Sam Mendes is out of the Bond game.
As weird as this is to say (as I’ve never really been a fan of the dude), I’m going to miss him. He brought an art and vitality that had been missing from the 007 franchise for some time. A recent re-watch of CASINO ROYALE revealed just how inferior Martin Campbell was to Mendes in these departments (the movie really is just a slightly better big budget action flick), and while it isn’t confirmed in any way, we can almost assume that Academy Award nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins is out the door as well, taking his neon tinged skyscraper scraps with him.
So who should fill Mendes’ shoes? That’s the question floating around Twitter and the rest of the Internet right now. The answers from fans have ranged from the downright predictable (we should equip all keyboards with electroshock that ignites as soon as the name “Nolan” is typed) to the inspired (Phil Nobile, Jr. picking Neil Marshall is kind of genius on a few levels). But I thought that I would chime in with five “reasonable” picks that could help steer BOND 24 to the same level of greatness Mendes achieved.
While I’ve never been a big fan of any director whose output is deemed “workmanlike”, the man took the reigns on the back half of the HARRY POTTER franchise and produced some of the best big budget cinema of the last decade. For four straight films, he guided “The Boy Who Lived” through some of the most emotional highs and lows of the entire series. And when it came time to deliver the goods in terms of “spectacle”, he was only rivaled by one other director (and his name ain’t Chris Columbus). While he’s currently directing the TARZAN remake with Jessica Chastain possibly filling the Jane role, I think he’d be a solid pick to take over, should the shooting schedules line up.
That “other director” who rivaled Yates when it came to delivering the POTTER greatness I mentioned above? Yeah, that’s definitely Cuaron. The master of the “invisible edit” could bring that same level of art Mendes did to the franchise, while also injecting a serious amount of pathos into the series. His POTTER entry, THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, is still the best and a game changer when it came to HARRY POTTER. CHILDREN OF MEN is a work of absolute genius and many have him as an early front-runner for an Oscar with the long-gestating Clooney/Bullock sci-fi opus, GRAVITY (how we can be predicting Oscars in March is beyond me, but hey, people are doing it). This is probably the “artiest” of my five choices, but I think that’s a facet that needs to be seriously considered in Mendes’ wake.
This is the name I haven’t seen thrown out there yet, and I can’t help but wonder why. While he does have another Dennis Lehane adaptation coming (LIVE BY NIGHT), that movie is still in the infancy stages of pre-production. After ARGO took home Best Picture just a few weeks ago at the Academy Awards, he certainly has the clout to climb aboard the Bond train, and THE TOWN proves that he’s more than capable of handling a serious amount of gunplay. Whether or not the Broccoli’s would bring a Yank on board to helm their precious money-printing franchise is another issue, but I think Affleck’s combination of smarts, suspense and scrappy shootouts would be more than fitting for Bond, James Bond.
This one seems like the biggest “no brainer”. After delivering the best X-MEN film to date and practically landing Craig the Bond gig with LAYER CAKE (I’m convinced that scene with the Luger P08 is what sold the studio), Vaughn has proven that he has the iconographic eye needed for 007. While he just signed on as a producer for the latest go at FANTASTIC FOUR, that still leaves his directorial plate clean. He’s not the choice that excites me the most (and he has a tendency to “project hop” much like Guillermo Del Toro does), I think he’d be a safe bet to bring home an easy-to-digest bit of Bond badassery.
BRIAN DE PALMA
Ok…so I know I said “reasonable” and, well, this isn’t exactly that, but I gotta throw the name of my all-time favorite director into the ring, right? De Palma has been out of the big picture game for roughly seven years (since the criminally underrated BLACK DAHLIA) and even that movie’s budget was damn near half of MISSION TO MARS’ $90 million. But De Palma brings a “pulp” sensibility to all of his projects that would make Bond fun again. His take on the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise is incredibly entertaining (if slightly convoluted), and it would be a blast to see him tackle a super spy set piece. At this point, the man will also probably work for hand jobs (I’m sorry Brian, you’re still my hero), but will still command a sense of vision behind the camera that will make BOND 24 a unique entry in a mostly cut and paste franchise. Call me crazy, but I think it could seriously work.