The 2018 clued-down Movie Awards

Say what you like about the last year, but it’s been a marvellous time for movies. Whether you’re into blockbusters, art house, or anything in between, there’s been something for every film fan, and it feels unfair to single out any one film or film-maker for praise – but that’s why I’m here. Below you will find my nominees and winners for the best achievements in film of 2017/18.

Best Film

Nominated

Call Me By Your Name

John Wick: Chapter 2

The Death of Stalin

Get Out

Good Time

The Shape of Water

Lady Bird

Paddington 2

Phantom Thread

Winner

Dunkirk

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Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a miraculous cinematic achievement, a perfectly executed tour-de-force of visual storytelling. Its technical triumph in recreating the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk is matched only by its narrative ambition, weaving together three competing perspectives from the land, sea, and air. Nolan makes no effort to clumsily tackle the moral or political implications of the conflict, only the senseless terror of its experience, and the result is a heart-pounding deconstruction of heroism, tragedy, and triumph in the face of defeat.

Best Director

Nominated

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk

Jordan Peele – Get Out

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread

Winner

Guillermo Del Toro – The Shape of Water

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This year’s selection of directors represent a refreshingly diverse mix of voices and artistic ambitions, and any one would be a worthy winner. Nevertheless, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is a technically stunning and emotionally uplifting masterwork which could only have spawned from the brilliant, demented brain of this Mexican auteur. Del Toro manages to weave together elements of thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and romance into a single, spellbinding tale of tolerance in the face of prejudice.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Nominated

Vicky Krieps – Phantom Thread

Soarise Ronan – Lady Bird

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water

Meryl Streep – The Post

Winner

Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Frances McDormand has never been known for playing your typical big-screen heroines. Before now, she was probably best known as the kind hearted and heavily pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson in the Coen Brothers’ Fargo (1996), for which she won her first Academy Award. Now, over two decades later, she has at least matched that performance with an wholly different but no less affecting role. As grieving mother Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, McDormand provides a nuanced portrait of a physically and emotionally aggressive woman, yet she manages to imbue her performance with a hint of repressed vulnerability beneath the surface. The result is a wholly believable and multi-layered rendering of a person’s journey through loss, anger, and forgiveness.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Nominated

Daniel Day Lewis – Phantom Thread

Chris Kaluuya – Get Out

Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name

Winner

Robert Pattinson – Good Time

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The Safdie Brothers’ Good Time was entirely overlooked by most major awards bodies this year, perhaps unsurprisingly for a film so unashamedly rough around the edges. Nevertheless, it’s an unusual and aggressively compelling crime-caper, thanks in large part to the efforts of Robert Pattinson. He stars at the centre of the film as Constantine “Connie” Nikas, a morally unscrupulous bank-robber determined to show his disabled brother a “good time”. It’s a restless performance which demands attention, particularly as the camera lens pushes into insistent close-ups to capture every twitch of a muscle or bead of sweat. The London-born actor entirely disappears into the part of a New York lowlife, and it’s exciting to see the bloke from the Twilight films continue to prove himself as a compelling lead performer.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominated

Adam Driver – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Daniel Craig – Logan Lucky

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Michael Stahlberg – Call Me By Your Name

Winner

Hugh Grant – Paddington 2

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Having long been typecast into bumbling romantic leads, Hugh Grant is an actor of underestimated versatility. As the villainous Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2, he is finally given the opportunity to flex his theatrical muscles in a delightfully camp romp across a plethora of accents, prosthetic disguises, and song-and-dance numbers. Paddington 2 wasn’t eligible for this year’s Oscars, having only arrived into American cinemas in early 2018, but here’s hoping that Hugh Grant receives the recognition he deserves in next year’s ceremony.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominated

Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound

Allison Janney – I, Tonya

Winner

Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

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A veteran of stage and television, Lesley Manville is nonetheless a remarkable cinematic presence, even when going to-to-toe with the fearsome Daniel Day Lewis. In Phantom Thread, she does just that in the role of Cyril Woodcock, sister to the obstinate Reynolds Woodcock (Day Lewis) and matriarch of the haute couture House of Woodcock. She regularly steals the scene from her venerable co-star, as their ambiguous relationship plays out with all its affection and conflict. Every put-down and backhanded compliment is delivered with satisfying bite, but this acerbic façade is only part of the story. Indeed, Manville takes what could have been predictable old crone and develops her into something much more interesting and sympathetic. It’s a delicate performance which reveals more upon repeat viewings, as the true nature of Cyril’s intentions become less transparent.

