License to Direct

I love James Bond. I’ve seen every film in the series at least three or four times. I own all the DVDs and most of them on VHS. This was the series that really got me into film. So whenever there is news from the world of 007, I’m all ears.

After the disaster that was Die Another Day, Bond went in a completely different direction. I didn’t know at first how I felt about a reboot starring Daniel Craig. I thought Craig was a good actor (and I hated the argument that he wouldn’t be a good Bond because he had blonde hair), but I have to say I was really rooting for Clive Owen, who seemed to have all the requisite sophistication and charm that I didn’t immediately see from Craig. But after finally seeing Casino Royale in late 2006, I couldn’t have been happier with the choices made, and the choice that made me happiest was the decision to bring back Martin Campbell to direct.

I thought his direction in that film was some of the finest of that year. The action sequences were expertly done, and the decision to make the film darker and more relevant was right on. After that film, I thought we might enjoy a run of truly classic Bond films. How could this team screw things up after such a rousing restart to the franchise?

Unfortunately, I found out just two years later when Quantum of Solace came out. I’m in the minority of those who actually liked that film, but it was still a big disappointment. I go into every Bond adventure hoping it will be the next Goldfinger or From Russia With Love (or as I can now say, the next Casino Royale). This film does not even come close to measuring up to these classics. It’s a solid film. I liked how it was a true sequel and I thought Craig was once again excellent, but the villain and Bond girls were weak, and the plot was a little on the lame side.

The worst thing about the film, however, was the direction by Marc Forster. Now I really like Marc Forster. I thought Finding Neverland was one of the finest films of 2004, and Stranger Than Fiction was a very underrated film, but when it came to action, he was in WAY over his head. The action scenes in Quantum were uninspired and horribly filmed. It was impossible to tell what was going on. It made me wonder whether Casino Royale was an aberration.

It all comes down to Bond 23. Will the series rebound, or will it sink into the depths of mediocrity that plagued the Moore and Brosnan years? The news that Peter Morgan will write the film was a step in the right direction. Morgan scripted such fine films as The Queen and Frost/Nixon, among others. More recently, news broke about a possible director for the film.

None other than Sam Mendes is in discussion to helm Bond 23. I’m still kind of reeling from the news. Mendes has directed American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, and Away We Go. Take a look at those titles. How glaring would a Bond film be in that resume? It just doesn’t fit, yet that’s precisely the reason I’m excited for this potential endeavor.

It’s so unconventional, completely out of left field. I don’t know if Mendes is capable of crafting a top notch Bond film, but I do know he will bring a kind of dramatic heft that we have yet to see from Ian Fleming’s superspy. And I think the decision, if confirmed, would be similar to the choice of Daniel Craig for Bond: unusual, risky, and inspired.

Right now, this is all conjecture. I might be eating my words in a few years. But for now, color me excited. When Bond hits theaters again, I’ll be the first one in line.

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