"James, for England " - 20 years after its release we run-down why Brosnan, Bean and Boris make GoldenEye the very best James Bond film. The first Bond film to be released on DVD, the wonderful N64 game and the highest number of kills by 007 in any of the series. So grab your exploding pen and a Hawaiian shirt, we are heading to Russia for a vodka martini (shaken, not stirred).
1. Pierce Brosnan
With jet black hair and rugged good looks, all it took was an eyebrow lift to cast 41 year old Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. Brosnan had met producer Albert R. Broccoli on the set of For Your Eyes Only, with Broccoli reportedly stating "if he can act ... he's my guy." It was clear he would be Bond, but it was just a matter of time. Due to succeed Roger Moore in 1986, commitments to the Remington Steele TV series meant he was replaced with Timothy Dalton who starred in the next two Bond films.
After a series of legal disputes Bond lay in development hell for six years, Dalton had walked and names were still circulating of who would pick up the Walther PPK. Other actors who passed on being Bond after Dalton were Liam Neeson and Mel Gibson, but eventually Brosnan took on the role for a relatively low $1.2 million salary.
Many argued that the Dalton era of Bond had become too politically correct as he was a caring soul that had done away with the rough and tough Connery style. Brosnan was back to drinking excessively and throwing women around, leading to comments from M as Bond being a "relic of the Cold War." The bright campy 80s films gave way for this grittier, darker Bond, lending itself perfectly to the Soviet storyline.
Brosnan had always wanted to six films, matching that of Connery, but after the harsh criticism his fourth film Die Another Day received, he was let go and replaced with Daniel Craig, the rest is history.
2. A New Story
GoldenEye was the first film not to use literature from Ian Flemming's novels, instead a unique story was devised by Michael France and took its name from Flemming's estate, GoldenEye, in Jamaica . A lot had changed in the hiatus of the Bond series as this was the first film since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.
With such a long time between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye the media had questioned whether 007 was still relevant, or if it should simply remain in the past. In an attempt to reboot the series ideas were thrown around of having it set in the 60's, or to shake it up by having a black or female Bond.
Thankfully the final script took a back to basics approach which commented on the fall of the USSR, hence the not so subtle references and dodgy accents. Something of a topical piece, GoldenEye's storyline follows James Bond as he recovers from the death of his partner, 006. Nine years later he tries to prevent a Russian crime syndicate from stealing a giant satellite weapon, and in an odd twist rob the Bank of England before destroying the British economy.
Characters were well developed and there was just enough to tie in to the Bond of old with the likes of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Sean Bean's turn as 006 gave a peek into the inner workings of the 00 programme, whilst a female M ushered in new life to the franchise.
3. The Game
Heralded as a gaming masterpiece, many of us misspent our youth pouring hours into the highly impressive film tie in GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 and its multiplayer mode.
Ensuring that everything was right the game was released just under two years after the film and shifted an impressive eight million copies, becoming the third best selling N64 game ever. Blurry faces and jittery movements were more than made up for by a faithful storyline, impressive dialogue (but with no voices) and an intense music score. GoldenEye 007 was so successful it was re-imagined in 2010 under the same name for Wii and then in 2011 for other consoles.
Unfortunately if it wasn't for GoldenEye 007, we also wouldn't have the abominable Gamecube game Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, which had nothing at all to do with the film and merely pillaged its ideas.
4. New Faces
A long wait, the disappearance of Timothy Dalton and legal disputes had left the James Bond franchise in tatters. GoldenEye's news beginmings were down in part to Judy Dench replacing Robert Brown as M and Samantha Bond replacing Caroline Bliss as Miss Moneypenny. Dench was the first woman in the role, quite literally having the balls to take on Bond, calling him out for being a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur."
An impressive supporting cast includes Robbie Coltrane as previous nemesis, turned ally, Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky. Sean Bean played the dastardly double agent Alec Trevelyan; whilst other guest appearances included Alan Cumming, Joe Don Baker and even Minnie Driver.
Unsurprisingly Bean didn't make it out of the film alive, Robbie Coltrane made it to one more and Samantha Bond was replaced in the Craig era, however it was Dench who set the precedent as the 'new M.' It was the end of a legacy when she bowed out in Skyfall, but it was here in GoldenEye that she first took on the mantle and made the role her own.
5. The Tank
007 is known for his vehicles, but GoldenEye swaps out the typical sports car for something a little more 'robust'. Despite being shot at the Leavesden Studios in London, you would be forgiven for thinking that the iconic St. Petersburg tank chase really took place on the streets of Russia. From the moment we hear the 'du du dun du' to Brosnan straightening his tie with a smouldering look, it is unbroken James Bond perfection.
