Has the longest-running franchise in film history finally run its course, done in by changing politics, sexual mores and audience tastes? In a word, no. GOLDENEYE, starring Pierce Brosnan as Bond No. 5, should appeal equally to die-hard Bond
fans and bonded DIE HARD fans.
Lean, dark and graceful, Brosnan wraps his perfectly calculated accent around all the standard phrases without making us hear quotation marks. He's a worthy Bond, glib and convincingly athletic, and ought to last a good half-dozen films before his waist thickens and his solid good looks begin to
slide. And although GOLDENEYE is the first Bond film that owes nothing to Ian Fleming but 007 himself, that's no particular drawback. The Bond movies, particularly the later ones, were less about plot than trappings: cool gear, perverted bad guys, gorgeous girls and exotic locations. The writers
get the mix just about right, and first-time Bond director Martin Campbell moves things along fairly briskly.
The plot is along the usual lines, involving a Russian satellite, code-named GoldenEye, that comes under the control of supervillains Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) and General Ourumov (Gottfried John). GoldenEye has the power to destroy anything containing an electrical circuit, up to and including
an entire city, and the villains plan to decimate London while also making themselves super-rich. If there's a twist, it's that Alec is not the usual foreign criminal mastermind, but a former friend and colleague of Bond's. Bond, in fact, has been racked with guilt (!) for years, convinced he
caused Alec's death during an operation in the former Soviet Union.
More importantly, let's talk about girls, beginning with the new M -- surely the first of Bond's bosses to call him a misogynist dinosaur. Dame Judi Dench plays M as a steely schoolmarm who coolly tells her underlings that if she wants sarcasm, she'll talk to her children, utterly unconcerned that
admitting she's borne babies will undermine her authority. No one could mistake her for a den mother, unless the den were in Sparta.
Representing the baddies is Famke Janssen as the ultravixenish Xenia Onatopp. Janssen is all wide, devouring mouth and rolling eyes: She looks like a European adult-comic-book diva, always on the verge of dissolving into bold black lines and twinkling white highlights. That she kills men by
scissoring them between her thighs strikes at least some of them as a reasonable exchange. Last and, yes, least memorable is the Bond girl proper, Russian computer whiz Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), just as lovely and pliant as Bond needs her to be.
GOLDENEYE's opening credits sequence is simply stunning, a surreal pop fantasy of Soviet Realist statues and Janus-headed babes whose mouths are equally likely to hold cigars as smoking guns. Who could not love the sight of near-naked girls writhing atop Lenin's bronze head as great
hammer-and-sickle sculptures drop through the air and shatter on impact?
The James Bond series looked in trouble when Timothy Dalton -- the second-most unfortunate successor to definitive Bond Sean Connery -- failed to single-handedly galvanize THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and LICENCE TO KILL. No matter that Roger Moore's lightweight characterization and a series of
increasingly silly stunts had already begun to sabotage the franchise; Dalton took the rap, and the search for a new Bond was on. For the moment, at least, the producers have found the right man for the job.
GOLDENEYE goes on a bit, but it was the Bond series that taught today's action directors to go for that extra few minutes of exotic locale, ante-upping gadgetry or spectacularly choreographed mano a mano action. By the time Bond and Natalya are buzzing around Cuba in a private plane, some viewers
will be plotting their way out of the theater. Others, notably the toy-loving boys for whom 007 has always exerted the greatest pull, will doubtless wish it could all go on forever. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh