car Chase Storyboards, Directing Bond, Tank Chase, Tiger Helicopter and Publicity and Posters, most of which are self-evident. There aren’t a huge amount of photos in some categories - Brosnan and Bean only get a couple each for example - but there’s a reasonable selection of pictures to peruse if you feel like it. Personally I don’t like image galleries and this does nothing to convert me.
Ahh, the nostalgia. Michael G Wilson and Martin Campbell’s commentary was one of the first - if not the first - I ever listened to, and it was a jolly good one to start off with too. Although much of their comments have dated now - such as discussion of Brosnan’s newness to the role - they have a chummy relationship which produces a relaxed track that nevertheless is always informative and interesting. Not especially technical (Campbell: “That’s a model shot. That’s a model shot. That’s a matte shot with models,”) but full of anecdotes about the film’s shoot, as well as more general comments about the film’s story and the decisions made in its construction. Very entertaining.
World of 007 - A Documentary (41:43) By the time you get to film seventeen in the series you’re going to be really thrilled at the prospect of yet another Bond documentary in which enemies, girls and so on are discussed, various people tell the same stories about shooting the same scenes - the parachute jump from TSWLM, the crocodile biting the guy’s leg in LALD and so on - and clueless celebrities affirm that Goldfinger is their favourite because that’s the one they think everyone else likes. Glorified clips shows, this one comes from 1994 and is presented by Liz Hurley who seems to be auditioning for Austin Powers two years before she was cast - the outfits she wears in this are near identical to those she wore in International Man of Mystery. I’m sorry, I love Bond, but really I’ve seen enough of these documentaries to last me a lifetime.
The Goldeneye Video Journal (14:15) Some repetition of material, although this time it’s more specific to this film. We see various scenes being shot and there’s really nothing here that isn’t to be found in the Declassified MI6 section.
Promotional Featurette (5:07) “You know the man, you know who he is, and you know his name. 007 is back!” Pure fluff of the type that used to make up a DVD’s sole Special Feature. We’ve come a long way…
Goldeneye Music Video Performed by Tina Turner (3:24) At first glance this looks to be quite a decent video, with a faux-Binder style. However it soon descends to a collection of clips from the film interspersed with a bored-looking Turner phoning it in on a cheap stylised set. Not even the machine-gun-toting women near the end can enliven proceedings.
Ministry of Propaganda
Two excellent theatrical trailers and twelve television spots.
A great film is not given a hugely great release. The video transfer is a letdown, and the extras, while more copious than some of the Ultimate Editions, are lacklustre. There’s nothing particularly bad about them, but nothing remarkable either, and I came away from going through them without feeling I’d benefited from making my way through them. The main plus is there’s plenty of modern footage of Campbell talking about the film, a contribution that should be acknowledged, but other than that… meh. Maybe it’s just me - as this film shows, it's a very topsy-turvy world...
Last updated: 19/04/2018 04:56:03