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Pierce Brosnan ignites the screen as James Bond in this explosive, thrill-packed adventure that pits him against a vengeful adversary who controls an awesome space weapon capable of global destruction.
For more about GoldenEye and the GoldenEye Blu-ray release, see GoldenEye Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on October 2, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Judi Dench, Joe Don Baker
Director: Martin Campbell
» See full cast & crew
GoldenEye Blu-ray Review
Should you put Brosnan's first Bond film "Onatopp" of your to-buy list?
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 2, 2012
The gadgets. The guns. The girls. The exotic locales and sexy cars. The white-knuckle action sequences. The suave flirting and cheeky double entendres. He's been played by six actors—Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig—but there's only one Bond, James Bond. Every man wants to be him, and every woman wants to be with him. (Some men too, I'm sure.) He's the epitome of super-spy cool, and for fifty years now—fifty years!—he's been an indelible part of our pop-culture consciousness. In terms of universal recognition, Bond is right up there with Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader and Superman. Everyone knows his name, knows he likes his martinis "shaken, not stirred," and knows his favorite pistol is the compact Walther PPK. You're probably even humming or whistling the iconic 007 theme song to yourself right now, and if you aren't, I guarantee it'll worm its way into your brain sometime in the next five minutes. Instantly, more like. Admit it, it's playing on a loop in your head right now. Bond isn't just a franchise, it's a revered institution. Yes, there have been a few duds along the way, but over the span of twenty-two films—soon to be twenty-three, with the upcoming Skyfall—the series has defined the international espionage sub- genre, all the while reflecting the cultural and political changes of its times. Sure, in one sense, these are just action movies—popcorn entertainments—but for their fans, these films are the height of cinematic escapism.
For six years after 1989's underwhelming License to Kill, the James Bond franchise withered in limbo, with MGM bogged down in various financial and legal problems. Perhaps tired of waiting around, Timothy Dalton up and quit the role, forcing the studio and new producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli—daughter of longtime Bond producer Albert Broccoli—to do yet another recast of the iconic super-spy. They chose Pierce Brosnan, who was originally supposed to replace Roger Moore, but was trapped in his Remington Steele TV contract at the time.
With its new lead, the series also had to adapt to the changing political times. Ian Fleming's Bond was a product of the Cold War, so in order to keep the character relevant, the producers wisely opted to work the recent fall of the Iron Curtain into the story of the seventeenth film, 1995's GoldenEye, throwing 007 into a post-Soviet world of shifty Russian mafiosi and the upstart Janus crime syndicate, both exploiting the destabilization of the region. The MacGuffin here is a satellite weapon—the titular GoldenEye—which is capable of using powerful electromagnetic pulses to wipe out financial records and collapse the global economy.
Along with the usual geographical hopscotching—from London to Monte Carlo to St. Petersburg to the Cuban jungle this time—the film's plot is confusingly circuitous, involving a number of factions and characters with initially unclear motivations. There's the presumed dead 006 (Sean Bean) and the ex-KGB mob boss Valentin Zukovsky (Harry Potter's Robbie Coltrane), the bespectacled hacker Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) and the evil General Ourumov (Gottfried John), the CIA vet Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker), and the new M (Judi Dench), the first female head of MI6. Speaking of females, it wouldn't be a Bond film without "girls," and here we get two of them, the sympathetic Natalya (Isabella Scorupco) and the hilariously campy Xenia Onatopp (Famke Jennsen), a sexual sadist—with ridiculously strong thighs—who gets off on murder. As for Brosnan's Bond, I'd place him above Lazenby and Moore and Dalton, but definitely below Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. He nails the character's suave arrogance, but he's maybe a bit too smugly self-satisfied.
Although GoldenEye is a perennial fan favorite—I chalk this up to the Nintendo 64 tie-in game, which was always far more entertaining than the film itself—it hasn't exactly aged well. The uneasy mixture of model work and primitive CGI dates the production immediately, as does composer Éric Serra's attempt to modernize the franchise's musical palette. Still, there are some fun action set pieces here, including a firefight in an archive, a satellite showdown that's reminiscent of Luke and Vader's climactic encounter in The Empire Strikes Back, and a smash-em-up tank chase through the streets of St. Petersburg. And who can forget the cold open, with Bond bungee jumping from that dam?
