Goldeneye (1995)

Country: United Kingdom
Directed by Martin Cambell
Pierce Brosnan, Isabella Scorupco, Judi Dench, Famke Jansen, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Joe Don Baker, Gottfried John
Music By Eric Serra
Title song performed by Tina Turner

Legal problems had stalled the James Bond series. There hadn’t been a film in six years, and during that time Timothy Dalton had moved on. This finally gave Pierce Brosnan the chance to claim the role of James Bond; a role he had been offered before. He was cast as Bond in The Living Daylights but had to give up the role at the last minute because he was contracted to the Remington Steele television series. You can read more about that by checking out The Living Daylights review.

New Zealand director, Martin Campbell may have seemed like an odd choice to helm the film, after all he had directed the diabolical Escape From Absolom the preceding year, but he too had worked on Reilly: Ace Of Spies and the BBC drama Edge Of Darkness. Campbell had solid espionage credentials.

Together, Brosnan and Campbell had to re-invent the franchise. It ws a make or break film, and they were successful in relaunching the series. Goldeneye, at the time of release was one of the most successful films in the series.

A lot was made of how much the world had changed since the last film. Russia was no longer a villain, and ‘political correctness’ had swept the world. Was there a place for Bond’s sexism and womanising in the modern world? Thankfully a clever script by Michael France and Jeffery Caine answered all these questions. As Russia was no longer the enemy, Bond was sent over the dismantled Iron Curtain, and took on an evil organisation called Janus (Incidentally, Janus is also the name of the villain in The Return Of The Man From UNCLE: The Fifteen Years Later Affair).

Bond’s sexism and womanising was also addressed head on. Dame Judi Dench was cast as ‘M’, replacing Robert Brown, who played the role in the previous four films. Making Bond’s superior a woman certainly stirred things up. At one point she refers to him as ’a sexist misogynist dinosaur’. To Bond, she is the ‘Evil Queen of numbers’ – a politician with no inkling of what happens out there in the field. The repartee between ‘M’ and Bond provides some of the highlights of the film.

The basic premise of the film works pretty well too. That premise is, rather than have Bond go up against another megalomaniac, this time the villain is 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). That’s right, one of the Double ‘O’s has gone bad, and obviously Trevelyan has the same skill set as Bond. Adding another layer to the drama, it seems that Bond and Trevelyan were once close friends. In the pre-title sequence we see the two men carrying out a mission together. Where did it all go wrong?

The pre-title sequence in Goldeneye stirs up mixed emotions in me. Firstly I am elated because it answers the question I’d wanted to know for years – does James Bond enjoy a beer? And I am pleased to say that the answer is YES!

In the opening scene at the Archangel Chemical Facility, as a swarm of Russian troops storm Bond and Alec Trevalyn’s position, Alec yell’s out “Closing time, James…last call!” Bond’s response is simple, but to the point: “Buy me a pint!” But I have leapt ahead of myself again. Let’s go back to the start. In Russia, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) bungee jumps off the top of a dam, down the wall to the Archangel Chemical Facility. Inside the facility, Bond meets Alec Trevelyan, Agent 006 (Sean Bean). Together they intend to destroy the chemical weapon stockpiles that the Soviets have been hording away. As they enter the store room, troops under the orders of General Ouromov (Gottfried John) surround Bond and Trevelyan’s position. Ouromov captures Trevelyan and shoots him. Bond is left on his own to complete the mission and escape – which he does.

But this brings me to my gripe with Goldeneye’s pre-title sequence. It is one of the silliest and piss-poor stunts ever envisaged for a Bond film. In the scene, a pilotless plane, with the engine running drives (not flies) off the edge of a cliff. The plane starts plummeting down towards the valley below. To make his escape, Bond, on a motorcycle, chases the plane. He drives off the edge of the cliff, leaps off the bike and in free-fall catches up with the plane. As both man and machine head towards certain doom on the rocks below, Bond climbs into the cockpit, pulls back on the controls, and, and, and at the last second the plane begins to climb. Death is averted once again. The scene is bullshit!

