In our regular polarising-opinion series, Total Film Contributing Editor Neil Smith asks, 'Is it just me? ... or is Pierce Brosnan the Bond to beat them all?'
Back in a previous ‘Is it just me?’ column, Richard Matthews made a decent claim for Timothy Dalton as the best Bond so far.
But he ignored the fact the Welshman was always just a transitional stop-gap for the 007 franchise: a last-minute replacement after Eon’s first choice was suddenly made unavailable for reasons neither party could control.
And who was this first choice of whom we speak? Why, Pierce Brendan Brosnan of course: an actor not just ideal for Bond, but the only one you can honestly say was born to play him.
Sean Connery had his doubters. Roger Moore had his. From the moment Brosnan was confirmed for GoldenEye, however, not one naysayer queried his casting. He looked right. He felt right.
And he had the perfect backstory, not just having missed out the first time around, but also having lost his very own Bond girl (For Your Eyes Only’s Cassandra Harris) in the tragic interim.
According to Matthews, Pierce “aped Connery with a trace of Moore-ism smarm”. That seems a little reductive to me. Yes, Brosnan knew how to deliver a ’70s-era quip and a pun-laden innuendo. And he had no trouble either gear-shifting into lady-killing seducer, be he in a hotel suite, an ice palace or the driving seat of a DB5.
What he had that Roger didn’t, though, was a core of steel - an implacable resolve that made him a ruthless killing machine when the occasion required it.
When Moore or Connery took a life, there was usually a joke to make it palatable (“He got the point”, “Play it again, Sam” and so on). Yet when Pierce kills he does it in cold blood, without hesitation or (usually) a throwaway remark.
Not only that, but he’s perfectly prepared to do it even when his own life is not directly threatened. “Wait - I’m just a professional doing a job!” pleads Vincent Schiavelli’s Dr Kaufman in Tomorrow Never Dies. “Me too,” answers Brosnan as he puts a bullet in his brain.
It’s an exchange that gets to the heart of Pierce’s Bond: a dedicated operative ready to do anything for the sake of the mission, with a work ethic that overrides any personal considerations.
Nothing peeves him more than being told he’s not up for a task, as he is in both The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.
Nor is he a guy to crack under pressure, 14 months of torture in a North Korean prison constituting little more than a slight sartorial inconvenience.
True, Brosnan was let down by Die Another Day, with its CGI kite surfing and invisible car. Were it not for his virile charm and effortless elegance, however, the Bond series could well have withered on the vine long before that 2002 low point.
GoldenEye - no less than Skyfall - reminded us how much we needed Bond and how much we miss him when he isn’t around. And it was Brosnan - smooth, deadly, unbeatable Brosnan - that gave him the all-important kiss of life. Or is it just me?
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