GoldenEye marked the return of the Bond franchise after a six-year hiatus and a major overhaul of actors, including the casting of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.
Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of James Bond brought a renewed sense of charm and sophistication to the franchise. He successfully captured the essence of what audiences expect from a Bond actor, but at the same time differentiating himself from the previous Bond, Timothy Dalton.
In the film GoldenEye, Brosnan’s Bond is characterized by a more lighthearted and suave demeanor, rather than Dalton’s grounded and emotionally connected Bond, something the Bond producers wanted to move away from.
The film follows Bond on a personal mission to stop former 00-agent Alec Trevelyan, played by Sean Bean, from taking Britain and its economy back into the Ice Age. Trevelyan and his henchmen General Ourumov and Xenia Onatopp put the squeeze on Bond’s mission in more ways than one.
GoldenEye also introduced a new M, played by Judi Dench, as the first female head of MI6, adding depth to the plot with her stern and no-nonsense personality, and a new formidable boss that certainly won’t be taking any of his nonsense.
Samantha Bond took over her lifelong friend Caroline Bliss for the role of Miss Moneypenny, depicting a more confident and assertive secretary of M, and foil for Bond.
In this post, we examine the film and analyze its plot, characters, and performances, with a special focus on Pierce Brosnan as James Bond and other key players. We also highlight the most memorable scenes, and see what made the film GoldenEye such a commercial and critical success.
The plot begins in 1986 with 007 James Bond and 006 Alec Trevelyan embarking on a covert mission to infiltrate a Soviet chemical weapons facility in Arkhangelsk.
Trevelyan is captured by the Soviets and is seemingly shot dead by General Ourumov in front of Bond. 007 successfully destroys the facility and makes a daring escape. He’s pursued by Soviet soldiers and gets control of a motorbike but the glider falls off the end of the mountain-top runway.
Bond chases races off the mountain top runway on the motorbike and free falls towards the falling glider. Just in time getting in and gaining control of it and flying up and away to safety.
9 years later, Bond is driving down the southern France mountain roads in his DB5 with Caroline an MI6 field agent, when a random woman in a red Ferrari F355 GTS challenges him to a daring race. Bond takes the bait, much to Caroline’s annoyance and races her. He sees her again at a casino in Monte Carlo later that night, learning her name Xenia Onatopp over a game of Baccarat.
Bond later gets a picture of her with his telescopic camera, feeding the picture into his computer, it reveals she’s on MI6’s watchlist and is in the area to possibly steal a military helicopter during a demonstration.
Onatopp picks up a Canadian Admiral and takes him to her room where they roleplay, but Onatopp being a sadistic dominatrix kills the Admiral by asphyxiation.
Bond is tasked with stopping her, but the organizers don’t realise she’s stealing the helicopter, and they hold Bond back thinking he’s trying to disrupt the demonstration.
Bond later investigates a catastrophic blast at a Siberian radar facility, which is revealed to have been caused by a Soviet-era satellite equipped with a nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapon codenamed ‘GoldenEye.’
Bond heads back to MI6 HQ in London for a meeting with his new boss, who after a tense meeting assigns him on the mission to get GoldenEye back.
Bond travels to Saint Petersburg and learns from Valentin Zukovsky GoldenEye is in the hands of the Janus Crime Syndicate. Bond is then confronted by Onatopp in the sauna and the two fight, Bond overcomes her by sitting her on the hot coals, and getting her gunpoint, demanding she takes him to the head of boss.
She reluctantly takes him and it turns out the head of Janus Crime Syndicate is Alec Trevelyan, the 006 who faked his execution in front of Bond. Trevelyan, badly scarred from the explosion at the facility, is now seeking revenge against Bond and wants the downfall of Britain, feeling betrayed by his country.
Bond is then locked into the stolen military helicopter along with Natalya Simonova, a survivor of the Severnaya attack. They’re strapped down inside a helicopter with a missile set to self-destruct, but Bond manages to press the ejector seat ensuring both of them survive, but are arrested by police.
General Ourumov infiltrates the questioning and shoots both interrogators in an attempt to kill Bond and Natalya. They escape the compound, but Ourumov takes Natalya and drives off. Bond then gets control of a tank and chases them through St. Petersburg, with much of the city being decimated.
Bond then derails a Soviet cargo train with Trevelyan, Ourumov, Onatopp, and the kidnapped Natalya. Bond and Natalya are then locked in computer lab on the train as the villains escape. Natlya spikes the computer system to discover they’re heading to Cuba, where a second GoldenEye satellite is located.
The duo then heads to Cuba, and borrows a glider from his friend Jack Wade. Bond uses the glider to try and find the GoldenEye satellite, but they’re shot down and crash in to the jungle.