After the titles, we are back in the present and on the Cote d’ Azure. Secret agent 007, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is being evaluated by Caroline (Serena Gordon). She has been sent by the new ‘M’ (Judi Dench) to see if he measures up. This evaluation is being done in the field, and she is settled beside him as he races his Aston Martin along the coast road. As he drives, rather recklessly, a red Ferrari flies past him. Behind the wheel is Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen). Bond’s first reaction is to pursue this woman, but his assessor soon dissuades him.

Later that evening, Bond alone now, spies Onatopp seated at the baccarat table at the casino where he is staying. He attempts one of his usual pick up lines, but it fails. Onatopp already has a partner for the evening – an Admiral in the British Navy.

The next day, with much pomp and ceremony, the French are unveiling their latest hi-tech weapon, the Tigre helicopter. What makes this chopper so special is that it has been built to withstand an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP). During the ceremony, before the demonstration flight, the two pilots are distracted and then replaced by members of a Russian criminal organization called Janus. Janus, in plain sight, steal the Tigre helicopter and fly off.

The helicopter was stolen with a direct purpose in mind, and the two Janus pilots happen to be Xenia Onatopp and Bond’s sparring partner from Arch Angel, General Ouromov. These two fly the chopper to a Russian satellite tracking station in Sevrenaya. In this facility they control the ‘Goldeneye’ satellite which circles the globe armed with EMP weapons. The staff at the facility don’t realise that Ouromov is selling out his country, and now working for Janus, and obey his every command. They in turn hand over the controls for the Goldeneye satellite to him. Once he has control, he orders Onatopp to kill everyone in the complex, which she does with relish – and, of course, a machine gun. While Onatopp is quite thorough in her murderous rampage, she does miss one employee, Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco).

To cover his tracks, Ouromov fires Goldeneye at the facility. The EMP blacks out everything in the surrounding area, except the Tigre, which Ouromov and Onatopp use to escape.

Firing a weapon of this kind from space does not go un-noticed, and M wants answers. She sends her best man, James Bond to Russia to find out who has stolen the Goldeneye satellite and what they intend to do with it.

For Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond, he is partnered with some beautiful Bond girls. The first is Serena Gordon, who plays the agent who is sent out to evaluate Bond in the field. Bond’s boyish charm and a bottle of chilled champagne win her over. Next we have Dutch actress Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp. Janssen portrays one of the best villainesses in the series. Not only is she lethal but she is lovely. The good girl, Natalya Simonova, is played by gorgeous Polish born Izabella Scorupco. Simonova is an interesting character because she is bright, but not a genius. As the Bond fans reading this would know, with the release of each Bond film, there is a publicity blurb that says ‘this Bond girl is different to the bimbos of the past. She is intelligent and every bit Bond’s equal’. Well Simonova isn’t an agent. She is simply a computer programmer – and not even a high level one at that. In essence, she plays an every-woman, who gets caught up in the tangled adventure. How often in a Bond film do we encounter a normal person?

Eric Serra’s score is the weak link in the film. At the time he was riding high on the popularity of his soundtrack to The Fifth Element, and may have seemed like a progressive choice. But his score for Goldeneye does not follow the story. He simply finds an empty space to go ‘bip’ into. Another shortcoming is Serra’s reluctance to use Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. I can understand why a composer would want to create something uniquely all their own, but when you are working on a franchise film, and that franchise just happens to have one of the most recognisable signature tunes in all cinema history, it makes sense to use that theme. It’s what the fans and I want, and have come to expect.

The film features a few gadgets but overall the film isn’t too reliant on ‘dirty tricks’ to get Bond out of a jam. I guess with a villain who used to be in M.I.6, he’d be prepared and familiar with all of Q’s gadgets. On display there is belt-buckle that can fire out a piton and a line, and an explosive pen.

