Unbreakable Bond: 007 still shakes and stirs 50 year on
After five decades, the world's longest running film franchise shows no signs of rust, with 'Skyfall', featuring an all-star cast, a director better known for less explosive fare and early reviews saying that the film has all the makings of a series classic
He may not look it, but James Bond is getting on a bit in years. He's been in the spy game for a while now - it's been 50 years to be exact since Sean Connery ordered the first of countless martinis in Dr No, the character's film debut. The makers of Skyfall, the 23rd entry in the longest-running film franchise in history, which opens locally on Tuesday, were well aware of the Bond legacy and that this year marks five decades on Her Majesty's Secret Service for 007. They were determined that the film would deliver everything that has made Bond, Bond: heart-stopping action, scene-stealing villains, beautiful Bond women, exotic locations, a killer theme, the Aston Martin DB5 and, of course, 007 himself, played by Daniel Craig. But a Bond film is not a collection of puzzle pieces; these elements combine - like gin and vermouth, shaken, not stirred - to serve the story. For Skyfall, bringing it all together is Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes. "I knew that Sam would put everything behind it," says Craig, who marks his third film as Bond in Skyfall. "He would put all of his knowledge of movie-making behind it, but also his knowledge and love of Fleming and Bond."
Mendes seems an unlikely choice to helm a Bond movie. He's better known for character studies, such as 1999's American Beauty, for which he won a best director Oscar, and 2008's Revolutionary Road, another critical success featuring his then-wife Kate Winslett. But he says that high entertainment and artistic integrity are not mutually exclusive. "I have my own, personal relationship with Bond, which began when I was nine or 10 years old - when Live and Let Die came out," he says. "We happen to be living in a time when it's possible to make a big, entertaining, glamorous, escapist movie that also says something about the world we live in. With Daniel's performances in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, James Bond feels like a real man in a real situation again. It reminded me of the way I felt when I watched the Sean Connery movies."
Mendes says he felt the freedom to put his own stamp on the legendary franchise. "I have been given an enormous amount of freedom - and I've never felt constrained or hidebound by the genre or the franchise," he says. "Part of that is Daniel and Judi Dench, both of whom I already knew well. Frankly, I'd love the two of them to be in any movie I directed. But part of it is also the enthusiasm with which the producers greeted new ideas about Bond and M and the franchise as a whole."
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