Posts Tagged ‘Sam Mendes’

Sony Pictures have released the final trailer for upcoming Bond film Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes, starring Daniel Craig, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux. What do you make of it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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For fans of the contemporary remake of House of Cards, breed fans of Kevin Spacey. Those who already knew of Spacey’s talent, the TV show has only cemented their opinions on his skill. Those mostly unaware of him now praise him endlessly. Still, somewhere in the middle of each audience are those who don’t know of his work outside of film and television. The man is a theatre buff, drawing crowds from behind the curtain (running the Old Vic theatre) to bringing them in their masses to see him on stage. NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage shows us the most recent fruits of Spacey’s stage labour, with his and Sam Mendes’ production and tour of Richard III.

The documentary explores the genesis of the show, largely the brain-child of Spacey and Mendes as they reteamed after American Beauty. The idea of camaraderie becomes the main focus of the documentary and so if you are looking for an investigative spotlight on drama productions, you may not find what you’re looking for with NOW. There is a lot to take from how each actor takes on their respective characters in Richard III, and set and lighting is intermittently discussed. However, what you take from the film by the end is a reflection on work, colleagues and friendship.

It’s difficult to define the film as engaging, though it does stimulate you with its fly-on-the-wall documentation of budding relationships. Most of the cast and crew of Richard III hadn’t worked with each other prior to the staging and so you see people getting to know one another, developing strong bonds. You can see either lots or a select few of incidences that you would have experienced yourself in life and this is always interesting. The Richard III production almost becomes a backdrop the actor profiles we see more and more of. Aadel Nodeh-Farahani & Edgar Dubrovskiy’s photography wonderfully captures all of this – seemingly invisible to the crew as they film rehearsals and backstage antics. Then the interviews, that explain the ins and outs of it all (what the main demographic will be pining for), are expertly edited together by Will Znidaric.

At 97 minutes, it is a relatively condensed documentary, which is exactly what it needs to be. Spacey is a great actor, and Mendes a wonderful director, but there is a lot of gushing going on. Keeping it short and sweet is director Jeremy Whelehan’s best directorial objective; you can learn a fair bit about a stage production (especially with one so rare as to tour worldwide) and even more about actors and crew members building up relationships over the course of a staging/shoot.

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Daniel Craig’s transition to the role of James Bond caused quite the stir back in 2006 with Casino Royale. While stoking debate over whether it was appropriate or not to cast a blond Bond, the film also attempted to apply some timely revisionism to the overly familiar formula of the Pierce Brosnan films, which had become reliant on increasing ridiculousness.

Casino Royale downplayed the reliance on gadget heavy action and increasingly cringe worthy quips, replacing them with a more muscular, gritty style closer to the Timothy Dalton Bond films. The results were mixed as some beloved Bond ideas were diminished (genuinely clever gadgets, larger than life villains and truly smart dialogue), making for a Bond film that wasn’t really Bond.

With Skyfall however, things have changed for Craig’s Bond. Running (to an extent) with the Bond revisionism, director Sam Mendes adds a genuine Bond fandom to proceedings. Bringing the drama to the heart of Bond’s world, Mendes’ film sees an attack on MI6 by an elusive terrorist cell, headed by the creepy Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). As the head of MI6, Bond’s boss M (Judi Dench) finds herself in danger.

Mendes is an English director long known for his work in America, but with Skyfall he brings refreshingly British considerations to his take on Bond. Britain is the centre of the drama, despite hops to Shanghai and Turkey, and Mendes makes particularly good use of subterranean London. Even more welcome is the sprawling, expressionistic landscapes of Scotland, essentially the heartland of the Bond family.

Mendes does well to improve on elements of the Bond legacy that the earlier Craig films did less well. Gadgets are here and they are pleasingly realistic, the Bond girls are better cast (particularly Naomie Harris as Eve) and Craig’s Bond feels more valid and interesting here than he had before; Mendes looks into his scarred psyche à la Bruce Wayne. Mendes even takes the film on a particularly fun jaunt into the Connery era with the surprising appearance of an Aston Martin DB5.

Ironically though it is perhaps the back referencing that makes us realise that, in spite of its overall quality, Skyfall doesn’t have a great deal to say about the contemporary world. There is an attempt to explore how modern society is troubled by faceless peril, via internet terrorism, yet the treatment is muzzled somewhat when Bardem’s larger than life (even camp) villain Silva arrives.

But are real world issues too much to ask from a series twenty-three films long and five decades old? When Bond attempted to step into the modern world during the Brosnan era, the approach was snared by the superficiality of gadgets and gizmos. At least by looking to the past Sam Mendes has created a Bond film that feels genuinely at home with itself.

Ultimately Skyfall marks the point where James Bond could finally go out with a bang. It could be an appropriately reverent swansong to the spy who first hit the screens in 1962 with Dr. No, though inevitably the words ‘James Bond will return’ appear on the screen at the end. Perhaps it is against my better judgement, but I am glad that Bond will return again; maybe to match the quality of Skyfall one day.

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