After such a long wait, Goldeneye had to be a hit or the Bond franchise would have gone down the drain. Thankfully, on the whole, the film-makers have presented us with a film that is pretty good. It does have its flaws – I have already singled out the music – but there are a few lazy plot points too – those who have read John Gardner’s novelisation, where the story is a little more fleshed out at the beginning will know exactly what I mean. But quibbles aside, Goldeneye is a great addition to the Bond legacy and a particularly enjoyable film.

Goldeneye (1995)

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Directed by Michael Apted
Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane, Goldie, Judi Dench as M, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, John Cleese as R, Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, Colin Salmon as Robinson.
Music by David Arnold
Title Song performed by Garbage

The World Is Not Enough is not just the title of this movie, it is also the motto appearing on the coat of arms of the Bond family. From Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Glidrose Productions Ltd):
Griffon Or broke in excitedly, ‘And this charming motto of the line, “The World is not Enough”. You do not wish to have the right to it?’ “It is an excellent motto which I shall certainly adopt,’ said Bond curtly.
It’s a strange motto for Bond to have. It is more befitting the type of evil megalomaniac that craves world domination that Bond usually battles, rather than the man himself. But if that’s what Ian Fleming decreed, then so be it.

The film, while still being hugely enjoyable is a bit of a mixed bag. The casting of Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear physicist is it’s biggest hurdle. Richards, as with all Bond girls, is very easy on the eye, but she doesn’t have the acting range required for the role as written.

The film also lacks a good solid villain. Robert Carlyle plays Renard who starts out as an unstoppable killing machine. Unfortunately, he is motivated by his feelings for one of the female characters in the film, which means as the story progresses, Renard goes from being a hardened unstoppable killer to a pussy-whipped henchman. It changes the tone of the movie, and reduces the power and excitement of the end scenes.

The film opens in Bilbao in Spain. Bond is acting as a courier and meeting a corrupt Swiss Banker. His mission is to collect a sum of money which was payed by an English businessman in the oil industry, Robert King (David Calder) for some documents relating to Russia’s oil pipelines. The documents were fake and King wants his money back. The transaction doesn’t go well and Bond has to shoot his way out – but he retrieves the money and returns it to London.

Back at M.I.6 headquarters, Robert King meets with M (Judi Dench) to collect his money. The mission appears to have gone well, and King leaves with case. But inside, the money has been dipped in liquid fertiliser and a miniature detonator has been inserted into the bank notes. As King makes his exit, the money, which is in effect a bomb, is detonated and King is killed.

Bond is the first to realise what has happened and witnesses ‘Cigar Girl’, armed with a rifle, in a boat on the Thames beside M.I.6 headquarters. Bond, logically believing she was the trigger person for the explosion, borrows a jet powered speed boat from Q Branch and engages in a chase along the Thames. Bond finally chases down ‘Cigar Girl’, but by this time she has left her boat and now is in an ascending hot air balloon. As she tries to escape, Bond latches onto one of the mooring ropes and is lifted up as the balloon drifts away. Feeling that she is captured, ‘Cigar Girl’ chooses to put a bullet in one of the balloon’s helium tanks rather than be taken in for questioning. The balloon explodes, ‘Cigar Girl’ dies, and Bond is thrown from a great height onto the roof of the Millenium Dome, where he sustains severe shoulder damage.

Once Bond has recovered from his injuries he is assigned to protect Elektra King, who is Robert King’s daughter. She has now inherited control of her father’s oil business and it is believed that attempts will be made on her life.

Over the years the Bond universe has been subject to silly and inconsistent casting. We have had Charles Grey, Maude Adams, Joe Don Baker, Martine Beswick, Burt Kwouk and Shane Rimmer appearing in multiple films as different characters. In the days before home video and DVD, this wasn’t so much a problem, because nobody could remember the faces of the minor support players. But with the scrutiny that digital age brings, means that inconsistency and poor continuity are blatantly obvious, even to the most casual viewer. Having said that, The World Is Not Enough shows the welcome return of a few characters. The first is Robinson (Colin Salmon), a staff member at M.I.6. His is not an important or flashy role, but it does provide a sense of continuity in the films. Robinson first appeared in Tomorrow Never Dies and continued the role in Die Another Day. More noticeable in his return is the character of Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane). Zukovsky is a Russian mafia Don and first appeared in Goldeneye.

