Pierce Brosnan Returns to the World of Espionage in 'A Spy's Guide to Survival'

Unlike other James Bonds, Pierce Brosnan will straight up kill you. (MGM/United Artists)

If you love the modern James Bond-style spy movies, you can thank Pierce Brosnan that Hollywood keeps making them. If it weren't for the "Remington Steele" star's turn as 007 in the beloved 1995 film "GoldenEye," the Bond franchise might have ended up dead, Daniel Craig's portrayal of the legendary gentleman spy might never have graced the big screen, and we'd be stuck with more Vin Diesel "xXx" movies than we could stomach.

Luckily for us, Brosnan is returning to the spy game (at least, the on-screen spy game) in a new film from the creator of Netflix's "Warrior Nun" and "Ghost Wars." In "A Spy's Guide to Survival," Brosnan will play a retired undercover agent who tries to keep a low profile but is brought out of his reclusive life by a strange new neighbor with secrets of his own.

For those who don't believe Brosnan was critical to the revival of shoot-'em-up spy action thrillers, one only has to look at the regularity of the James Bond franchise. Between 1962 and 1989, 007 fans could count on a new movie released with near Metamucil-level regularity, every one to three years. Then, after 1989's "License to Kill," it looked like the world's most popular spy suddenly retired. Was then-Bond actor Timothy Dalton to blame? The studios certainly thought so: Dalton was dropped after just two appearances as 007, with Brosnan taking over the role for "GoldenEye."

I'll tell you who's not to blame: Joe Don Baker. The man is a national treasure. (MGM/United Artists)

It's difficult to overstate just how important this "GoldenEye" would be, not just for the actor, but for the franchise and the spy thriller genre in general. Without Brosnan, there might be no Jason Bourne, no "Taken" series or the dozens of other killer spook films and TV shows we've come to love. But before Brosnan took on the mantle of Bond, the character nearly died alongside the Cold War.

Dalton's turn as Bond took the character for a dark turn, and not in the fun, brooding Christian Bale-as-Batman kind of way. The Soviet Union fell, the West won the Cold War and there was a new world order. Audiences might have been tired of the constant gloom of mutually assured destruction. They were ready for some glasnost and perestroika in their spy movies. The James Bond we knew up until that time just didn't fit the post-Cold War world.

Brosnan would change nearly everything about Bond -- and look svelte and suave in the process. Despite the persistence of his signature one-liners, the new 007 was less stealthy, less campy. He had a license to kill and was more than willing to use it, even if it meant shooting up a room full of people, Schwarzenegger style. He still needed to figure out what the enemy's grand, complex scheme is (it's still a spy movie, after all), but sneaking around was for chumps; Brosnan was going to drive a tank through your office building and make you tell him what he needed to know.

The popularity of Brosnan's Bond wasn't constrained to the feature film. The new post-Cold War Bond spawned an equally impactful video-game series, Nintendo 64's first-person shooter based on the movie, "GoldenEye 007." You could replay the plot of the movie in the single-player game, but that was just a means to get more options for the "GoldenEye 007" game's legendary multiplayer mode. 

The multiplayer game had four players, a split screen, and -- if they worked hard enough -- fans could unlock so many of their favorite Bond guns, toys and characters from movies past and present (except, notably, Joe Don Baker's CIA agent, Jack Wade, who deserved to be in the game) in the multiplayer mode. What's most important about the game is that it was fun -- so fun, in fact, that players played the game long after beating the storyline. The extras reminded fans of Bond movies past, creating a new nostalgia and subsequent rebirth of the franchise for an entirely new generation of fans.

It's highly unlikely that Brosnan, now 70 years old, will spawn a new video-game franchise or reinvent the spy thriller with his upcoming movie, but it's illustrative of why anyone would be excited about his return to the genre. But "old" characters are popular right now. Viewers loved Hugh Jackman's portrayal of an aging Wolverine from "Logan" and Bruce Willis' aging super operative in "Red"; even Keanu Reeves' John Wick came out of retirement to kill bad guys. There's no reason not to be excited about Brosnan's older secret agent in "A Spy's Guide to Survival."

"A Spy's Guide to Survival" does not yet have an official release date. Until then, viewers can and should catch "GoldenEye," streaming on Amazon.

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