James Bond returns: Enter Pierce Brosnan and Judi Dench

When Roger Moore left the James Bond franchise, everyone knew who the next Bond would be: Pierce Brosnan.
Brosnan, an Australian, had been introduced to American audiences on the TV show Remington Steele. PI Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) had gotten around the sexism she dealt with by making up a male boss, Remington Steele, who never dealt with clients directly. When a client insists on meeting Steele, a federal agent (Brosnan) shows up and gets persuaded to assume the role, partly because he really likes Laura. As it turns out, he’s not what he appears to be, but Laura and “Remington” wind up working together anyway.
The show began in 1982 on NBC and by 1986 it had run out of steam. Once it was cancelled, Eon Studios was happy to transfer him to the Bond series. So was NBC—so happy it renewed the series at the last minute, confident. Eon thought having a Bond who appeared on TV every week would ruin the mystique so they canceled the offer and went with Dalton (Zimbalist lost out on the role in Robocop that went to Nancy Allen).
In hindsight, that may have been a good thing. After License to Kill in 1989, we didn’t see another Bond film until Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye (which I just watched last week). So we might only have two Brosnan films, and one of them might have been License to Kill.
With Brosnan, we’re back to a British champion serving his country instead of Dalton’s surly action hero. And where Dalton in License to Kill and Living Daylights has a relatively reserved sex life, Brosnan’s Bond is, in M’s words, “a sexist misogynist dinosaur” (though unlike Dalton, he doesn’t smoke). In an early scene, he seduces the woman M sent to evaluate him (she should have known better); as License to Thrill points out, rather than tone down the sexism, the film openly acknowledges it, then moves on (acknowledging it does not, of course, make the sexism any less).
The other debut in Goldeneye is, of course, Judi Dench’s M. We learn early on that she’s that stereotype of spy thrillers, the superior officer who relies on computers, statistics and analysis rather than trust to Bond’s gut instincts. Normally that’s a sure sign the superior officer will come off looking like a fool, but not in this case. When she realizes she’s wrong about the Goldeneye threat, M calls Bond into her office and tells him to go deal with it. She doesn’t like his dinosaur attitudes but that won’t stop her doing her job. Nor, she adds, has she any qualms about sending a man to his death if she has to.
To a large extent this works because it’s Dench. She projects an aura of tough ruthlessness that makes it impossible for her to be a fool (wrong, sure, but not fool). From the first moment she’s on screen, she owns the character.
All that said, let’s move on to the movie itself …

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5 responses to “James Bond returns: Enter Pierce Brosnan and Judi Dench

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