The World Is Not Enough was also the last film Desmond Llewelyn appeared in as the gadget master ‘Q’. In this film they gave the aging ‘Q’ an assistant, ‘R’, played by John Cleese (R comes after Q in the alphabet, get it?) At the time of the films release, Cleese was inspired casting to take over from Llewelyn. Unfortunately for Cleese, in this film he is simply comic relief (and not that funny either), and in the next film he got lumbered with some ridiculous gadgets (invisible car – my arse!) Subsequently Cleese’s popularity as ‘Q’ waned. It is interesting to note that the ‘Q’ character does not appear in Casino Royale (2006) or Quantum Of Solace.

Onto the Bond girls – if you’ll forgive the clumsiness of that expression! Earlier I talked about how Denise Richards doesn’t stack up as a Bond girl (at least acting wise). Thankfully, Richards isn’t the only girl in the film. French beauty, Sophie Marceau plays the complex Elektra King. Elektra is a fascinating character, and for once – despite every actress’ ascertation that she is different to what has gone before – she actully is different. Italian actress, Maria Grazia Cucinotta has a small but flashy role as a character called ‘Cigar Girl’. She is Renard’s number one henchwoman, and as a bad girl her days are numbered. In fact she doesn’t make it past the pre-credit sequence. Rounding out the United Nations of Bond girls, representing England is Serena Scott Thomas, as Dr. Molly Warmflash (I’m not making this up – that’s her character’s name). Dr. Warmflash is the doctor who tends to 007 after he injures himself during his pursuit of ‘Cigar Girl’.

The film has an interesting, although not inspired collection of gadgets. Once again BMW supplies the car for Bond’s mission, it’s a Z8 Roadster, but it doesn’t get a full workout. The most useful vehicular gadget that Bond navigates is miniature jet boat, dubbed the ‘Q Boat’. This little beast is put to good use during the prolonged pre-title sequence. Bond races around the Thames and even cuts across land as he pursues ‘Cigar Girl’. Like most Bond vehicles, it comes with a selection of guns and missiles, with which Bond can defend himself. For the sequences in the snow capped Caucasus mountains, the villains are equipped with para-hawk gliders, which are like a snow buggy and with a parachute. They can drift from the sky and then land on the snow continuing their pursuit of Bond, all the while peppering Bond with machine gun fire.

While I find The World Is Not Enough to be an enjoyable Bond film, I still still see it as somewhat of a missed opportunity. The film has a good cast, a decent director, and David Arnold’s score is excellent, but still the film just doesn’t quite work. Even though I applaud the attempt to create multi-layered villains rather than cartoon clones of what has gone before, in this instance the duality in these characters only serves to mute the sense of threat or danger that these characters provide, and in turn weakens the film as a whole.

Put into the context of the Bond series, The World Is Not Enough also falls in between Tomorrow Never Dies – which I consider the best Brosnan Bond film but had poor villains, and the abysmal Die Another Day, which had even worse villains. Whatever strengths The World Is Not Enough may have, tend to be lost in this lacklustre period in the Bond cycle. I do not believe Brosnan was to blame. He was a good Bond; he was simply lumbered with poor scripts and miscast supporting actors. It will be interesting to see how the passage of time will treat this film – will it be seen as an interesting blip on the Bond radar, or will it be lumped with it’s surrounding Bond films as a particularly uninspired addition to the Bond canon.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Detonator II: Night Watch (1995)

AKA: Night Watch, Alistair MacLean’s Night Watch
Directed by David S. Jackson
Pierce Brosnan, Alexandra Paul, William Devane
Music by John Scott

Night Watch is director David S. Jackson’s follow up to Detonator: Death Train. Once again it is based on an Alistair MacNeill novel, from outlines left by Alistair MacLean at his death. While the team from the first film is back, Pierce Brosnan returns as Mike Graham, and Alexandra Paul reprises her role as Sabrina Carver, many of the better elements of the first movie have disappeared.

