‘Skyfall’ director talks remixing Bond franchise formula

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Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” says Daniel Craig as James Bond in “Quantum of Solace.” The 23 bond movies are like the ingredients in a Vesper Martini. They all contain fundamental thematic elements defining the James Bond franchise culminating in its 50th anniversary with “Skyfall.” Quite like the precise details of his martini, the Bond formula comes along with an expectation of exotic locations, beautiful women, foreign cars and gadgets. “Skyfall” offers a slightly different cocktail that may be disappointing for those looking for that classic Bond taste. The film’s redeeming breakthroughs, however, are found in the central character of Bond and his internal conflict as a spy who is reconciling with the constant threat of death.

Director Sam Mendes, known for his work in character dramas such as “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road,” was attracted to the project because of what he felt he could contribute. “I spent a bit of time pretending with the writers that we didn’t have to do all the things that Bond movies normally … and instead tried to find out what the story was at the root before we added all those things back in,” he said during a conference call that The Daily Californian participated in. He worked to bring about what his producers asked of him — “We don’t want a Bond; we want your Bond.” This might explain why the film veers from convention.

“Skyfall” combines “a classic and older view of tradition and pushing the genre in a new direction,” said Mendes. This time around, Bond is wearing thin, and his age is starting to show. His craftsmanship is faltering and slowly the narrative sympathizes with a man who is losing everything that defines him. Mendes describes Bond’s mien in “Skyfall” through saying that there is “a sense that this person has reconstructed himself. There is a reason he looks the way he does. It’s not an actor choice; it’s a character choice.” Craig’s character is tried and foiled in ways that every Bond has been, but pushed further, as to make the audience doubt his stamina as well as his tenacity for the future of Bond.

In accordance with this chasm between the old expectations a Mendes’ nuances, Mendes creates a crew of Bond veterans like Chris Corbould with newcomers like Roger Deakins. Mendes is not just shaking the Bond character up in “Skyfall,” but he is mixing talent and bringing more to the table, in preparation for the next 50 years of Bond. Mendes’ crew was a conglomeration of talent that “brought a kind of fresh outlet and (were) kind of daring … they didn’t want to observe the rules necessarily of previous bond movies,” said Mendes.
Academy Award winner Javier Bardem’s performance as a villainous former agent, Silva, seeking revenge is noteworthy and sophisticated. Silva proposes a new version of a Bond villain broadcasting an air of homosexuality while embodying evil down to facial deformation. Bardem and Craig’s action scenes are the most riveting in the picture, showcasing the performance and skill of the actors and showing off the ingredient most well articulated by the director.

The villain is one of the better deviations in “Skyfall,” showing that although the breakaway may make viewers feel as if something is missing, it’s not entirely negative. Outside the standards of the Bond franchise, the film’s character development is complex and multidimensional. Bond’s makeshift familial ties give the orphan a reason outside of sex to stick around. The plot centers more around restoration of order in MI6 retaining the relationships of the only people Bond can trust.

When creating this film, Mendes was confronted with a plethora of opinions on what it meant to be Bond and how it translated into film, but he came to realize that “everyone’s Bond is different. Some people want to see more gadgets; some people don’t like gadgets. One day I had someone say to me, ‘God I hope you get some humor back into it,’ and literally five minutes later someone said to me, ‘Thank god they’re not trying to be funny anymore.’” To each their own Bond. Mendes reconciled with the expectations and “white noise” of opinions. He says, “That’s the nice thing about Bond movies, this is my Bond movie, but there will be others that come along … I didn’t feel like I got lost in trying to make everyone else’s film.”

What you can expect is a great villain, action, exotic locations and character progression setting a precedent for the next 50 years of Bond. James Bond.

Contact Shanna at [email protected]

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  • Cal Bear

    The 23 bond movies are like the ingredients in a Vesper Martini.

    “… they didn’t want to observe the rules necessarily of previous bond movies,” said Mendes.

    The word “Bond” is a proper noun so should be capitalized. Are The Daily Cal editors capitalization-challenged people?