Best Original Score

Nominated

Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk

John Williams – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Daniel Lopatin – Good Time

Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water

Winner

Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread

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Arguably better known as the lead guitarist and co-songwriter for Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood’s contribution to the world of film has been every bit as essential as to that of rock music. A long-term collaborator of director Paul Thomas Anderson, Greenwood was previously robbed of an Oscar nod for his work on There Will Be Blood (2007). Fortunately, this is no consolation prize; his score for Phantom Thread is his best work yet. Managing to be both whimsical and sinister at the same time, the music provides almost every scene with a heft and intensity that never feels intrusive. It’s a magnificent, sweeping evocation of Bernard Hermmann’s best work, cementing Greenwood and Anderson as one of cinema’s great director/composer partnerships.

Best Cinematography

Nominated

Hoyte Van Hoytema – Dunkirk

Sean Price Williams – Good Time

Bruno Delbonnel – Darkest Hour

Rachel Morrison – Mudbound

Winner

Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049

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I’m not sure if Blade Runner 2049 really is the best achievement in cinematography from the last year – after all, Dunkirk did stick an IMAX camera onto a Spitfire – but this award still goes to Roger Deakins, more for his incredible body of work than any single film. Probably the greatest living cinematographer, Deakins lends each of his films a picture-postcard quality, from the snow-swept vistas of Fargo to the intimate brutality of Sicario. Characteristically, every shot of Blade Runner 2049 is a masterclass in framing, colour, and lighting, with an expertise that goes beyond just looking pretty and weaves itself into the fabric of the storytelling.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominated

Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Jordan Peele – Get Out

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water

Winner

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread

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Paul Thomas Anderson has made a career writing complex, languorous character studies; from a Californian oil magnate at the turn of the century to a porn star in late-70s Los Angeles. Phantom Thread delivers a story in a similar mould, dropping the audience into a dizzying slice of 1950s London and its lavish haute couture scene. What begins as a familiar study of artist and muse is quickly subverted into a richly rewarding tale of love, passion, and control. While asking profound questions about the very nature of human intimacy, the script also manages to feature more laugh-out-loud zingers than most comedies. Phantom Thread cements Anderson’s place as one of the finest writer/directors currently working in American cinema.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominated

Paul King and Simon Farnaby – Paddington 2

Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows – The Death of Stalin

Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green – Logan

Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist

Winner

James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name

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Adapted from the novel by André Aciman, James Ivory’s screenplay for Call Me By Your Name is an affecting, delicate, and occasionally painful portrait of a fleeting summer romance. In a story where the characters rarely have the words for what they truly feel, Ivory manages to communicate their innermost desires and conflicts. It articulates the confusing and overwhelming sensation of being in love, and the inevitable agony of knowing that it must come to an end. The power of the script lies in its abstraction, functioning as both an intimate study of gay discovery and sexuality, and a universal tale of love, passion, and heartbreak.

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Top Ten.. War Films

War films have always been a huge part of why I love cinema. I spent a large portion of my childhood watching old war movies with my Grandad, and that probably explains why I came to be so fascinated by both history and film. Next month sees the release of Christopher Nolan’s new war epic, Dunkirk, and to celebrate I thought it would be appropriate to assemble a list of my top ten favourite war films.  I’ve loosely and arbitrarily defined the genre as “films which are about war”, rather than films which happen to have a bit of war in them or use war as a setting (so Dr Zhivago, Casablanca, and Barry Lyndon, for example, did not qualify). I also can’t claim to have been in any way objective or comprehensive – this is an entirely subjective collection of the war films which I enjoy the most. My honourable mentions go to The Great Escape, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and The Thin Red Line, which just failed to make the cut.