• Firstly, Patrick Stewart has gone as head of United Nations Anti-Crime Organization (UNACO) and is replaced by William Devane.

• Next, ‘UNACO’ the organisation Graham and Carver work for is hardly mentioned at all. In fact it only appears written on the side of a 4WD that drops Graham off at headquarters. In contrast there are quite a few mentions of the CIA, Graham and Carver are even partnered by the CIA’s agent in Hong Kong. It would appear that ‘UNACO’ is a part of the CIA, not a global agency sanctioned by the United Nations.

• And finally there is Brosnan’s appearance. Maybe all the rumours and comparisons with James Bond had taken their toll on Brosnan. In the first film, Death Train, Graham was clean cut with short hair. In this sequel, Brosnan has gone for the Mexican bandit look. His hair is long and unkempt, and he has grown a Zapata moustache. This change of appearance serves no purpose, and as far as continuity between the two pictures is concerned…well, it’s like Darth Vader in a red suit. Sure the character is the same, but somehow it just doesn’t seem right.

So, despite the same team in front and behind the camera, this film is a very different bird to it’s predecessor.

The film opens with a violent beach rescue. Brosnan’s partner is shot and dies in a sea of blood. This is so badly staged it almost seems humorous. But the mission has taken it’s toll on Graham. So he is given a ‘cushy’ mission. Something that should be a walk in the park. It appears that Rembrandt’s painting, the ‘Night Watch’ which had been touring all around the world, has returned home as a fake. Somewhere along the way, the original must have been exchanged for this elaborate forgery.

Graham and Carver are teamed up once again and shipped off to Holland to discover how the painting was switched, and more importantly, where the original is?
In Amsterdam, it doesn’t take long for Graham to get into a fight with a muscle bound hoodlum on a boat. Unfortunately for Graham, he doesn’t have a search warrant and it’s the hood who presses charges. Meanwhile Carver is engaged in another of the film’s many silly action set pieces. In this one, agent Carver cycles (as in bicycle) after a boat travelling down one of Amsterdam’s canals. She overtakes it and races forward to the next bridge, where he dismounts and then leaps onto the boat as it passes under the bridge. As you can imagine, this boat is not powering along. After a fight on board, the boat collides with another boat. This second boat is carrying a drum of petrol. As the boats touch, both vessels explode in giant orange balls of flame. Sure the collision may have resulted in an explosion, but this was totally out of proportion to the lead up. This was a slow moving boat – not a speedboat moving at pace. And don’t worry about Agent Carver – she slipped over the side into the water, just before the explosion.

The trail then leads to Hong Kong. In every city that exhibited the Night Watch painting, the museum that showed the piece, footed the bill. Not Hong Kong. There a wealthy art connoisseur, Martin Schraeder (Michael Shannon) picked up the tab. Posing as newly weds, Graham and Carver move their investigation to Hong Kong, where they team up with CIA Agent Myra Tang (Irene Ng).

As Schraeder is the logical suspect, Graham and Co. focus their attention on him. This leads them to a Casino in Macao, which Schraeder owns. In a casino setting, the film moves into Bond wannabe territory. Naturally there is a high stakes card game, where Graham faces off against Schraeder. And added to this, Graham choice of drink is a ‘vodka martini, straight up with a twist’. Hardly shaken not stirred, but close enough to seem familiar. Of course, Schraeder is the bad guy, and this is where the usual espionage hi-jinks begin.

Towards the end, this production reaches new depths in low budget Bondian action. Graham has to stop a North Korean freighter from launching a rocket in the middle of Hong Kong Harbour. As with all the action scenes in this movie, it is sloppy and far-fetched. Detonator II: Night Watch is a very poor film. Even die hard Brosnan fans will find this tough going. Bottom of the barrel.

