James Bond: The Pierce Brosnan Years

If you're a James Bond fan, then I'm sure you're aware of how important it was for Pierce Brosnan to finally get the role after years of legal wrangling. You see, at the time he was the star of a hit tv series called Remmington Steele, and though he was a top pick and natural fit for the role of James Bond, the company and producers behind Remmington Steele did not want to let him go, even when it looked like he was finally going to be able to at one point, the show producers decided to pull a dick move and keep Remmington Steele on for another season, which ruined his chances at starring in The Living Daylights. As it turns out, Remmington Steele didn't even end up completing that full season as it ended up being cancelled halfway through. When it was time to recast Bond once again after the abysmal performance of License to Kill in 1989 (not entirely the films fault!!), Brosnan got his chance when they brought the character back after a 6 year hiatus.

Goldeneye (1995)
Directed by: Martin Campbell

While I've been immersing myself into every James Bond film made, and not in any kind of logical order, I noticed an interesting theme found in nearly every single one. They start off with a big impressive action sequence, give us a tedious hour or so of lots of political exposition, double crosses and espionage talk, and then deliver an impressive final act with an even bigger action sequence to close out the film. Goldeneye is no exception and follows this theme religiously.

This particular Bond entry seems to be a lot of people's favorite, so I went in with some high expectations, only to find it mildly amusing and fairly bland for the most part. I did enjoy it, but not as much as I had hoped, and not nearly as much as I did the 2 previous Bond films that starred Timothy Dalton.

Pierce is just tailor made for the role of 007. Back in the 80's when they were really trying to get him on board, everyone just assumed it would eventually happen because it's just such a natural fit for him. Of course the powers that be wouldn't let that happen until 1995, but considering how difficult it was to actually make it happen, especially when the Bond franchise took a big hit with License to Kill, thus sending the series into limbo for 6 years, I think we're damn lucky we were able to eventually get him at all. In regards to his portrayal of the character, I kind of like the way they went back to the Roger Moore style of Bond; womanizing to a fault and full of cheesy puns. As much as I enjoyed Dalton's dead serious take on the character, I did miss the chuckle a bad pun would elicit.

Bringing Martin Campbell on board as director really added a touch of class to the film. I've always loved Campbell's work, and often consider him an underrated director. While I haven't seen all of his films, the ones I have seen I consider successful because of his involvement as a very talented and visually competent director. I'd always enjoyed No Escape, but it wasn't until I recently saw Cast A Deadly Spell for the first time that I really took notice of how great he was at putting a picture together, and of how he can really tackle any genre and make it look good. Like any director, his output has been hit or miss throughout his career, but his highlights include Criminal Law (1988), Cast A Deadly Spell (1991), Goldeneye (1995) and The Mask of Zorro (1998). Of course, he would also go on to direct the painful and dreaded Green Lantern live action film in 2011, and he's never really been able to recover since then. But hey, they loved his work so much in this one that they hired him again to reignite the franchise once again with Daniel Craig 4 in Casino Royale in 2006.

For me, I found Goldeneye to be a bit boring. It does excel in character development though, but the big reveal that comes later as to the identity of the villain was no big surprise. When the action takes center stage though, the film delivers the goods. Ultimately I enjoyed it, but it's not one I would probably revisit often.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode

Whatever issues I had about the pacing of Goldeneye were completely turned on it's head with this next installment, making it easily my favorite Bond film after The Living Daylights, which totally threw me for a loop because I just was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

The Brosnan era of Bond films never seem to get much love. People agree he's a great Bond, but the films themselves never get the love or reception that other Bond films do. Except, at the time, his Bond films were the most successful and profitable, so you have to wonder where all the negativity came from?

In the middle of all these Brosnan films is one that never gets any real recognition period, and that's Tomorrow Never Dies, released 2 years after Goldeneye. For me, this particular entry was a blast from start to finish. Why? Because it's literally a nonstop action-fest with one insane action sequence after another. I can't remember the last time a Bond film had so much action! Are there even any that can compare? Not only that, it's meticulously and beautifully directed by Roger Spottiswoode, a director I've grown to love more and more after his brilliant 80's thriller Shoot to Kill just floored me. In fact, I consider this the best looking James Bond film of all those I've seen to date.

