With 'No Time To Die' landing in cinemas this week, we're looking back over the six actors who played Bond - Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and George Lazenby - and making cases for and against them, as well as their best and worst movies.
If each Bond has represented something about their era, what can be said of Pierce Brosnan?
Sean Connery had the dark glamour of the early '60s, while George Lazenby had the wild hedonism of the late '60s. Roger Moore's eyebrows matched the camp '70s, while Timothy Dalton matched Bond to the grizzly cocaine wars of the '80s. Come the '90s, however, and the world is vastly different. The Cold War has ended, consumerism is on the march, third-wave feminism is well underway, and the question is posed by Judi Dench in Pierce Brosnan's first outing in 'GoldenEye' - does the world actually need Bond?
If ever there was a more on-the-nose, straight-down-the-camera moment in the Bond franchise, it was Judi Dench fixing her glare on the audience and pronouncing Bond as a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur" with "boyish charms", and then telling him frankly that she had the cojones to send him out to die. The dynamic between Brosnan and Dench, as well as Brosnan's successor, has been at the core of the franchise for close to thirty years, and it's not hard to see why. Judi Dench's M gave the movie a gravitas where Pierce Brosnan could not. It's not that Pierce Brosnan was ineffective in the role, far from it.
Rather, Pierce Brosnan's Bond felt like the happy medium between Sean Connery's thin veil of violence and Roger Moore's quippy humour. Brosnan could occupy both spaces, but never truly give himself over to either impulse with any real conviction. The only time you see him take any kind of pleasure in his work is in something like 'Tomorrow Never Dies', where he throws the hammy Jonathan Pryce into a ridiculous-looking grinder missile. The rest of the time, Brosnan's Bond was jumping out of tanks and into a tuxedo with his flawless-looking hair never moving an inch.
It isn't that Brosnan was a bad Bond, but more that he arrived in a time where whatever cultural relevance Bond as a character had was beginning to evaporate. If anything, each of the movies felt like a commentary on that slow erosion. 'GoldenEye' was about the hangovers from the Cold War and the unfinished business it left behind. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' talked about how media and information was the weaponry of choice in the modern age, not bullets and missiles. However, by the time 'The World Is Not Enough' and 'Die Another Day' had rolled around, the wheels were beginning to come off the Aston Martin.
'The World Is Not Enough' was a pointless slog that somehow managed to squander Robert Carlyle in a role he should have been able to perform in his sleep, while 'Die Another Day' had an invisible Aston Martin and a cameo by Madonna. If that wasn't silly enough, Quentin Tarantino was suggested as a possible director for 'Die Another Day'. There's no denying that Pierce Brosnan's Bond arrived at a time when the times had shifted irrevocably past a point where a waning superpower could hope to field an agent such as him, and by the end of his tenure, his portrayal was hopelessly out of step with the rest of the world.
Intriguingly, some of Brosnan's most exciting work happened at the tail-end of his tenure in the tuxedo. Roman Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer', 'Mamma Mia!', and the criminally underrated crime comedy 'The Matador' all happened post-Bond for Brosnan. Even during his time as Bond, his best Bond movie wasn't even one - it was the glossy remake of 'The Thomas Crown Affair', which saw him in a white-tie tuxedo so as not to confuse audiences. But then again, how could they not? If ever there was an actor who looked the part, it was Pierce Brosnan. The great irony is that the time wasn't the part.
So, over to you. Do you view Pierce Brosnan's time in the tuxedo with a GoldenEye or do you wish it would die another day? Vote in our poll!