As we slowly but surely approach the 23rd James Bond movie, I feel like I have actually been part of this monumental franchise. Unlike with the Die Hard, Alien or Rocky series, I was able to see a significant number of the Bond films on the big screen despite my tender age. I was there when Martin Campbell resurrected Bond with Goldeneye, sat through the abysmal Die Another Day and was blown away when Campbell, once again, reinvented 007 in Casino Royale.
It was always going to be hard to follow Craig’s Bond debut, yet I found Quantum of Solace to be hugely frustrating. Nevertheless, I have high hopes for number 23. Firstly, because every Bond film is an entirely different project and I am generally very happy with the new direction taken by the franchise and secondly, because Sam Mendes is in talks to direct the whole thing.
Let’s face it, the experiment of Marc Forster directing Quantum of Solace didn’t really work out. It reminded me a bit of Ang Lee’s Hulk (in all fairness, Forster still did a much better job). However, Mendes — having successfully directed plays as well as films — is more versatile and experienced than Forster. Although to be fair to him, it wasn’t all his fault that Quantum of Solace disappointed.
The writers’ strike was threatening to stall the production so the script was rushed and much of the confusing action was the results of ultra fast-paced editing (a stage over which the director himself has little control). I am convinced everyone has learnt from their mistakes and the whole project should be given a new chance.
The first positive step has been taken by allowing a bit more time for the production and adding Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Damned United) to the already impressive mix of talented screenwriters. I believe these are crucial improvements as the sloppy Quantum of Solace screenplay gave the whole project an almost unfinished touch.
In terms of directing, Sam Mendes has proven many times that he is great with stories and characters. Kevin Spacey’s performance in American Beauty or Michael Shannon’s hilariously unnerving portrayal of an extremely clever but psychologically troubled man in the underrated Revolutionary Road are among the very best of the past decade. If Mendes can get performances only half as powerful from Craig, Dench — both of whom he has previously worked with — and whoever will play the villain, we are in for a treat.
As for Mendes, he once said about his aspirations as a director: “I don’t want to be known for one thing”. Well, here’s an opportunity to make something very different. Please take it!