Bond Pretitle Sequences: Goldeneye
Simon Pitt |
Tuesday 16th July
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
The gap between Licence to Kill and Goldeneye was the longest in the James Bond franchise. Licence to Kill had not done well at the box office. Since then, the Berlin Wall had fallen and there was no longer a KGB for 007 to fight. Bond’s attitude and quips were beginning to look dated and now even sexist. Some people were saying that there was no longer a place for Bond in the modern world.
Then Goldeneye arrived.
From the moment Goldeneye starts, it is clearly something new. Eric Serra’s score is shockingly different. Gone is the big sound of the John Barry era; admittedly, that will come back with David Arnold. But now, in its place is an electronic, industrial sound. Serra’s score has been divisive. Fans consider it everything from “impressive, fresh” to “tired and bored”. Whatever you think, you can’t deny it is different, and playing over the gun barrel it signals that this is a new Bond.
The gun barrel, too, has been modernised and jazzed up. The reflections move as it pans across the screen. You don’t notice how big a deal this is, until you compare it to the Licence to Kill opening, which looks like someone has cut out a stencil, and is pulling it across the screen.
We open on a plane flying over a dam. This isn’t just a big dam, it is absolutely huge. It’s so big that I thought it was a model or CGI. But it is neither. It’s the Contra Dam, a real structure in Switzerland, over 720ft high. The camera lingers on it; we get an aerial shot and a vertical pan as Bond prepares to bungee jump off the edge.
I love how much space they give this moment. Compared to the rush of noise and fury that is Quantum of Solace, they give it so much time. And it pays off. The stunt is breathtaking. While Serra’s soundtrack is excellent, and David Arnold’s score is always welcome, the silence here hits home the magnitude of the stunt.
It’s all the more impressive because stuntman Wayne Michaels actually did this. Not only that, but he breaks the world record for the longest bungee jump from a fixed object, and still remembers at to pull out his gun at the end of it and carry on with the stunt. It’s not easy, as Michaels explains:
It's pushing the limits of what can physically be done. The body is travelling at such a high rate of speed that it puts a great deal of strain on you.
The drop is so long that it seems to take the cameraman by surprise. Michaels falls so far that the camera runs out of space to pan and catches on the corner of the dam. The stunt has been voted the best movie stunt of all time.
Bond’s face is in shadow as he pulls himself down, and as he cuts into the roof, all we see his eyes. Who is this mysterious man?
There’s always something about the first reveal of Bond’s face in a film; especially a new Bond. Brosnan has this moment a lot. There’s a long delay in Tomorrow Never Dies before we see his face, and again in Die Another Day, he’s a masked figure for a long time before we see him. I don’t know if it’s done on purpose or not, but the Michaels appears to have been made up to look like Timothy Dalton. Certainly, his the back of his head as he jumps from the dam looks like Dalton.
Inside Arkangel, Bond is above the toilets as a portly Russian prepares to do a poo. Six Bond films, two toilet scenes (for those counting – only one number two, though).
The Russian lowers his paper and we see the first shot of Bond, upside down. “Beg your pardon, forgot to knock,” he quips. He doesn’t forget to knock the man out though.
My girlfriend, looking over my shoulder, watches the first time we see Brosnan’s face. “Phoar,” she says, “hello, Pierce!” I’m reminded of that famous quote about men wanting to be Bond and women wanting him. I think I make a bland comment about what a good bit of casting it is. I probably mention Remington Steele, a programme I always think sounds like a shaving razor. My talk about 1980s American comedy shows calms my girlfriend down.
Bond is off, creeping around the Russian facility. He watches the butcher lugging carcasses around. In the shadows, a sinister figure barks at him in Russian. “I’m alone,” Bond says, calm as a chilled cucumber. “Aren’t we all. You’re late 007,” Sean “006” Bean says.
Alec is much colder than Bond. He saunters past the scientists, then calmly walks in and shoots them. It’s all going well, “too easy,” Bond says, until the alarm goes off.
Alec and James look like they’re having a great time. “Closing time James, last call.” Alec shouts, “Buy me a pint.” They’re quipping happily to each other as Alex works his way through the Russian army, and Bond sets up all the stopwatches.
Alec, however, is soon in a sticky situation. And with one last nationalistic quip, “For England James!” Ourumov finishes him off. Bond seems thrown by this. Never one to sit on his haunches, he grabs a trolley and slowly inches he way across the room.
This is a tense scene. The number of guards is astronomical, and there’s silence in the room except for the squeak of the wheels. You really get the feeling of hopelessness here. Watching it now, I can't work out why the soldiers don’t just move around to the left and get behind him. But despite that, I love this sort of situation.
Ourumov seems fascinated and faintly amused by Bond. “You can’t win,” he says dismissively . Bond, however, has a different plan, and flicks the conveyor belt on. A look of fear appears on Ourumov's face; never have I seen a grown man look so scared of a conveyor belt.
With a roll (and what appears to be a brief haircut), Bond is outside. The door opens and hordes of Russians run out after him. On the runway strip, a plane is conveniently preparing to launch. Bond runs after it. With a jump, he’s on board and struggling with the pilot.
They struggle, and shockingly, both of them fall out. I always think this is a key moment in the Goldeneye opening sequence. Usually in a Bond title sequence, Bond would have knocked the pilot out and taken over the plane. But here, things aren’t that easy. It’s a more tense, involved Bond film.
