That’s right, we’re doubling down. Or should that be double-o-ing down? Because, love us or loathe us for it, last month we counted down the best actors to bring MI6’s finest to life on the big screen — and we put Pierce in the top spot.
Disagree? Plenty of you did. But before you start getting all Bond villainy, press pause on your dastardly plans and step away from the laser beam — because we’d like to explain. And how better to convince you of Brosnan’s Bond credentials than showing the man himself in action?
So strap into your invisible cars, buckle up your Omegas and mix yourself a Martini, because we’re heading back to the 1990s to big up Brosnan. See you on the other side.
That damn good dam jump from Goldeneye
Let’s dive straight in — just as Brosnan did. There was no clichéd sparking up at the baccarat table like Connery, or clandestine black-and-white sequences as with Craig. No, this was simple, sweeping scale; a statement of practical, technical intent from Brosnan’s Bond. He wastes no time leaping from the Contra Dam in Switzerland (Arkhangelsk within the story of the film) and getting down to the job in hand. It’s enough to sear any mundane memories of Dalton from your mind in one fell 720ft swoop.
Of course, this wasn’t Brosnan himself, it was stunt performer Wayne Michaels. But it was Brosnan’s Bond — steely of eyes and with a hint of theatricality. The stunt has become one of the most iconic of the entire Bond series, bookended with the roaring MGM lion at one end, and a classically ‘Bondian’ quip at the other. As Bond drops in, a Soviet soldier looks up from sitting on the toilet. “Beg your pardon,” says Bond, “forgot to knock.” Don’t worry about it Pierce — don’t you worry about it at all. We’re glad you’re here.
The two-wheeled chase from Tomorrow Never Dies
The first of a double Beemer bill, Brosnan’s second outing as the superspy, in 1997’s underrated Tomorrow Never Dies, sees 007 on the trail of a power-mad media mogul. And this chase is surely the chase of all chases — kicking off with a daring leap down a building, ripping down a huge banner of the bad guy and smashing back into the building he just jumped off — before running out of the front door and grabbing a motorcycle to escape on. Bond’s handcuffed this entire time, by the way — and to Michelle Yeoh’s Colonel Wai Lin no less.
The bike Bond chooses — for product placement reasons over practicality one has to assume — is the BMW R 1200 C. It’s a hefty cruiser, and one that Bond coolly rips up the streets of Saigon on. But the best part of the chase — and another iconic shot — comes when Bond single-handedly (literally, one hand on the handlebars) jumps the motorcycle 44 metres between rooftops, over a helicopter’s whirring blades. That’s right, before Daniel Craig took to the roofs of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar on his Honda CRF250R, Brosnan brought rooftop racing cool to Bond.
The remote-controlled BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies
For our second BMW-centric entry on this list, we don’t even have to switch films. That’s right, Tomorrow Never Dies contains more Beemers than you can shake a gearstick at — with this second chase making use of the German manufacturer’s 1997 BMW 750iL. It’s not a car that screams ‘Bond’, but the way the superspy drives it is classic Roger Moore-era fun. Picture the scene: You’re in a multi-storey car park in Hamburg, and henchmen are trying to bust a GPS satellite encoder out of your car. So far, so ordinary. But wait a second 007! Your car can be controlled remotely.
And so Brosnan, as cool as you like, flips open his Sony Ericsson — this film takes the product placement biscuit (Hobnobs, probably…) — and strings the bad guys along on a merry song and destructive dance around the car park. And all controlling his car from the back seat footwell. It’s classic Pierce; nonchalant, a little bit smug and deftly handling a gloriously gadget-laden car with ease. Take that, DB5.
When Bond chokes up in The World Is Not Enough
Poor old Pierce. He may be a dab hand at automotive warfare, and a crack shot with his Walther PPK, but Brosnan’s iteration of the superspy has one notable weakness: women. And damn if that doesn’t make him relatable. There’s barely a Brosnan Bond film where he isn’t double-crossed by a flighty, fighty female. Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp (stop sniggering) almost crushes him with her thighs during Goldeneye. Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost betrays him in an ice palace (all a little literal, that one…) during Die Another Day. But Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King, in The World Is Not Enough, is the real big bad.
Strapping Bond, who’s wearing a lovely linen suit, to an antique garrote and proceeding to torture him, she’s the perfect foil for Brosnan’s spy — a modern femme fatale. She straddles him, strangles him and even ekes out a quip from Bond about ‘one last screw’. But the best part? How insouciantly Brosnan drops some Bond heritage during the scene’s initial exchange: “I could have given you the world,” says Elektra. “The world is not enough,” answers Bond. She says that’s a foolish sentiment, to which he responds: “Family motto”.
The hovercraft chase from Die Another Day
They really threw the kitchen sink at Die Another Day, didn’t they? It was an approach that, later on in its Madonna-starring, tsunami-surfing, face-changing, invisible-carring run-time, really shows. But mere minutes in, you’ll still be buoyed by the madness — and it’s one of the best opening sequences of Brosnan’s tenure. Why? Because it’s a flamethrower-toting, hovercraft-racing, Korea-spanning blast — with more explosions and refrains of the Bond theme than you’ll know what to do with.
This was grungy Bond — a good colour on him. (Literally, actually. The man looks dynamite in khaki.) He was rough, ready and fighting his way across a demilitarised zone with the ease of someone popping to the shops. But the reason this sequence makes the list? The very start. Bond has a chance to escape in any number of supercars, but instead he chooses a hovercraft. Always wanting a challenge, that man…
When Bond kills 006 in Goldeneye
Oh, you thought Daniel Craig invented Bond’s gritty personal vendettas? No, no, no. Before our current incarnation of MI6’s best, Brosnan’s Bond had a grand falling out with Sean Bean’s 006, AKA Alex Trevelyan. It’s a bitter seam of back-stabbing and betrayal that fuels the plot of Goldeneye — and one that culminates both uneasily and magnificently with a hard-nosed Bond dropping his old friend off the antennae of a Cuban satellite. As you do.
But it’s a different side to Bond. We’d had the happy-clappy Roger Moore days, where the quips were fired as readily as the bullets. And we’d even had the Timothy Dalton dip, so dark we’re surprised it didn’t contain more out-and-out murders. But Brosnan had arrived to offer a balance. Chirpy enough to zip around Monaco and wisecrack with Q, his cold-blooded dispatching of 006 showed Brosnan had it all; a new breed of Bond.
The World Is Not Enough Thames jetboat chase
And let’s cap things off with a return to The World Is Not Enough. The 1999 feature made full use of the new, doomed Millennium Dome to stage its opening sequence in good old London. And it’s a doozy. Brosnan, now fully embedded into his role, confidently commandeers an experimental armed jetboat — much to Q’s chagrin — and takes it off down the Thames.
He streaks it past the Houses of Parliament, he chases a glamorous female assassin, and — most impressively of all — he does it all while wearing a suit and tie. Which brings us to our peak Brosnan Bond moment. When he equips the Q-Boat’s underwater feature, and dives beneath the surface to avoid a bridge, he sub-aquatically straightens his tie. It’s like Daniel Craig’s cuff check at the beginning of Skyfall — but over a decade earlier.