Pierce Bronsan gives us the ultimate 90s James Bond performance.
James Bond has been tested in many films. He has never had any shortage of women in his life. We’ve seen his friends and his enemies. He has always been able to rely on both in his adventures. He never had to question the likes of who was around him. MI6, for example, was a safe haven for him throughout his entire life. He has his constants: M, Moneypenny, Felix Leiter of the CIA, and others. Yet, it’s in GoldenEye where all that he knows is tested. The allegiances of his friends come into question as a serious crisis causes him to go back into action once more.
How ‘GoldenEye’ Set the Foundation for a Post-Cold War Era James Bond
In stellar fashion, the film opens with Bond and his cohort, Alec Trevelyan (006), on a mission in Arkhangelsk, USSR. While seeking to infiltrate a chemical weapons facility to plant explosives, things seem to go alright for a while until Trevelyan gets captured and killed by Colonel Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov. “For England, James!” Trevelyan yells before he is shot. Bond is able to escape with the facility exploding. This was in 1986. Nine years later, however, things are much different for Bond.
The Soviet Union has disbanded. He is in Monte Carlo. He is having fun doing his usual thing with a member of the Janus crime syndicate, Xenia Onatopp. She kills a Canadian Navy admiral with her thighs during sexual intercourse with him. Ourumov takes the Canadian Navy admiral’s credentials and board a French Navy destroyer with Onatopp. They both steal a Eurocopter Tiger helicopter and fly to a base in Severnaya, Siberia. Once in Siberia, they kill all of the staff and escape with the GoldenEye satellites’ control disk.
It’s here where Natalya Simonova, the lone survivor, comes into the film. She has a particularly rough journey throughout the movie, going from Siberia to St. Petersburg. Here, she attempts to meet up with the computer programmer who was kidnapped by Janus, Boris Grishenko. However, she is betrayed by him and given over to Janus. She is probably the character with the toughest time during the film. Though, Bond is about to face evil, which he has never seen before.
After being assigned to investigate the attack by M, he goes off to St. Petersburg and meets with Jack Wade of the CIA. He suggests Bond goes to meet with Valentin Zukovsky, a business rival of Janus. He is able to arrange a meeting for Bond with Janus. While at the Grand Hotel Europe, Onatopp attempts to seduce and kill Bond but he is able to stop her. This is where Bond’s past comes back to haunt him. When he sees Janus in the flesh, he finds out that it’s his old friend, Trevelyan. Why would Trevelyan fake his death and betray Bond? This is where a little more of the shroud is pulled back for us.
Bond vs Trevelyan
Trevelyan is a descendant of the Cossack clans that worked with the Axis Powers. He vowed vengeance after the British betrayed his people. This shakes Bond to the core. He does not know what to think. “I trusted you, Alec,” Bond tells him. One of the tropes in Ian Fleming’s novels and the later films is who can Bond trust. It’s something that is present in this era and the Daniel Craig era too. The fact Trevelyan betrays Bond causes the latter to question the allies he has in his life.
Bond does not let his emotions cloud his judgment. He remains focused on killing Trevelyan but is unable to do so before he is shot with a tranquilizer dart. He is tied up in a helicopter with Simonova. The helicopter has also been programed to self-destruct at a certain point. They are able to escape but are taken for questioning by the Minister of Defence Dimitri Mishkin to the Russian military archives. Simonova tells Mishkin about Ourumov’s part in the Siberian massacre and the second satellite existence before Ourumov kills him.
As Bond and Simonova escape once more, the latter is captured, and the former takes a tank to pursue Ourumov in the streets before the good general is killed. The two are next locked in a train that is set to self-destruct. Before the train explodes, the two escape again and take off for the Florida Keys. While Bond cannot trust his old ally, Trevelyan, it seems he can most certainly trust Simonova because of the difficult journey she has been on throughout the course of the film. She is also the only person who can turn the GoldenEye off.
Once given a flight to Cuba, the search for the GoldenEye’s satellite dish starts before Onatopp comes from a helicopter and attacks Bond. Shortly thereafter, she is killed by her helicopter that crashes and the collapsing tree trunks around her. The rest of the film plays out quite quickly after that. Trevelyan captures Bond for a time, telling him his plan to rob the Bank of England and erase financial records concerning the second GoldenEye. This makes its theft concerned and allow for the British economy to be destroyed.
Simonova is able to program the satellite to initiate re-entry, destroying itself in the process. When Trevelyan is able to capture her, Grishenko accidentally triggers an explosion because of Bond’s grenade pen. This gives Bond the chance to be free and sabotage the antenna, creating a system overload. Bond turns his attention to Trevelyan next. He probably never would have guessed he would be fighting Trevelyan like this. Especially since they worked together for an undetermined period of time, there was a trust and working relationship that built up.
Yet, this is the present and Bond, ever focused on the mission, keeps his head clear enough to get the job done. He focuses on fighting Trevelyan. Both men are on the suspended platform of the antenna. Bond is successful in stopping him. Trevelyan falls to the bottom of the dish before the satellite crashes and kills him. Bond and Simonova are able to escape before being rescued by Wade and the US Marines. This film raises a number of questions when you start to think about it.
The James Bond Mythos
The biggest is whether you can trust someone you work with or not. It’s a pretty good question all of us can reflect upon but something essential to the James Bond mythos. He is betrayed again and again by people throughout the course of his life. So, why does he keep trying again and again? He doesn’t try much and frankly, he does not need to. It would be going against his character if that was the case or not. For our hero, he also has to contend with what Simonova has to say about the 007 life.
“How can you act like this? How can you be so cold?” Simonova asks Bond. “It’s what keeps me alive,” Bond tells her. That goes to the core of the Bond character. He is a person who is not so warm toward others since he just had his friend and partner betray him. Maintaining his coldness is what allows Bond to remain unattached and unemotional. That’s not to say he does not express his emotions but he can be very reserved in a way to keep himself from making mistakes.
The Exploits of a Modern James Bond
Bond has a focused mind that needs to keep one step ahead of his enemies. This is how MI6 trained him and how he’s become. The biggest challenge for Bond is whether or not he can trust the women in his life. Because of being betrayed by the love of his life, Vesper Lynd, when he was in his first year as 007, he has never let any other woman into his heart except Tracy Bond, who becomes his wife before being killed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, his archenemy.
Bond is a fascinating character to analyze and understand. He has many facets to him and is never someone that leaves his audience bored. This film’s study of Bond proves fascinating. The best action is in the Cradle sequence. It’s always one that’s memorable. The direction by Martin Campbell and score by Eric Serra go beyond the call of duty. Because of its fascinating plot, interesting characters, and engaging cinematography, this film is definitely the ultimate film for any Bond fan out there.
About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, consumer electronics, and the entertainment industry.
Let us know your thoughts on the James Bond classic GoldenEye on our Facebook page!