Now let's get to the heart of the film, and in this case, it's the action. And let me tell you, there is a ton of it in here. Essentially, it's really just one long action sequence after another, and with the inclusion of Michelle Yeoh, who is easily the most badass Bond Babe I've ever seen in one of these, ups the anty significantly. In fact, because of her inclusion, they felt it only right to try and give her something worth participating in, especially with her skills, So you can expect a lot of hand to hand martial arts fights, along with some mightily impressive stunts. In the end, though she does end up being needing to be rescued on a regular basis herself, she comes off as being one of the best and most badass Bond Babes ever.

Terri Hatcher makes a small but surprising appearance here, and really does wonders with the limited screen time she's given. The guy who ultimately steals the show though is an actor by the name of Gotz Otto, who plays the villains right hand man. A big hulking bad guy with bleach blond hair who just exudes classic bad guy machismo. His character is a bit of a throwback to the type of henchman/villain that you really don't see anymore, much less in a James Bond film. He carries almost a superhuman strength and doesn't question anything. He just does what his boss tells him to do, not once caring whether anyone else dies in the process.

I really can't praise this installment enough. It's a never-ending roller coaster ride of nonstop action and stunts on a grande scale. Everything works amazingly well in here, from Spottiswoodes' direction, to the addition of a kick ass sometime adversary, sometime partner in Michelle Yeoh, to the hammy and righteously clever performance from Jonathan Pryce (Brazil) as the villain, and lest we not forget the always reliable one-liners, of which there are plenty. Tomorrow Never Dies ranks as one of my all-time favorite Bond films to date.

The World is Not Enough (1999)
Directed by: Michael Apted

With 2 solid entries into the Bond franchise during Pierce Brosnan's tenure, they keep up the tradition with this one, another great 007 film. What I liked about this one was that it took all the great espionage elements of Goldeneye, and combined it with all the great action of Tomorrow Never Dies, and gave us a film that caters equally, with great effect, to both sides of the spectrum. For those that are not fans of a lot of action, this film offers up equal amounts of undercover espionage, and for those that find the espionage stuff boring, this film will give you a lot of action set pieces to even it out.

Of all the Brosnan Bond films, I think Tomorrow Never Dies is still my favorite, but this one comes in a very close second. This is such a great entry all around. It reminded me a lot of the vibe and tempo of The Living Daylights, only they took the Bond character and took him back to his Roger Moore roots by giving him ample amounts of cheesy puns, and of course, plenty of women to bed. In fact, it's kind of gotten ridiculous how much time he puts into trying to score with women when he should be focusing on the job at hand. Which brings me to an interesting bit of casting in this film. I'm of course referring to Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist by the name of Christmas Jones. Yes, you read all of that correctly. I guess I can understand her reasoning in wanting the role, since it would be a drastic departure from the roles she's usually known for, but that doesn't mean she's right for the part, and guess what? She isn't. In fact, she's pretty terrible. You just don't believe her as a nuclear physicist, I'm sorry. And it's not me being someone who thinks of her as a dimwit or bimbo, it's in her delivery and it's just not believable. In fact, it's laughably unbelievable. Yet it doesn't make her the worst Bond babe of the series. That honor would go to an actress in the next installment.

Robert Carlyle makes a formidable villain in this film. Though I'm typically used to him playing crazy and playing it well, he delivers a much more restrained performance here and it works. Here he plays a villain who's slowly dying from a brain injury that while killing him slowly, also makes him feel no pain, which is kinda cool since he's pretty much invincible. I've seen more memorable villains in these, but I've also seen worse. John Cleese was a surprisingly awesome and welcome addition to the franchise as Q's understudy and lackey R. His particular sense of humor and dry wit fits the role well and so good is he in the role that you imagine that that's what he's like in real life, so it wasn't even like it was much of a stretch at all. Ultimately Cleese would go on to be the official Q in the next installment after the sudden passing of longtime Q Desmond Llewelyn.

This was easily the most classy of the bunch in my opinion. It's a clever film, highly engaging, explosive and full of thrills that so many of the Bond films in any era sorely miss. I think a lot of what makes this work so well can be attributed to director Michael Apted, who cut his teeth with dramas and thrillers, only to discover he had a knack for and be a natural fit for this kind of stuff. While most Bond films have that "one" thing that makes them stand out from any of the others, that single element whether it be a villain, actor, moment, stunt; when it comes to this film, the first word that comes to mind is "quality".