Onatopp is sent to kill them and abseil down from the military helicopter, before beating and stifling Bond with her legs, something she’s known for. Bond is close to death before he shoots the hovering helicopter that she’s tied to, it falls to the ground with the abseil cord yanking her up and asphyxiating her to death.
Bond and Natalya then uncover a hidden base beneath a lake, which turns out to be Trevelyan’s lair, the headquarters for the Janus satellite base, with a satellite guided missile headed for London with the aim of sending ‘Britain back to the Ice Age.’
Bond and Natlaya are held at gunpoint with Trevelyan, and just as Bond is about to be shot a pen, that Q gave Bond, explodes as everyone runs for cover. Bond and Natalya then try and disengage the satellite system.
This leads to a final showdown with Bond and Trevelyan. The two fight and it ends up high up on the satellite. After a tense fight, Trevelyan falls but Bond catches and holds him by his boots.
Trevelayn pleads with Bond, ‘For England, James?’ but Bond is unforgiven and says, ‘No, for me.’ Letting the former 00-agent fall to his death. The rest of the Janus satellite base is sent up in flames and with the satellite rockets thwarted, Bond and Natalya are taken to safety and lowered into an open field.
After a brief moment of solitude, Bond and Natalya are picked up by Wade, before they’re escorted off by American Marines.
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye
He’s still as sensitive and vulnerable, but Brosnan’s Bond brings a sense of sophistication that we arguably hadn’t seen since young Sean Connery’s days, and a move away from Dalton’s more grounded approach.
Brosnan was considered for the role of 007 in The Living Daylights cast before the producers opted for Timothy Dalton, and it became clear they wanted him during the on-off production of the original Bond 17, which was ultimately shelved.
Pierce Brosnan’s introduction as Bond, James Bond had the most explosive of starts. He begins his mission with a swan dive, bungy cord and a laser to break into a Soviet weapon plant.
The first we see of Brosnan up close is the same view a Soviet henchman gets lowering his newspaper while sitting on the toilet. ‘Beg your pardon, forgot to knock,’ he says before knocking him out.
This slick demeanor and fast action never lets up as Bond does his best to bring down a new and all-too-close enemy. None more so than the stunt where he escapes from the Soviet plant running a motorbike off a clifftop runway and freefalling down into a falling glider. Yes, he gets it just in time and flies off to the amazement of the Soviet general and his men.
There’s his rampage through St. Petersburg where he hot-rods a tank and takes half the city and its monuments along with him. His relationship with Natalya is also a key blend of the film and shows an insight into Bond’s attitude.
On the face of it, he acts like he cares not for anyone, telling Trevleyan to shoot Natalya if he pleases as she means nothing to him. She clearly does, but it’s typical of Bond to risk the lives of anyone to achieve his aim.
Dalton’s sophistication is up there with Connery’s, and his petulance is also abound, especially when in the company of his newest big cheese M – a woman.
The new M and Bond have known each other a while, as she’s climbed the MI6 ranks. They hold a grudging respect for each other, but it’s clear they don’t like her.
Their main scene sets the tone for their relationship over the next 17 years. She tells him she has no qualms about putting his life in danger and his cavalier approach to life isn’t necessary, before calling him ‘a sexist, misogynist, dinosaur relic of the Cold War,’ before assigning him with the mission of getting Goldeneye back.
All things considered, Pierce Brosnan’s charming and sophisticated portrayal of James Bond, combined with his captivating and intense stunts, made him an ideal fit as the fifth Bond. This helped make GoldenEye both a box office and critical success.
GoldenEye Bond Villain
Alec Trevelyan is the main Bond villain in GoldenEye. He’s played by Sean Bean and is one of the franchise’s most memorable antagonists.
Alec Trevelyan is a former MI6 agent, 006, who’s gone rogue and is seeking revenge against the British government, and send it and its economy ‘back to the Ice Age.’
He’s a charismatic and confident villain, who’s 00-skills and powerful personality commands respect and fear from those around him. A master-manipulator, he stages his own death and forms the criminal organization Janus Syndicate.
One of the defining traits of Alec Trevelyan is his deep sense of betrayal felt, which has fueled his desire for revenge and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get it.
He’s built an army of rogue Soviet generals, and commands with authority. He and Bond come up against each other a few times, with a finale fight which ultimately leads to his death after he falls hundreds of feet to his death.
Former Soviet fighter pilot Xenia Onatopp is a highly skilled pilot and assassin who works for Janus Crime Syndicate boss Alec Trevelyan.
Played by Famke Janssen, Onatopp is a seductive and cunning woman who uses her charm to get close to her targets. Despite her beauty, she is a ruthless killer who takes pleasure in the act of killing by asphyxiation.
