James Bond

Starring: Pierce Brosnan
16177CDVD Z1
Certificate: 12
Available now

The Cold War is over, but its legacy lives on in the shape of the GoldenEye, a Russian satellite-control device that could cripple the computer systems of an entire nation. When the device is stolen from a remote Russian outpost, James Bond finds himself crossing paths with an old friend - and some old enemies...

This is the film that brought Bond back to the cinema after a gap of six years. In view of this prolonged hiatus, and the relative lack of financial success experienced by Licence to Kill, a change of artistic direction was almost inevitable, although it is open to debate whether this was for the better.

One aspect that Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli went on record as wishing to emphasise in this comeback was that Bond should never become a "superhero". It's ironic, therefore, that this movie should feature a free-falling Bond managing to catch up with a plummeting plane and a chase sequence with 007 driving a tank in which he devastates St Petersburg without even getting dusty.

The movie also exhibits an awkwardly cautious attitude, betraying fears that the movie-going public of the 1990s might find Bond a bit old hat. Thus we are reminded, with little subtlety, that the Cold War is over (ignoring the fact that the movie series had never really relied upon the Russians as bad guys anyway) and that 007 is a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur". At least these lines are delivered by an actor of the calibre of Dame Judi Dench as the new M, one of the movie's master strokes of casting. Having acknowledged these shortcomings, the film then proceeds to have Bond behaving every bit as sexist as before. This attempt to please all of the people all of the time leads to a slightly wishy-washy result.

Similarly, Brosnan appears to be trying to cover all the bases rather than establish a characterisation of his own, amalgamating the harder edge of Dalton and Connery with the suave sophistication of Moore. He makes a decent enough debut performance, but he would not consolidate his position as a true action hero until 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies.

The supporting cast is generally excellent, including Michael Kitchen as Bill Tanner, a character who was a mainstay of Fleming's novels, but who only now becomes a movie regular. Samantha Bond's Moneypenny holds her own against Bond, although her line, "As far as I can remember, James, you've never had me," is far too in-yer-face for comfort. Leading lady Izabella Scorupco enjoys the chance to make an essential contribution to the plot as computer-programmer Natalya Simonova, while future X-Men star Famke Janssen is wonderfully wicked as another X-woman, the fetishistic assassin Xenia Onatopp. Amusing cameos are played by Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade, a kind of anti-establishment Felix Leiter, and Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky, both of whom would make welcome returns in subsequent Brosnan films. Sean Bean is okay as Alec Trevelyan, although the home-counties accent sounds strange coming from a Yorkshireman's lips. Unfortunately, the identity of the main villain, who is effectively set up as a corrupt version of 007, was spoiled by the movie's pre-publicity.

On balance, though, this is a swish production with a stylish script - barring the aforementioned imperfections and the hidden transmitter dish, which owes far too much to You Only Live Twice. Of course, the Bond series has repeated itself continually, but rehashing Blofeld's secret volcano base is something that the creative team should not have even hoped to get away with.

The screenplay is surprisingly high on plot development rather than action, an aspect that is underscored by the music of Eric Serra, who is extremely good at generating mood, but proves to be less successful at the traditional style of Bond action themes. However, the production does boast one of the series' best-ever title sequences, in terms of both relevance to the plot and sheer eroticism. This comes courtesy of Daniel Kleinman, who makes effective use of the icons of old Russia that are also central to the movie.

With a wealth of contemporary behind-the-scenes and promotional material available for use among the special features, none of the Brosnan DVDs include documentaries of the type that we have seen accompanying all the previous Bonds. This means that we get precious little pre-production or historical information, such as details of the legal dispute that kept the Bond films on hold for so long. However, we do get two featurettes as well as the 1995 World of 007 documentary, hosted by Elizabeth Hurley in what is practically a dress rehearsal for her role in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. The music video to Tina Turner's powerful title song, and no fewer than 14 theatrical and TV trailers round off the presentation of this flawed but well-polished piece.

Well worth keeping an eye out for.

Richard McGinlay