The chase took four weeks to film and was created with a modified T-55 tank. The one used in the film had the metal tracks replaced with rubber so not to damage the flooring and is now on permanent display at Old Buckenham Airport where the East England Military Museum is based.
No other film series sees the titular character save the damsel with a tank - well maybe The Expendables, but we will ignore that.
6. Xenia Onatopp
Who wouldn't want the ability to crush someone to death using your powerful thighs? Literally using sex as a weapon it is Famke Janssen's Xenia Zaragevna Onatopp who steals the show as formidable Bong Girl/henchwoman. Following in a long line of super strength assistants (OddJob, Jaws), this time we are treated to someone who actually has something to say.
Showing dedication to the cause Janssen broke her rib in the sauna fighting scene by asking Brosnan to run full tilt in to the wall... This was the result. Alongside Dench she flies the girl power flag for GoldenEye and she was so popular was Onatopp she frequently appears on villain lists. A playable character in most of the James Bond video games multiplayer she was voted No. 6 on EW's Most Memorable Bond Girl list.
7. Gadgets Galore
Sadly there is no Aston in GoldenEye, new era, new Bond and all that - this marks the turn of a three picture deal featuring BMW and an overload of product placement. Despite this we still have Bond kitted in some pretty nifty clobber. His convertible BMW Z3 may not have exhaust flame-throwers, but it does come equipped with behind the lights stinger missiles and is one of the few 007 vehicles that makes it back out of the field in one piece. Alongside the St. Petersburg tank, the best vehicle featured is the stealth Tiger helicopter which makes up a large portion of the plot.
But it's the toys for which we always remember Bond and Desmond Llewelyn once again played Q, gifting 007 with an arsenal of weapons. There is the size 34 belt which he uses to escape the Russian archive buildings, as well as the usual joke gadgets at Q Branch - who could forget the wheelchair leg missile or the airbag phone booth. It is one particular weapon that sticks out though - the exploding pen. Quite when you would need a grenade pen is unknown, but as rightly stated, "the pen is mightier than the sword", which leads us nicely on to...
Alan Cumming's portrayal of the weaselly computer geek Boris Grishenko completes a rather packed roster of baddies. Taking up the role of Wayne Knight in Jurassic Park, Boris teams up with the Soviets to help execute operation GoldenEye, selling out his friends at the Severnaya station. Unfortunately for Boris he comes unstuck at the wrong end of Bond's exploding pen and takes some time to 'cool off', dying under a spray of liquid nitrogen at the very end.
Developing a major hard on for Bond girl Natalia, it is clear Boris is never going to get the girl! Whereas the rest of the Russians in the film are all eyebrows and harsh accents, Cumming represents the comedic relief of GoldenEye. He is a welcome burst of colour against the USSR backdrop with his wardrobe of floral shirts. The accent leaves a little to be desired, but we'll let you off Al.
In typical Bond style we make great use of the taxpayer's money and go on a tour of the world. Starting in Russia, then Siberia, we head Monte Carlo and then to Cuba. It has that perfect Bond mix of hot, cold and casino... Oh and a train too. With Brosnan taking such a small salary it meant the film could make full use of its $60 budget given by MGM.
The pre-credits scene where Bond bungee jumps of a Russian dam was actually filmed in Switzerland and sets the tone for an exciting bullets and bombs journey. It is for this scene that most people remember the film (and the game), but If you thought having an abandoned dam as a lair was pretty cool, then check out the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Disguised as Cuba, it is here that Bond and Trevelyan face off in their final showdown and a fight to the death.
10. Tina Turner
Before Adele and Sam Smith, next to Shirley Bassey who else would you want to sing your Bond theme tune? After all she is 'Simply the Best'. Originally written by Bono and the Edge we are glad Ms. Turner took over the vocals. Due to not wanting to collaborate with Bono this meant the film score didn't use any of the melodies from the theme song which is a crying shame.
Whilst not setting charts alight, GoldenEye still reached #10 in the UK (something we are pretty sure wouldn't have happened with Bono). Whilst criticised for being a little campy it has that powerful vocal and jazzy feel a Bond theme needs. In 2007 for the GoldenEye 007 game on Wii it was left to Nicole Sherzinger to cover the song in a lively noughties revival. We still prefer Tina, but it is better than Bono.
BONUS: You can listen to the awful Bono version below