She is physically strong and highly trained in hand-to-hand combat, making her a formidable fighter. She loves danger and grudgingly respects Bond, but would prefer to tease him than sleep with him.
Posing as a call girl, she takes an Admiral to her room to practice her dominatrix personality and ultimately asphyxiating him to death with her thighs.
Throughout the film, Onatopp is a constant thorn in Bond’s side, but meets her death just as she’s about to kill Bond.
She abseils herself down from the helicopter to kill Bond, but with the cord still tied, Bond shoots at the helicopter which falls to the ground, at the same time the cord violently pulls Onatopp up and ironically asphyxiates her to death.
Bond Girls of GoldenEye
Played by Izabella Scorupco, Natalya Simonova is a Level 2 programmer for the Severnaya Satellite Control Center. She’s intelligent, resourceful, and not afraid to speak her mind.
She witnesses Xenia Onatopp executing many people at the Control Center, and is lucky to get away with her life. She heads to St Petersburg afterwards, but is double crossed by colleague Boris Grishenko.
She first comes across Bond when the two are locked, strapped down in a helicopter with a rocket set to self-destruct. Bond gets them out by pressing the ejector button, and from then she helps Bond in his mission.
Her relationship with Bond is initially strained, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind, and even scolds a Russian interrogator and Bond for arguing during an interrogation about the whereabouts of the GoldenEye.
As they continue to work together to stop Janus, Natalya comes to trust Bond and the two form a closer bond. Throughout the film, Natalya’s technical skills prove invaluable to Bond, as she is able to use her programming knowledge to access sensitive information and control the satellite system.
While trapped on a train, Natalya quickly gets to work on a computer and informs Bond that she is attempting to hack the system in order to determine Trevelyan’s whereabouts. Bond is impressed and momentarily pauses to reflect, but Natalya impatiently urges him to act, shouting, ‘Don’t just stand there, get us out of here!’
Natalya doesn’t appreciate Bond’s ‘shoot her it means nothing to me’ response when Trevelyan points a gun at her head. Later, she takes her revenge and says the same with a as Trevelyan is pointing a gun at Bond.
It’s not just her bravery either, as Natalya outwits Grishenko, who considers himself a superior programmer. She hacks into his system and redirects the satellite rockets away from Britain, which he can’t take back control of. She also beats him for betraying him, and is in disbelief that anyone could be as callous as him.
Natalya Simonova is a beautiful and intelligent woman. Her feisty personality is evident throughout the film and she is always outspoken and unafraid to express her opinions, making her a strong and valuable Bond girl.
GoldenEye Opening Scene
Bond sets out on a daring mission to infiltrate a top-secret Soviet weapons lab, teaming up with fellow agent 006, Alec Trevelyan.
However, their plan takes a dark turn when Trevelyan is captured and seemingly executed in front of Bond by the ruthless Colonel Ourumov.
In a nail-biting escape, Bond uses his wit and cunning to evade capture by hiding behind a stack of explosives and making a daring leap onto a moving conveyor belt. He then triggers a massive explosion that sends Soviet soldiers running for cover.
Pursued by enemy forces, Bond hijacks a glider in a bid for freedom. But his getaway is interrupted when he and the pilot are thrown from the plane in a chaotic crash.
With the pilot fatally injured but an ensuing motorbike, Bond steals the bike and races to catch up with the glider as it hurtles over the runway cliff-edge.
Bond speeds on the motorbike over the cliff edge after the glider, free falling down to get inside before the plane and he hit the ground. Bond manages to get into the glider and avert the crash, before swanning up and away to safety as the weapons plans goes up in flames.
Watch the GoldenEye opening scene
GoldenEye – A New Era Begins
GoldenEye is an iconic James Bond film that helped revitilize the franchise after a six-year halt to productions. With its exciting stunts, clever gadgets, and of course brand new actors it ushered in a new era.
Pierce Brosnan was Bond for the first time, nine years after first being considered. He offered a different take to Timothy Dalton, and his performance won over audiences worldwide.
Judi Dench and her no-nonsense persona made for a perfect M and her confrontation with Bond is certainly one of the highlights of the film.
Sean Bean as rogue agent, Bond villain Alec Trevelyan offered dramatic twist and with henchwoman Xenia Onatopp they make a formidable team.
But it’s Bond’s relationship with Bond girl Natalya Simonova that makes the film standout. Beautiful, but dressed in plain and normal clothes, the geeky programmer stands up to all even Bond.
All in all, GoldenEye is a truly great Bond movie. It has all the action, the suave and sophisticated manner you’d expect from Bond, and a cast around him that made the transition from Dalton to Brosnan, seamless.