GOLDENEYE – DVD review

“GoldenEye,” from 1995, marked Pierce Brosnan’s first appearance as Ian Fleming’s super spy, James Bond. Disregarding the two aberrant versions of “Casino Royale,” Brosnan became the fifth actor to assume the role, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton. Brosnan is handsome, elegant, debonair, and sophisticated, and he came to the series with a built-in audience from television eagerly awaiting his debut. Still, I find him rather slight of build compared to any of his predecessors and not as formidable a screen presence as the inimitable Connery.

Be that as it may, “GoldenEye” displays more individuality than either of his next two Bond films, both of which could be summed up in DVDTown reviewer Shawn Fitzgerald’s words, “loud and soulless.” The producers of “GoldenEye” surrounded Brosnan with enough action and adventure that he has little to do to be successful but stand around and look good, yet they have given him a bit of humanity, too, most evident in a scene at the beach where he reveals his outlook on life to a female companion. Brosnan grows on you and eventually wins you over. In the end, he makes a worthy 007.

The plot of “GoldenEye” follows a standard Bond formula, with another madman again attempting to do some massively destructive deed that only our hero can stop. In this case, a renegade Russian general and his covert accomplice steal an armed Russian satellite and threaten to blow up London for their evil purposes. The actual reasons are not important; just go with the fun. What is more to the point is that the movie immerses Brosnan in time-honored Bond traditions. For instance, he gets reunited with his old Aston-Martin motorcar, presumably without the ejection seat he had in “Goldfinger”; he gets to don his old dinner jacket and play baccarat at Monte Carlo; and he gets to face yet another deadly feminine adversary with a sexually suggestive name, Xenia Onatopp (her favorite position).

We meet a new “M,” performed by the fine British actress, Judi Dench, who considers Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur”; an evil Russian general, Ourumov, played by Gottfried John; and a fellow British agent, 006, Alec Trevelyan, played by Sean Bean. We see “Q” once more, of course, played as always by Desmond Llewelyn (who was already an older man when he first appeared in “From Russia with Love” in 1963, his character’s name given back then as Boothroyd, and until his death the longest-running actor in the series); and Moneypenny, this time played by Samantha Bond (such coincidence).

There is also the customary beautiful heroine, a Russian computer operator named Natalya Simonova, played by Izabella Scorupco. And we are introduced to a pair of new, recurring figures. The first is CIA agent Jack Wade, played by Joe Don Baker, who is one of only two performers ever asked to return as a different character in a Bond film (he played a villain in “The Living Daylights.” Maude Adams is the other, performing as different characters in “The Man With the Golden Gun” and “Octopussy”). The second new figure is Russian mobster Valentin Zukovsky, played in high good humor by Robbie Coltrane (“Cracker”). Exotic locations in Russia, Monaco, the Caribbean, and elsewhere complete the picture.

Video:
As usual for the series, MGM present the image in as close to its original Panavision size as possible, in this case a 2.17:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Unlike the previous DVD version, there is no pan-and-scan option. The visual quality is excellent, of course, with a minimum of color bleed and a maximum of bright, rich colors and sharp delineation.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio distributes the sound effectively throughout the channels, with a wide front stereo spread and a wealth of rear-speaker activities. “GoldenEye” has quite a few things blowing up, shooting around, and flying over, so it makes a perfect vehicle for showcasing DD 5.1’s ability to send five discrete signals to the five main speakers. Need I mention, too, that bass output to the subwoofer is enormous? It is.

Extras:
Apart from the great picture and sound, this Special 007 Edition comes with a typical array of add-ons. There’s the expected audio commentary by the director, Martin Campbell, and the producer, Michael G. Wilson. There’s the equally expected featurette, this time called “The GoldenEye Video Journal,” but lasting only a disappointing fourteen minutes. A lengthier, forty-three minute documentary made for television and hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, “The World of 007,” provides information about the entire Bond series. Did you know, for instance, that “GoldenEye” was the name of author Ian Fleming’s retreat in Jamaica? You did? OK. Tina Turner does a music video of the movie’s theme song. There’s a five-minute behind-the-scenes promotional featurette that doesn’t amount to much more than an extended trailer. Then MGM provide their usual informational booklet insert, eight pages. Scene selections include a generous forty-nine chapter stops. There are two theatrical trailers and twelve different TV spots. Finally, English and French are offered as spoken language and subtitle options, curiously minus the Spanish that was provided on the earlier disc.

Parting Thoughts:
However you look at it, “GoldenEye” is an eye and ear-pleasing, action-packed entry in the Bond series, and for my money it’s a better introduction to Pierce Brosnan as Bond than his following two 007 portrayals. If you’re a Bond fan, and I daresay few home-theater buffs are not, you may be assured that this is one of the most worthwhile of the newer productions, especially in its fancy, bonus-packed edition.

“GoldenEye” may be purchased separately or in a box set that includes “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger,” “The Man With the Golden Gun,” “The Spy Who Loved Me,” “Licence to Kill,” and “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

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