Detonator II: Night Watch (1995)

Die Another Day (2002)

Directed by Lee Tamahori
Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench as M, John Cleese as Q, and Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, Colin Salmon as Robinson.
Music by David Arnold
Title Song by Madonna
Based on characters created by Ian Fleming

Is Die Another Day the worst Bond film ever made? In a word, YES! That’s not to say it doesn’t have any good moments, like the sword fight sequence in Blades gentlemen’s club. The fight is one of the most muscular sword fight sequences ever filmed, and the equal to many of the classic fight scenes performed by the likes of Basil Rathbone (The Mark of Zorro), or Stewart Granger (Scaramouche) to name but two. But Die Another Day, as a whole, is a very patchy effort.

The film starts well enough with James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) impersonating a South African mercenary selling conflict diamonds to the North Koreans. Particularly to Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) and Zao (Rick Yune). (For those unaware, conflict diamonds originate from African nations controlled by forces in opposition to their legitimate and internationally recognised government (such as Angola or Sierra Leone). These diamonds are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments. On 1 December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, unanimously, a resolution which forbade the trade of rough diamonds originating in these areas, in the hope of breaking the link between the illicit trade in rough diamonds and armed conflict.. The recent film Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio shows why this resolution was put in place.)

Unfortunately for Bond, before he can complete his mission, his cover is blown. He escapes in a hovercraft, hotly pursued by the North Korean Army in their own flotilla of hovercrafts.

Ultimately, Bond and Moon end up wrestling on top of the same driverless hovercraft as it rushes towards a waterfall. The craft goes over the falls with Moon, but Bond leaps off at the last moment. His reprieve is short lived as he is captured by the North Koreans.

Here, dear readers, is where the films goes off the rails. Firstly, Madonna’s theme song is rubbish. This is not just a case of Madonna bashing on my behalf. I thought her song, Beautiful Stranger for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was a great pop song, but Die Another Day is sub standard.

Next problem is the title sequence. Bond’s torture at the hands of his captures continues throughout the titles. Daniel Klein, who took over the Bond title sequences after the passing of Maurice Binder, has proven himself over the past three movies. Let him do his job!

Once the film resumes, eighteen months has passed and Bond is still a captive. He is far from the suave, impeccably dressed agent we are used to. He is gaunt; his hair is long a matted and an unkempt beard adorns his face. But his incarceration period is over as he is swapped in a prisoner exchange, for Zao, who is now horribly disfigured with a diamond encrusted head.

Back in safe hands, Bond is not trusted. There has been an information leak and Bond is the obvious suspect. He is to be interrogated and locked up. Before this can happen he escapes. Clothed in a soggy set of pyjamas and with his hair still matted and tangled he marches into the foyer of an exclusive Hotel in Hong Kong. Of course, all the guests are disgusted at his appearance, but unperturbed, Bond walks up to the front desk and asks for his usual suite.

Within moments, Bond is cleaned up and back in a Tuxedo. Not long after that, he is in Cuba, tracking down Zao, the man he was traded for in the prisoner exchange. Bond traces Zao to Los Organos, a gene altering, transformation clinic. It is here that Bond meets C.I.A. agent Jacinta Johnson, A.K.A. Jinx (Halle Berry). Both agents are working on the same case but from different ends. But does this mean that they would pool their resources and work together? Not on your life. After a quick interlude, they go their separate ways.

Bond catches up to Zao at the clinic, but Zao evades capture. But he does leave behind one clue. Diamonds. These diamonds are engraved with G.G. While Bond was in captivity a young entrepreneur, Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), has started a diamond mine in Iceland and had struck it rich. Bond finds it suspicious, that Graves’ diamonds should have they same composition as African Conflict Diamonds. He decides to look into Graves operation more thoroughly.

Although Toby Stephens is a good actor, he was fantastic in Cambridge Spies, in this film his performance is particularly ‘hammy’. Admittedly, he got lumbered with some atrocious dialogue, and equally silly scenes to act out. He comes off as a rather petulant young pup. When compared to the Bond villains of the past, he simply isn’t a threat.

My two major gripes, of the many things that I didn’t like, were the editing and the sloppy CGI. Editor Christian Wagner has adopted an MTV style of editing where there is exaggerated speeding up and slowing down of the action to create a visual effect. But all this does is cause Bond to look less potent than he should. Rather than throwing a good hard punch, Bond’s actions are slowed down and stylised. It is almost visual castration.

