Resurrecting James Bond
“Everyone needs a hobby,” Daniel Craig slyly says in his latest go around as James Bond, the recently-released, Skyfall. “So what’s yours?” Retorts villain Raoul Silva. The reply: “Resurrection.”
Best known for his character-driven dramas such as American Beauty (1999), for which he won an Academy Award, Skyfall director Sam Mendes has set out to breathe new life into the 50-year-old Bond franchise.
“It’s about regenerating the story, and the point where you think you’ve reached a dead end, that’s where you can create something new and fresh,” said Mendes in a conference call with student media last Wednesday.
Beginning with an epic car chase through the crowded streets of Istanbul, Skyfall situates its audience in the traditional Bondian universe.
As the scene dissolves into a beautiful opening credit sequence, set to Adele and Paul Epworth’s haunting theme appropriately titled Skyfall, it’s clear that this Bond film is different than the rest.
Filled with brilliant imagery, typical of Mendes’ cinematic style, the movie unfolds against a backdrop spanning across multiple continents.
Bond, thought to be killed in Turkey, returns to the U.K. where he discovers that MI6 has been attacked. He is sent on a dizzying mission to bring the culprit to justice. Two hours of action, adventure, explosions (and many a rendez-vous with hot Bond girls) ensue.
Though much of the movie focuses on this basic story line, a deeper layer is revealed when the relationship between Bond and M is explored.
“For me, a lot of the process was about telling a story that would be interesting, whether or not the character was called James Bond or not, said Mendes. “You know, the character isn’t just intrinsically interesting because he’s called Bond; you have to make a case for the character to paint a three dimensional picture that’s interesting.”
Mendes was originally attracted to Skyfall because it wasn’t a character-driven drama. The project offered him a challenge: to create a commercial film that was still as personal as his previous works.
Worried about possible creative restrictions, Mendes happily noted that his producers embraced all of his extreme and genre-bending ideas. “It was very clear from the beginning, the producer said to me, ‘we don’t want a Bond, we want your Bond.’”Decidedly less “campy” than its predecessors, Mendes’ Bond still pays homage to the original through the return of the famed Aston Martin DB5. An excellent addition to the movie, the car helps to bring a sense of old-school glamour back to the movie.
“What would you want to see when you’re sitting in a dark room and you pay your $15: what would you want to see in a Bond movie?” Mendes asked. “I tried to make a combination of what I want as an adult to see and also what I thought my 12-year-old son… would have wanted to see as well.”
While the movie had something for everyone, Javier Bardem’s portrayal of the villain Raoul Silva stole the show. Well-versed in playing a psychopath, Bardem’s stand-out performance was only diminished by the fact that he wasn’t onscreen enough.
An overall knock-out cast, Mendes said, “I’ve never done a movie where every single person that I offered a role to said yes.”
His well-seasoned actors were easy to work with. “The only challenge was that Judi [Dench] and Albert Finney were both in their 70s and they had to do action scenes,” said Mendes. “It was quite funny. They loved it and they were game.”
Though the 143-minute running time felt a little long, Skyfall will undoubtedly be considered one of the better Bond films.
Different from previous installments, Mendes is able to assert his unique directorial style into a sometimes-contrived movie franchises.
“One of the lucky things is at the moment, we are living in a world where people don’t equate large commercial films with having to be light,” he said.
“You know, In other words, it’s possible now to be dark… and push the envelope a little bit more.”