Pierce Brosnan, James Bond
Jul 8, 2004
Pierce Brosnan has given so much to the series. He joined it at its all time low (the 6 year gap) and left it at its all time high. He was also the instrumental player in reigniting a character that many believed in the early 1990's was obsolete and irrelevant in the post Cold War world. Whereas other movie genres have come and gone, Brosnan has kept Bond as the world's favorite action hero. Each of Brosnan's four outings as Bond saw a further development of the character, yet retained the nature of the Bond of Ian Fleming and each of his four predecessors in the role. Brosnan's biggest achievement was that he was the first Bond since Connery to be the only actor envisaged by the whole public as James Bond. Even before GoldenEye, fan polls regularly voted for him as their choice to be the next James Bond and he has done this fair justice.
That's simply because Brosnan is Bond; an immensely competent and usually outwardly composed character, with inner conflicts and vulnerabilities. He's also a sensualist (which both Connery and Brosnan excelled at presenting), not just about women but also about many aspects of life. In nearly every moment he is on screen, Brosnan is seamlessly tying this together. He is able to capture Connery's trademark physical presence in scenes like the final fight with 006 on the top of the satellite dish in GoldenEye, his ability to run with the motion and facial expression of both determination and confidence. He pinches bits of Roger Moore's smooth, near smug attitude. In the way he is able to deliver even some sub par lines in a way that's both convincing and not so "wink wink - nudge nudge- its all in fun" kind of attitude.
The cold-hearted brooding attitude Dalton is usually synonymous with is also brought in the Brosnan interpretation but, like the Moore elements, handled in appropriate dosages. In doing so, Brosnan has proved himself as the viable "man of the world silhouette" in every single film.
GoldenEye, showed just how great Brosnan was going to be as Bond. He had tough resourcefulness, he could knock an enemy for six and genuine regret and anger at the thought of his friend betraying him and his country (the statue park scene is fantastic), and it is clear that the scene on the beach with Natalya is a foundation for what Brosnan's more introspective Bond wanted to play off of.
Tomorrow Never Dies showed another great performance by Brosnan as Bond, especially exuding the confidence and coolness of the character. However, what is great about that film is the inner conflict Brosnan portrays in various scenes over Paris (a character with far too little screen time, if only because Hatcher has always been a favorite of mine). The main problem is the switch to all action man finale, though that isn't Brosnan's fault.
The World Is Not Enough was Brosnan's crowning moment, throughout the film exerting a whole range of emotions from anger, regret, loss and so on. His scenes with Marceau are truly magnificent, with Brosnan managing to make Bond both weary of her but emotionally attached to her at the same time. TWINE is possibly, along with On Her Majesty's Secret Service and From Russia With Love, the most cerebral and developed Bond film yet, with Brosnan showing sides of the character not really seen before.
With Die Another Day, Brosnan was able to showcase Bond in some unprecedented ways, due in part of the amount of screen time James Bond was given in this adventure. The shift in tone in the film also shows Brosnan's ability to seamlessly homogenize James Bond characteristics. From the moment he engineers the switch with the courier and steals his sunglasses, it's evident that he is Bond...James Bond. Then through the torture and the stripping of his 00 status, you see the fear and the small moments of doubt. You then see him tap into his inner strength and confidence showing the power that has allowed the 00 agent succeed all these years. When he strolls through the Yacht Club in wet pajamas, looking like a bum and acting like a king, it's evident that while James Bond may have cool gadgets and great clothes, this Bond is actually himself, stripped of everything.
I know some say he is wimpy as 007, but I don't see this at all. Yes, Bond does seem to sometimes genuinely care for the women he crosses, but he also has the traditional vengeful, aggressive side that makes for a complex and interesting character, and the closest to Fleming's Bond we have seen. This is done in three specific ways: his ruthlessness, fatalism to his own life, and the presence of a hardened intelligence officer. Bond is a hardened intelligence officer -an executioner who doesn't like to kill, but one who does his job well. He is a man who realizes that he doesn't have much of a life of his own - he belongs to the service. This is what Fleming usually tells us about Bond in the books, that MI6 is his life. All of Brosnan's films have shown this.
Brosnan has thus far shown us a more consistently ruthless, deadly James Bond moreso than any of his predecessors. But Brosnan's Bond, with his no-hesitation executions of Trevelyan, Kaufman, and especially Elektra, has made the licence to kill more than just a cool-sounding trademark.
Yet to all of those who look to the Bonds as a sense of escapism, Brosnan has been able to bring the cold-bloodedness of Bond out in a smooth, almost humorous way. Something unachieved by his illustrious precredessors. As Bond looked into Kaufman's eyes in Tomorrow Never Dies, you know he has no problem with pulling the trigger. Yet as Kaufman says in desperation, "Wait, I am just a professional doing a job," 007 echoes back, "Me too." Brosnan's Bond is the first to order a martini and kill a man with equal aplomb. Along with that acknowledgement of who he is and what constitutes the essence of his profession comes a certain fatalism regarding his own life. It comes out in his response to Xenia's suggestion that he "enjoy it while it lasts" ("The very words I live by") and M's reference to his "cavalier attitude toward life." When Bond answers Natalya's question about what makes him so cold by saying "It's what keeps me alive," and she responds "No, it's what keeps you alone," they're both right. These aspects of Bond's character, all of which have their roots in Fleming's writing, have become Brosnan's contribution to the screen portrayal of 007.
For what physical likeness is worth, he has attributes about him that are rather similar to physical descriptions Fleming gives to us. Brosnan has blue gray eyes (see one of the few opening shots of GE); in more than one scene Brosnan has had his comma of hair right above his right eye. In TND the scar on his cheek is visible, all too similar to the scar Fleming's Bond bore. It's little things like this that add to his interpretation that makes it seem, at least to me, more authentic. His performance as Bond can also equate itself with his well-made Bond films. I think the Brosnan films are able to mirror the flow of Fleming's story not only by enhancing the elements of James Bond, but by modeling a lot of their own characters after Fleming characters, or at least the spirit of them. If that's not the case, then we have stories that focus on key elements Fleming used in his stories, which explore the various aspects that made James Bond successful in the early films.
It's for this reason I think we will remember Brosnan's Bond and films as being overall somewhat historic. Both the films and Brosnan have had to fight for their cinema status in the modern era. Nothing was 'given' to either, yet it's pretty clear they succeeded. It's really a second golden age with the public. People of all ages go to see Bond again. Teens love him, adults love him, and he is noticed again. As important, Brosnan embodies Bond well. Good looking, but not a pretty boy. Heartless, but feeling. I think Brosnan's Bond is a great model of the character, whose films have generated and reinvigorated appeal for the whole series, it's past and future.
Now, as we begin the second generation of the Bond series, we now stand at the crossroads of the franchise. We can either proceed normally, compete with in the pre-designated action adventure market, or we can use the popularity, success, and respect for Ian Fleming's legacy that has been a product of the past ten years to reinvent James Bond in a way that harks at the classic even more, still continuing to inspire and fascinate. While many see this as a time of peril for the franchise, I see this as a time of celebration. This James Bond franchise has withstood it all, and seeing what was done when Pierce Brosnan was called on, I only see 007 solidifying himself as a hero for the past age and the age to come.