Tuesday, 17 November 2015

007 - GoldenEye

GoldenEye clears the deck. Another soft reboot for the ageless secret agent that offers us a new Bond and a fresh set of MI6 handlers. Even resident director John Glen is jettisoned to make way for Martin Campbell, a director who made his name on television. Campbell had previously handled the interminable shoot-outs of ITV's The Professionals as well as Edge of Darkness, a critically acclaimed BBC thriller about a Policeman investigating the murder of his daughter.

Campbell's contribution is obvious, he suffuses GoldenEye with a sense of luxury, a quality long absent from the series. Campbell and cinematographer Phil Méheux steer 007 away from the airy functionality of Glen into a more sumptuous state of assembly. Licence to Kill borrowed ticks and tricks from the likes of Lethal Weapon and Die Hard without really engaging with why either film was so broadly popular. Simply, they are quality product, well-engineered scripts in the hands of directors who are able to draw out the spectral beauty of their ruin.

GoldenEye is Bond reaching for that level, a film designed to be a complete experience rather than a routine crawl through the formula factory. John McTiernan and Richard Donner's films are again present in how GoldenEye seeks to include qualities that might register with an audience that doesn't wolf down ice cream on their birthday.

If The Spy Who Loved Me is a film designed to introduce the idea of breasts to an appreciative adolescent audience, then GoldenEye is a deliberate alternative, a Bond film that attempts to elevate its moth-eaten formula by including female perspectives. Izabella Scorupco's Natalya is the convergence point, a potential fuck-target raised by Michael France and a squad of screenwriters to an active participant.

Natalya is an interesting character in the Bond pantheon because we're not only allowed a window into her motivations, we also see her forged. She isn't just shoved in from stage left in a bikini, we experience the sequence of events that mutated her from a comfortable cubicle dweller into an accomplice that fills a critical hole in James Bond's skill-set.

During a tense briefing at MI6, Bond watches her digital ghost drag itself out of a pit of fire and mangled machinery. Using a satellite camera, he zooms in on her, noting her importance. It feels like an anointment. 007 gazing across the world and finding what he lacks. Bond needs Natalya, he could not complete his mission without her.

Famke Janssen's Xenia is Natalya's flip-side, the femme fatale of the twin Thunderballs rescued from an early death and allowed to thrive. Xenia is defined by her consumptions - her love of smoking, fast cars and dominating sexuality. She's nothing less than a Soviet approximation of James Bond, Connery's Bond at that. A malfunctioning, bizarro clone that conducts itself with the same capricious cruelty.

Like Connery she's a sore loser used to the total access her looks provide. In a neat reversal she manages to survive a couple of foreplay altercations with 007, the British spy contriving to spare her rather than get his hands dirty. Xenia is the hero of her own story, a perpetual thorn in Bond's side, reappearing again and again to trap him between her pincer thighs. She's even blessed with her own set of morbid quips, delivered while she gloats over her latest merciless extermination.

Xenia represents Bond's unpleasant past. She is wanton, unchecked consumption operating with a sense of impunity. She tries to do to Bond that which he has done to countless women before her. She wants to trap 007 and use him up, an attempt to take a kind of metatextual revenge for everyone the British agent has bedded, then promptly brushed aside.

Xenia isn't just trying to kill Bond, she wants to subordinate him, transforming him into a tool that fulfils her desire to cum. This extravagance is her downfall. Unfortunately she's not facing any of the Bond's that minted this idea of rampant, unhinged lust. GoldenEye's 007 does not attempt to recruit her or even out-fuck her. Pierce Brosnan's model is instead a ruthless but monogamous take on the character, informed by Timothy Dalton's AIDS era adventurer. There's no dominance asserting grapple here. As soon as Xenia turns her back, Bond is using every underhand trick he can to press his advantage.

Natalya and Xenia are conceptually important to both GoldenEye and James Bond the never-ending franchise. Xenia allows the character to shed some unsavoury baggage while Natalya rounds him off, picking up his slack to form an unbeatable unit. Trapped in the liar of the treacherous 006, she resists capture longer than Bond, plonking herself in front of a computer to sabotage the billion dollar plot while the boys bicker. Natalya contributes in a way that Barbara Bach's Agent Triple X was never allowed to, she represents a future for Bond in which women have worth to him as something other than a disposable conquest.

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