And now onto the CGI. It was atrocious. If there is one thing us Bond fans have come to expect is that the stunts that are performed professionally and generally, where possible, actually in front of the camera. Think of Bond skiing of the cliff in The Spy Who Loved Me (and now think of it done with CGI – blah!) But in Die Another Day we are treated to some substandard effects as Bond rides a gigantic ice wave. I know it couldn’t be done in real life, but at least hire a team of professionals who can render this type of environment well. It looks like a video game.

I am not even going to talk about the invisible car! My thoughts on that are best not aired in public.

A quick word about the music: With the exception of Madonna’s title song, which I have already talked about, the Dave Arnold score is of a high standard. Particularly the Cuban rhythms which are not only infectious they creatively incorporate the James Bond Theme. Strangely, little of the Cuban music ends up on the Soundtrack CD. But my last gripe about the music used in Die Another Day is the inclusion of London Calling by The Clash as Bond returns to London. In any other film, I’d almost applaud the use of The Clash or Joe Strummer in a soundtrack but in a Bond film it is inappropriate.

After the success of this film, there was talk of a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry as Jinx. Again it was to be directed by Lee Tamahori. It is rumoured that a script was prepared but he film never eventuated. Maybe we were lucky? Tamahori would later go on to destroy the xXx franchise.

Die Another Day was an unworthy swan song for Pierce Brosnan. Sure Brosnan will go on to make great films after his time as Bond, but I sort of feel, that his Bond films were wasted opportunities. He’s a good actor, and he had the charm and charisma to succeed as Bond, but unfortunately he got lumbered with some poor scripts, and crew members (Directors, Editors, and even Actors) who just weren’t up to the task. Thankfully for the Bond series, the producers went in a different direction for the next feature Casino Royale. Sure, it was sad to see Pierce go, but if the series was to survive, a new approach was needed. And thankfully we got it.

Die Another Day (2002)

Detonator: Death Train (1993)

AKA: Death Train, Alistair MacLean’s Death Train
Directed by David S. Jackson
Pierce Brosnan, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Lee, Alexandra Paul, Ted Levine
Music by Trevor Jones

This film is often referred to as Alistair MacLean’s Death Train. Writer Alistair MacLean has a solid track record when it comes to espionage movies with successful versions of Guns Of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra and Puppet On A Chain based on his novels (to name a few). But be wary of Alistair MacLean’s Death Train. In fact it is Alistair MacNeill’s Death Train. Alistair MacNeill was the author who wrote a series on novels based on outlines left by MacLean at his death. So to begin with, we have a counterfeit MacLean story which the producers have chosen to base their film on.

As the film opens we witness a nuclear bomb being constructed. While this is happening, we hear the resonant tones of Patrick Stewart announce:
’Plutonium…the key ingredient in nuclear bombs.

This plutonium was stolen, gram by deadly gram, from a German power plant.

My organization, the United Nations Anti-Crime Organization, responds to nuclear terrorism.

So when Karl Leitzig used this stolen plutonium to construct two nuclear bombs, his creations became U.N.A.C.O.’s nightmare.’

Patrick Stewart plays Malcolm Philpott, head of U.N.A.C.O, and when a Russian General, Benin (Christopher Lee), oversees the creation of these weapons, Philpott has a crisis on his hands. The bombs are forcibly loaded onto a train in Bremen, Germany, by a group of mercenaries headed by Alex Tierney (Ted Levine). As well as the hijacked train, Tierney also has twelve hostages, and as the authorities try to interfere, he has no hesitation in killing them. Tierney orders the train to be re-routed across the Swiss border, and then to Belsano in Italy.