GoldenEye Blu-ray, Video Quality
So, folks, there's some good news here and some bad news, and since I'm not one for unnecessary suspense, let's get right to the bad. GoldenEye, unlike just about every other film in Bond 50 collection, has been given a moderate-to-heavy dose of digital noise reduction in most scenes, freezing grain, smearing it into an unnaturally smooth patina, and occasionally giving the actors' faces that distinct wax figure look. Along with the DNR, you'll be able to spot the side effects of edge enhancement, an artificial sharpening process that has a tendency to ring hard lines with black or white halos. Now, GoldenEye isn't nearly as bad as the atrocity that was the Predator reissue from a few years back, but the picture most definitely has a filtered, digitized quality that's hard to ignore. What's really unfortunate is that there are rare shots that haven't been overprocessed—some of the tight closeups during action sequences, for instance—and these look just fine, with a healthy layer of natural, cinematic grain. Ah well. Onto the good—despite the unnecessary manipulations, GoldenEye's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer still looks vastly better than the old DVD. The cropping issue has finally been resolved and the image is presented in its full, intended aspect ratio. The color is vibrant and balanced. And clarity, though inherently hampered by the noise reduction—which essentially blurs out grain, removing fine detail in the process—is much tighter in high definition. I'm not sure exactly what happened here—why the film has been treated so callously compared to the other Bond movies—but there is a decent upgrade in picture quality here for those who can live with the DNR.
GoldenEye Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are no issues whatsoever with GoldenEye's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. As the first "modern" Bond picture, the film has always had beefier, more engaging sound design than its predecessors, and the mix is amplified—no pun intended—with this newly lossless presentation. There's nearly non-stop aural action here. The wailing alarm inside the chemical factory. Machine-gun fire ripping holes through the soundfield, spitting hot lead in every direction. The Tiger helicopter swooping through the rear channels. Jets swooshing from front to back. The highlight, from an audio perspective, is probably the tank chase, with its screeching metal-on-metal collisions, crumbling brick walls, and crumpled cars. And, of course, there are the copious explosions, rippling outward with a subwoofer undercurrent. Dynamically, the mix can't quite compete with the demo-worthy new Bond films, but there's plenty of oomph and clarity here, with no hissing, pops, crackles, or drop-outs. Dialogue is always easy to understand—even in the most frantic action sequences—and although Éric Serra's somewhat controversial score is undeniably dated now, the music at least has a decent sense of room-filling presence. The disc includes several subtitle and dubbing options; see above for details.
GoldenEye Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
M16 Commentary: Director Martin Campbell and producer Michael G. Wilson share a lively track that covers all the usual bases—from the origin of the story, to the casting, to the challenges of production—with lots of trivia and behind-the-scenes anecdotes along the way.
Declassified: M16 Vault
GoldenEye Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It could be the primitive CGI, the "avant-garde" score, or maybe it's just that we're not quite far enough distanced from the 1990s yet, but GoldenEye feels much more dated than the Bond films of the '60s and '70s, which is now odd considering this is the movie that "modernized" the franchise. Still, Pierce Brosnan was a step in the right direction after Timothy Dalton, and his first go as 007 has many still-memorable action set pieces. Of course, the film and its Nintendo 64 tie-in continue to have a special place in gamers' hearts. Who can forget popping out of the air duct and capping that poor Russian soldier doing his business on the john? As for the film's Blu-ray release, it's hard not to see it as a bit of a disappointment. Unlike the other Bond movies, GoldenEye has been scrubbed vigorously by digital noise reduction, removing the natural grain but also—in the process—much of the fine detail that would otherwise be present. The film does look better here than it does on DVD, but with no new bonus features, it's questionable whether GoldenEye is worth the upgrade for all but diehard fans and Bond Blu-ray completists. Do note that, for the time being, the standalone film is a Walmart exclusive.
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