Bond gets onto a Bike and races after the plane. “Wait,” Ourumov shouts. He really does shout that a lot. Just seconds earlier, when they’re shooting at Bond he shouts, “Hold you fire.” In the gas tank room, twice he says, “Hold your fire,” and once, when someone accidentally fires, he kills them. He just loves waiting. He must adore going to the post office.
Shockingly, the plane goes over the edge of the cliff. And Bond goes after it. The pacing goes slightly wrong at this point, I think. You lose the shock of the plane going over the edge of the cliff and how big a deal it is for Bond to hit the accelerator and go after it. They probably could have sorted that out in the edit with just a few more shots of him getting closer before the plane goes over the edge.
Bond plunges after the plane. It’s rather like the opening to Moonraker where Bond is thrown out of the plane without a parachute. Brosnan’s Bond really seems to love freefalling. We’ve only seen him on screen for eight minutes, and already he’s done two freefalls.
I remember at the time, people arguing about whether this was possible or not. Funnily enough it’s one of the few Bond stunts that people have attempted to do in real life. And yes, it is possible.
Bond manages to get the plane under control, and flies off just as the facility explodes. It’s a spectacular bit of model work by Derek Meddings (of Thunderbirds fame). Most people don’t even know it’s model work until you tell them. One of the reasons the explosions look so good in Goldeneye is because they actually blew stuff up.
I have to admit, I’m left a bit confused by the geography here. Where’s the dam gone? We did, after all, make a very big deal of jumping off it. Maybe this is the back of it. I suppose it must be like one of those shopping centres built into a hill where you come in on the ground floor and leave in the basement.
As the plane flies off we crash into the title sequence. The Goldeneye sequence actually begins with a stylised version of the gun barrel, with a bullet flying out of the screen.
My girlfriend, who patiently endures my anecdotes about Bond, screws her nose up. “This isn’t the one with the bullet coming out at the start is it?” she says, having been keeping half an eye on the screen in case there are more shots of Pierce. She’s referring to the opening of Die Another Day, where Lee Tamahori added a CGI bullet onto the gun barrel sequence. “So why does your man make a big deal about it being this big new thing if it had been done before?” She asks.
It’s a good point actually. Later on in the interview with him, Tamahori mentions his theory that Bond is a code name and all of the Bonds are different agents taking up the mantle:
Tamahori: Of course to me, it is just a prefix and a code name. That means that Connery either died or retired, Moore died or retired and so on.
Interviewer: Why are the other James Bonds mourning the same dead wife?
Tamahori: Well, they don't.
Interviewer: Moore visits her grave in For Your Eyes Only.
Tamahori: Oh, he does, does he. I didn't know that.
Has this guy actually watched any Bond films?
And so, I’ve reached the end (or rather the beginning, since I’m working through these title sequences backwards) of the Pierce Brosnan era. When I started watching The World is Not Enough I was a bit worried that I’d misremembered how good the Pierce Brosnan films were. In some ways, Brosnan was “my” Bond; he was Bond when I was at the right age. And I always thought the team of actors in the films, Brosnan, Judy Dench, Samantha Bond, Michael Kitchen, Robbie Coltrane, were the Bond dream team. So, I was a little worried that I was remembering things as better than they were. But with Tomorrow Never Dies and Goldeneye the Brosnan films picked up. For me, Goldeneye may even be the high point of the whole Bond series.
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- Alec calls Bond “007” when they first meet.
- Bond responds by calling him “006”.
- After this Bond and Alec call each other by their first names.
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- “I’m alone,” Bond says when challenged by Alec. “Aren’t we all,” Alec replies, dropping his Russian accent.
- Alec then accuses Bond of being late. “Had to stop in the bathroom,” Bond says. He’s referring of course to when he knocked the man out there. Since Alec doesn’t know this, so he must just think Bond needed a poo. When you gotta go…
- Alec and Bond have a great time shooting the Russians. “Closing time, James, last call” Alec shouts. “Buy me a pint,” Bond replies. Which I think is Bond language for “shoot some more Russians.”
- After the Russians blow open the door, Bond shouts, “Shut the door, Alex, there’s a draft”
- When Ourumov has Alec at gun point he shouts, “Come out with your hands above your head!” Bond sighs to himself. “How original.”
Listen Carefully 007
- I assume the man Bond leaves unconscious in the toilet dies in the ensuing explosion.
- I doubt the barrels kill any Russians, but some of them might have a bit of a headache the next day. Assuming they survive the explosion.
- In Bond’s first barrage of fire when he leaves the facility, I count 10 kills.
- Bond shoots a motorcyclist.
- Bond sets the bombs that blow up at the end. Considering how many people are inside the facility, there are a lot of deaths here, making this Bond’s highest kill count in an opening sequence to date.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- Bond and Alec appear to be good friends.
- Alec doesn’t have any problem killing unarmed scientists. And Bond doesn’t mention it.
SP will return…
- Bond has a bungee cord, but it appears to be perfectly normal. No gadgets here.
- He has a gun that fires a grappling hook and wheels in.
- And a laser gun to cut into the roof of the Arkangel facility
- Bond uses magnetic bombs on the gas canisters. Bizarrely, they seem to have a button on the side that automatically removes three minutes from the timer. I’m not quite sure why that functionality would exist.