The mockumentary film genre is a tough one to pull off well. This Is Spinal Tap is one of my all-time favourite films and one of the greatest comedies ever made. For a mockumentary film to work, you need two things. First, a good topic to mock. Second, a writer/director that really knows what they are doing. Can writer/director, Jim Miskel, make the Nintendo 64 classic, GoldenEye 007, a good topic for the mockumentary film treatment?
Going For Golden Eye
Released in 2017, Going for Golden Eye is a real fan project. Written and directed by Jim Miskel and starring David Burnip and Daniel Bruce. This really is a passion project born from Miskel’s deep love for the N64 classic, GoldenEye 007 game which he played a hell of a lot in his teenage years. The film tells the story of two characters, Ben (David Burnip) and Ethan (Daniel Bruce). Ethan is the 19 times Goldeneye 007 World Champion, he’s confident to the point of sheer arrogance. An egomaniac whose ‘fame’ as the greatest Goldeneye 007 player in the world has gone to his head.
“One day, when they make a Mount Rushmore of video games, Ethan will be right up there. Carved in stone, in between Mario and Lara Croft’s big pointy tits.”
Conversely, Ben is much more grounded. He’s very nerdy, still lives with his parents… despite being 33-years-old and is very unassuming. Ben and Ethan get ready to take part in the 20th Goldeneye 007 World Championships with Ben very excited to meet his hero, Ethan and take him on in a very David and Goliath type story, with Ben very much being the underdog. Only, people don’t actually care about Goldeneye 007 anymore. The world had moved on and with each successive year, the attendance for the Goldeneye 007 World Championships has dwindled. Going from a huge event to a small gathering held in a pub in the North of England.
That’s about it for the basic plot. As previously mentioned, Going for Golden Eye is very much a mockumentary film. A film crew follows both Ben and Ethan as they prepare to take part in the 20th Goldeneye 007 World Championships. The crew interviews the two main characters and that acts as our window into their lives. The backstory of the championships is filled in via those most directly involved in it. Then there’s the family and friends of Ben, they also get a decent slice of the spotlight and provide some truly great laughs.
The humour here is very much English and very much ‘Northern’. Think something along the lines of Keith Lemon, only actually funny instead of shit. Going for Golden Eye is crammed full of footage from the game as well as countless Easter eggs, references and jokes. To the point where one viewing is just not enough, you’re probably going to need to watch this film a few times to really get the most out of it.
Clive Fingerley (Terence J Corbett) as the foul-mouthed organiser of the Goldeneye 007 World Championships is brilliant and I’d say that he even steals the whole film. The character’s bluntness and tendency to be, perhaps, just a little bit too detailed is, absolutely hilarious. The times he does appear in the film, you just can’t help but stop and pay attention to his utter crassness and laugh.
I’m not going to spoil the film’s plot for you here, other than to say it is very funny as well as even being more than a little heartwarming with an unexpected finale. The humour can be very cringy, very ‘Northern’ too and I mean that in a very respectful way. Jim Miskel knew exactly what kind of film he wanted to make and he made it. You can really tell that Going for Golden Eye was a labour of love, a film that took Miskel back to his teenage years playing on his N64 and dreaming big.
“The annals of history only remember the winners. For example, we all know that Winston Churchill led the allies to victory in World War II. But I tell you what, I challenge anyone to tell me who led the Germans.”
If you’re a fan of Goldeneye 007, a fan of gaming in general and just want to have a good laugh, then I certainly have to recommend you give Going for Golden Eye a viewing. Maybe even more than one, to be honest. It’s a quick watch too, coming in at just under an hour-long, the film doesn’t feel too long or too short. You can find Going for Golden Eye on Steam and Vimeo to rent or buy. I actually rented it at first but soon realised that this is a film I’ll watch a few times, so I ended up buying it too.
Bringing Back Golden Eye
Jim Miskel followed up on that first film with this ‘sequel’, released just a few weeks ago. Bringing Back Golden Eye is once more, made in the mockumentary style. I say sequel, but to be honest, this is more a follow-up film that takes place in the same universe over a direct sequel, in the traditional sense of the word. Jim Miskel steps down as director for this one, he’s still the writer and producer but Dan Guest is sitting in the director’s chair this time around.
There are quite a few returning characters from Going for Golden Eye but the focus shifts over to a new character called Glen (Gabriel Cagan) who is a huge fan of not just the game, but the whole Goldeneye 007 World Championships and the previous mockumentary film exists as a real documentary in this film… if that makes sense. However, after events in the first film, the championships are no more.
Ethan from the first film has disappeared after his loss at the last Goldeneye 007 World Championships, his fame dwindling. To find Ethan, Glen sets out to track down the others from the Going for Golden Eye documentary in order to try and not only find Ethan but also bring the Goldeneye 007 World Championships back. See, the title makes sense.
The first thing I need to cover is that the humour is back, and maybe just a little more ‘diluted’. The more crass swearing is gone and some of the jokes are definitely less adult-focused. That’s not to say that the jokes aren’t funny, they are and there are even jokes making fun of the toned-down language, especially with a character saying ‘flipping’ a lot. It’s just that it feels less ‘adult’ over the first film, though I still wouldn’t recommend watching this with the kids. In terms of the production, the quality has been vastly lifted the acting is far better than the previous films and there’s some clever use of Goldeneye 007 styled graphics that fill in parts of the backstory as well as being used for comedic effect.
“Oh my God Ethan, your nob looks really clean. I mean the control-stick, not your penis.”
The successor to Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, gets thrown into the plot and sparks a rivalry that personifies an argument between the two games that still exists to this day. Then there’s a pretty damn awesome cameo for fans of the development team of the games too. There are more in-jokes, more gaming and movie references (including a very well shot Star Wars: The Force Awakens one). You can certainly see a vast improvement all-round in terms of the production over the first film. The actual tournament is also pretty damn exciting to watch and feels like a genuine gaming contest.
The fact you can watch both films as a nice double feature in two and a half hours is worth doing. The two films feel very different to each other with Going for Golden Eye feeling rough and ready, while Bringing Back Golden Eye is much more polished with higher production values and better acting. Truth be told, this is actually something that bugged me slightly. If the first film is supposed to be a genuine documentary within the plot of the second film, which is supposed to be a fan-made film… then the documentary should be the one with more polish over the ‘fan-made’ film the second one is supposed to be. Still, that is just a slight personal niggle and nothing more. Between you and me, I liked Going for Golden Eye more than Bringing Back Golden Eye. I just prefered its rawness.
“In 1994, he punched a full-grown man and that man died… fourteen years later from diabetes.”
Still, the two films do work brilliantly together and for me, as a fan of Goldeneye 007, I think both films are most definitely worth watching. A wonderful love letter to one of the most celebrated video games ever. Anyway, Bringing Back Golden Eye is completely free on YouTube, give this link a click to watch. All Jim Miskel and the crew ask is that you give a donation to the Samaritans charity (which is probably why the swearing is watered down, as the point is to raise money for charity). So you get to watch a funny film for free and help out a worthy charity too.
But yeah, I recommend both films for some irrelevant, nonsensical very British humour.