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How Will Sam Mendes Improve or Ruin James Bond?

By Miscellaneous | Miscellaneous | January 5, 2010 |

By Miscellaneous | Miscellaneous | January 5, 2010 |

This was one of those funny days in the movie blogosphere when the morning begins with a speculative story, which is later debunked and then ultimately in the evening evolves into a flabbergasting announcement. Today's transformation started with unnecessary fears that the next James Bond film would be delayed due to MGM's financial troubles and ended with the news that Sam "I've seen Kate Winslet naked even more times than moviegoers" Mendes may be directing the untitled follow-up to Quantum of Solace.

Since the announcement, there have been plenty of jokes about what the Oscar-winning filmmaker of American Beauty and most recently Away We Go would do to the franchise. Will Bond be worn down by suburban family life? Is Jarhead enough of an action film to prove him worthy for 007? I haven't seen this much questioning of a hire since Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker (and we know how bad that turned out).

Honestly, I think Mendes could be what Bond needs. To win that Best Picture nomination, that is. People were disappointed when Casino Royale didn't get the nod. People were even more disappointed when an Oscar-baiting type was next at the helm and did a terrible job. Mendes made a Best Picture winner in his first try and subsequently directed three very underrated films that in my opinion deserved Best Picture nominations in their respective years (I haven't seen Away We Go yet). And with those ten slots available, and genre pics getting so much more credit lately, Bond 23 should be the first to earn one of those increasingly insignificant nominations.

As for action sequences, I don't know what Mendes is capable of, but I've never thought the Bond franchise needed to be all about the action. I kind of like the idea of a film involving JB and Q M quarreling domestically for 150 minutes (their scenes together in the last two films lead up to such an premise, too). And as for Bond girls, wouldn't Mendes' wife -- the woman who won an Oscar for showing us that Nazis can be sexy too -- be a great femme fatale? Oh, and Kevin Spacey can reprise his role as Dr. Evil, or, umm. Sorry.

Please, disagree with me. And feel free to be the umpteenth person to suggest Away We Goldfinger as the new film's title (also, check out #sammendesbondtitles on Twitter). But first, read what the bloggers are saying about the news:

  • Eric Eisenberg at Cinema Blend:
    It goes without saying that this is a bit of a genre change for Mendes. His closest attempt at an action film was the war film Jarhead, which was really more about the absence of war than anything, and his last two films weren't exactly about tuxedos and silenced pistols. With those details out of the way, Mendes is a more than capable director and will hopefully be able to flex his muscles with some fast-paced chases and cool gadgets the same way he does with suburban dysfunction.
  • Chris Hewitt at Empire:
    While all his films have looked beautiful, perhaps it was this ability to jump from genre to genre that persuaded EON to approach him. After all, while Bond movies are stylish, they've never been overwhelmed by any director's particular style - so Mendes should fit right in. It'll be interesting to see the visual approach he'll bring to Bond.
  • Seth Abramovitch at Movieline:
    Apparently producers have learned nothing from the lessons of Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster, another chilly European director who isn't above genre-slumming and is about as deep as a martini glass; still, the dreadful, revenge-motivated Solace made $586 million worldwide. Kate as N it is! And Michael Shannon as Truthfinger, who wounds Bond with deep, shattering truths about his middle-class, tuxedo-wearing spy existence, and whose preferred torture technique -- forced DVD viewing of Away We Go -- are more effective than a knotted-rope nut-thwacking any day of the week.
  • Alex Billington at
    I just hope he doesn't pull another Jarhead and turn James Bond into an intelligent, slow-moving drama without any killing or chasing or spying, because that would really upset me. This also probably means we'll see Mendes' wife Kate Winslet in the movie, considering he usually casts her most of his movies. Mendes is certainly a great filmmaker, I just don't feel like he's the right guy to tackle the next Bond. Something just feels odd about this and I'm honestly concerned.
  • Peter Hall at Cinematical:
    Sure, Mendes has never done a big-budget, high-spectacle action movie before (Jarhead comes closest and even that is hardly classifiable as an action movie), but he seems versatile enough to bring something unique to the project; whereas Quantum's Marc Forster seemed an odd choice to begin with.
  • Craig Kennedy at Living in Cinema:
    My first response is one of horror. I mean this is the guy who took a giant dump called Away We Go in 2009 and who has a curious knack for making movies that ultimately bug the shit out of me.
    On the other hand, James Bond movies tend to be producer driven vehicles and not director driven. It's not like Mendes will replace the gun barrel opening with a plastic bag blowing in the breeze. I'd argue that the 2nd unit guy who handles the action is more important than the actual director.
  • The Playlist:
    Mendes has never done action before ("Jarhead" doesn't count, it's a drama), but at the end of the day, that shouldn't matter. It's what stunt coordinators and trained DPs are for. The 'Bourne' movies are beloved and a global hit because they were above-average action films (i.e., they were not only action-y and thrilling, they had a brain).
  • Devindra Hardawar at /Film:
    Ever since Perdition, I've been hoping that Mendes would take another shot at action, and now it seems like that may be happening. Matthew Vaughn is still my current dream director for Bond, but Mendes is no slouch either. For one, we can look forward to action scenes that aren't rapidly edited to hell like Quantum's. I've always found Mendes' films to be visually striking as well, which means that Bond 23 has a good chance at being the best looking Bond film ever.
  • Adam Rosenberg at MTV Movies Blog:
    Mendes sure could bring something fresh to the Bond series. He's a filmmaker with an eye for visual spectacle, but not in the action-packed event blockbuster style that the franchise is known for. He has a special talent for painting moving portraits with his films; look at "American Beauty," "Road to Perdition," "Jarhead." They're filled with freeze frame moments, scenes that could easily be pulled out, framed and hung on a wall.
  • Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere:
    If you were Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road, Away We Go, Road to Perdition, American Beauty), would you direct a James Bond film? This, to me, is a total whuh? My first response was to call this a sell-out move. You can't be a top-of-the-line dramatic auteur and then just flip over like a turtle, hold your nose and and whore yourself out to a facetious franchise. It's undignified. What's next -- Jason Reitman reviving the Matt Helm franchise?
  • Mark at I Watch Stuff:
    Mendes is already at hard work figuring out how he'll work in wife Kate Winslet and have her make out with Daniel Craig right in front of him, further fulfilling the creepy cuckold fetish he developed half-way through shooting Revolutionary Road.
  • Patrick Goldstein at The Big Picture:
    While I'm also happy to see filmmakers practicing their craft, this is a bad decision in oh, so many ways, not to mention a depressing example of how hard it is for filmmakers to find any good studio material to work with. Not that I'm letting Mendes off the hook here. His career has been in steep decline, both in terms of critical as well as commercial success. In fact, if you look at the grosses on his five feature films, they form a graph that goes in only one direction -- straight down.
  • Anne Thompson at Thompson on Hollywood:
    These days in Hollywood, it's harder than ever to stay on the A list. The studios are suddenly drawing filmmakers that they would never have been able to land before, partly because the filmmakers can't get their dream projects made. You can bet in another climate, Mendes would have other options. I've always wondered if his heart was in commercial Hollywood filmmaking. He's an intellectual and visually stylish director who is really at home on the stage; movies are an acquired skill for him.

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