Once the train is on the move, U.N.A.C.O. prepares for action. Philpott prepares a crack team of operatives to resolve the crisis. Amongst the team members are Mike Graham (Pierce Brosnan), and Sabrina Carver (Alexandra Paul) who are the stars of the show. Other members of the team include a Russian Major, Gennadi Rodenko (Nic D’Avirro); a US/Kenyan, C.W. Whitlock (Clarke Peters), who happens to a nuclear physicist; and another Russian, Sergei Kolchinsky (Andreas Sportelli), a pilot. With such an eclectic group of team members, it will come as no surprise that one of them is not quite what they appear to be.

Philpott has his team assemble in Munich. On the flight over, he taps into the trains communications. Tierney justifies his actions this way:
’We define ourselves by who we hate!
And the USSR was a worthy adversary.
This New World Order thing, we can’t use that!
No, once you know who you hate, everything works!’

The first attempt to stop the train, features Carver firing a gas canister into the Locomotive’s cabin, while Graham, attempts some acrobatics hanging from the bottom of a helicopter. Tierney and his mercenaries were prepared for such an assault, and don gas masks and defend themselves with machine guns. Graham is forced to retreat with his tail between his legs. Naturally enough the team regroup and find another way to assault the train

Despite a cast that includes Pierce Brosnan, Patrick Stewart and Christopher Lee this movie is pedestrian in every aspect. And the ending is so bad, it will have you throwing things at your television set. The film may not be quite as bad as I have made out, but it is far from great. It is however, light-years ahead of it’s sequel, which is one of the dreariest spy films ever made. For those of you, keen for more torture, I will attempt to get a review of Detonator II up in the next few weeks.

Detonator: Death Train (1993)

Live Wire (1992)

Directed by Christian Duguay
Pierce Brosnan, Ron Silver, Ben Cross, Lisa Eichorn
Music by Craig Safan

Live Wire is another turkey from Pierce Brosnan, made during the gap between Remmington Steele and his resurgence in Goldeneye. Livewire features an incredibly contrived story with a few too many co-incidences, and plot holes large enough to…well you know the clichés. Apparently the film-makers didn’t.

The film opens with an ominous warning:
“Over the last decade more than 3,600 lives worldwide have been lost as a direct act of terrorism. Nearly every country on the globe has its share of political kidnappings, hijackings, and firebombing, with one notable exception…the United States of America
Due to a stable political system, and the difficulty of smuggling easily detectable incendiary devices into the country, the United States has been relatively safe…

…until now”

The plot concerns three U.S. Senators who pass a bill which supports a clandestine arms deal. They support the bill, they get rich, and pay a fee to Mikhail Rashid, played by Ben Cross (the only actor who attempts to inject some life into these tired proceedings).

But after the deal has gone through, the Senators renege on paying their fees to Rashid. Naturally enough, the aggrieved Rashid takes matters into his own hands by killing two of the Senators with a nifty liquid explosive, which is alarmingly similar to water. After the Senators drink the liquid, served to them as ice water in a restaurant and as a mixer in a cocktail, it mixes with their stomach acids and it becomes a lethal nitro-style concoction. Turning the consumer into a human bomb. This is all graphically displayed with bulging red eyes, streams of blood pouring from all orifices, and stomachs and chests splitting open.

Pierce Brosnan plays Danny O’Neil, the FBI’s leading explosives expert, who gets assigned to protect the third and remaining Senator (played by Ron Silver). Now here is where the coincidences start to stack up. O’Neil’s ex-wife (played by Lisa Eichorn) is partnering the Senator. In fact it was their affair that splintered the O’Neil marriage. Obviously O’Neil is not too happy about his new assignment. Needless to say, Rashid ends up kidnapping O’Neil’s ex-wife forcing him to not only rescue her but save the Senator in order to find out why he’s a target. It’s difficult to explain all the plot strands when everybody is so nepitiously linked.

The movie also features a rather misplaced sex scene in a bath tub.

The musical score by Craig Safan is soft-cock rock of the worst kind. And it’s not that that it has dated that makes it bad. It was never any good to begin with.

Apparently a sequel was made (not featuring Pierce Brosnan). I have not rushed out to see it.

This review is based on the New Line Entertainment USA DVD

Live Wire (1992)