Die Another Day (2002)
Directed by: Lee Tamahori

And then we get to this last film in Pierce Brosnan's reign as James Bond. I don't even know where to begin. I should have known right from the start with the laughably awful theme song sung by Madonna, easily the worst Bond theme song I've ever heard. But that's just the beginning of this nightmare. Die Another Day was just terrible. It's so bizarre, so over the top, and so lazy that it almost comes off as a sort of parody on the James Bond films. Nothing makes sense, nothing is at any level plausible, and the amount of absurdity found from start to finish will make your head spin. The bad puns and jokes don't even land. They end up being cringe-inducing more than anything. Literally everything that made these James Bond films so fun during Pierce Brosnan's run completely falls apart with this final entry before rebooting the series yet again years later.

It's pretty sad that they had to send off Brosnan in such a spectacularly awful film. Unlike Roger Moore's final Bond film A View To A Kill, which was mainly bad in that it was terribly dull and boring, this one is legitimately bad in nearly every sense of the word. Too bad too, since Brosnan had a very fine run with every previous film before this being a very solid and entertaining 007 film.

Bringing Halle Berry on board didn't help matters much either. You'd think she would be a natural fit for a Bond babe, but to my surprise, she was pretty terrible. I wish I could say that it was because of the dreadful dialogue, but the sad truth is that her delivery was mostly at fault. She comes off as someone who hasn't acted much in films before, which couldn't be farther from the truth. I don't know, it's hard to explain why or how she ended up being terrible in this when she was actually nominated and won an Oscar, which was just around the same time this was released.

One of the staples of any 007 film is of course, the action and stunt sequences. Really, if a James Bond film didn't have any action then it wouldn't be any good. A View To A Kill is a great reminder why. Die Another Day does offer a lot of action, there's no denying that. But the action jumps so far into parody that it's just dumb. And because of the specific location and storyline involved, a lot of effects work, both practical and CGI is utilized, and it's terrible and shoddy looking low-grade effects work that I find shocking and confusing to be in a James Bond film. The entire invisible car idea is the topper.

I will admit though that the film does at least start strong with a very cool action sequence. Hell, I found the villains to be interesting too, but everything else is just so underwhelming and over-indulgent to the point of it being farcical. I struggle to imagine a script being approved with everything in here and that it passed through so many hands and so many departments and levels of authority before getting the okay. And that it "still" got greenlit into production just kind of blows my mind. What kind of film did they think they were going to make? Was the high level of absurdity on purpose? I don't know if I even care to know at this point. I can go on and on, like for example, why are there samurai warrior statues on a plane at the end of the film? Is it just so that Bond and the villain can each have an excuse to grab a sword in the middle of a fight?

Director Lee Tamahori has never really made a film that stood out among his filmography, unless you count Once Were Warriors, which was actually pretty good. But nothing he'd made prior to this film would indicate he was capable of handling such a property, and when you watch the final product, that grounded suspicion is confirmed. He can't. Every director has that one bad film in their resume, and this one is most definitely his.

There is so much about this particular entry that just blows my mind. For example, it's written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who not only wrote the excellent previous installment The World is Not Enough, but would later go on to write some of the franchise's best with Casino Royale and Skyfall. What happened?! During it's release, it was the largest earning Bond film to date, making it the most successful. It currently carries a 6.1 on IMDB and a 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which are far more charitable than it deserves.

What I learned from watching these 4 films is that the Pierce Brosnan Bond films are the most profitable (at the time) and some of the best James Bond films out of the entire franchise, except for the last one. I don't know how these haven't gotten more love and praise than they have, because it's richly deserving. Each film only got better and stronger, but even beginning with Goldeneye, they were leaps and bounds better than some of the previous installments with other actors portraying 007. Sadly, all that hard work falls apart with Die Another Day, a disaster of mega proportions for the franchise. 

From this point on I will move onto the Daniel Craig era before heading back to finish the Roger Moore 007 films, of which I've only seen 3 to date. Stay tuned....


  1. Pierce Brosnan is awesome. His is the last time that an actor looked like he was having fun in a James Bond performance. His tenure is comparable to Daniel Craig's, as far as quality. And yes, TOMORROW NEVER DIES is an overlooked 007 movie.

    1. Agreed Robonerd! I was actually a bit surprised at how much I ended up liking him as Bond. He is now my second favorite. Thanks for stopping by!