10. Das Boot (1981)

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No film has ever established a sense of claustrophobia as effectively as Das Boot. Taking place almost entirely within the confines of a German U-Boat in the Second World War, the film examines the psychological toll of intense confinement at sea, and strikingly captures the excitement and terror of naval combat. It’s the distant nature of submarine warfare which gives Das Boot its unique character, as glimpses of the enemy are fleeting. Instead, the camera remains trapped within the oppressive metal hull of the U-Boat, forced to exist intimately alongside the crew just as they live and work alongside each other. It’s a heady and immersive atmosphere which benefits from authentic set design and ingenious use of sound, bringing the audience constantly closer to the actors on screen; tension becomes suffocating while brief moments of relief are jubilant. Director Wolfgang Petersen has gone on to helm a number of American action films, including Air Force One and Troy, but none have come close to this maritime triumph.

9. Zulu (1964)

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Zulu is the quintessential film about a siege, a classic tale of outnumbered heroes desperately defending themselves against overwhelming odds. The film avoids the jingoistic trappings which could so easily have defined it, and the bloody consequences of battle are never shied away from. The result is a three dimensional and often melancholic tale of heroism, punctuated by rousing battle scenes and superlative performances. Michael Caine is a revelation in his first major role as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, an upper-class officer whose preconceptions about his enemy and the very nature of war are rapidly challenged. Meanwhile the South African locations are vividly captured in bold technicolour photography as John Barry’s iconic soundtrack swells underneath. Zulu adopts an unrelenting pace almost immediately, and the first act is a masterclass in building tension. The taut structure unsurprisingly served as the inspiration for, among others, the Battle of Ramelle in Saving Private Ryan and the Battle for Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. An undisputed classic of British cinema, Zulu remains a touchstone within the war genre.

8. Land and Freedom (1995)

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Land and Freedom is an atypical film from Ken Loach, a name usually associated with kitchen-sink dramas about tragedy in the North of England. This story focuses on the tumult and tragedy of the Spanish Civil War, told through the experiences of a Liverpudlian, David Carr, after he volunteers to fight in late 1936. Although historical accuracy is occasionally sacrificed for the sake of drama or the director’s political leanings, it’s one of the few English-language films to address the Civil War in Spain, and isn’t afraid to confront its political complexities. Indeed, the film’s central characters spend more time debating land collectivisation than they do fighting fascists, but Loach never loses sight of the humanity at the heart of his story. Thus, with Land and Freedom, a human perspective is given to a conflict which is often confusing and opaque, and the result is an emotionally affecting and heart-wrenching experience.

7. A Bridge Too Far (1977)

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The last of the truly epic war films, it would be impossible to make a movie like this today. Chronicling the last major allied defeat of the Second World War, Operation Market Garden, A Bridge Too Far plays out with a mind boggling scope. The screen is decorated with unquantifiable numbers of aircraft, troops, and ground vehicles, while the credits are the stuff of fantasy; Sean Connery, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Ryan O’Neal, Liv Ullman, Hardy Kruger, Elliot Gould – the list goes on and on. The film undeniably creaks under its own weight at times, and Robert Redford’s late-70s hairdo is one of many anachronisms, but the immense scale of A Bridge Too Far remains an impressive achievement. Above all, it demonstrates the potential of film to transport audiences to another time and place, communicating history as a living, palpable reality.

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

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It is difficult to overstate the influence of Saving Private Ryan on the war genre, or even cinema as a whole. Steven Spielberg’s visceral style captured the brutal sights and sounds of battle with a greater verisimilitude than had ever been seen before, and in doing so reinvented the popular understanding of the Second World War. Bookended by two combat sequences which remain as shocking today as they were almost twenty years ago, Saving Private Ryan exposed war for the hell that it is; an unrelenting and confusing frenzy of gore, death, and destruction. However, to define the film by its moments of violence is to do it a disservice. At its core, Saving Private Ryan is the story of men at war, and how they are able to come to terms with, if not justify, their actions whilst remaining in touch with their own humanity. The film’s most effecting moments are not firefights, but conversations, a fact which been largely missed by its many imitators. An overdose of Spielbergian sentimentality undeniably creeps in at times, but the movie remains a mature reflection on the corrupting and dehumanising influence of war. The pervasive influence of Saving Private Ryan may be observed as recently as last year’s Hacksaw Ridge, but Spielberg’s anti-war epic remains unmatched.

5. Where Eagles Dare (1968)

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Not every war film can be a profound, anti-war lecture on man’s inhumanity to man. Sometimes, watching people pretend to kill each other can actually be a lot of fun, and this is never truer than in Brian G Hutton’s Second World War thriller, Where Eagles Dare. In 1944, an allied commando team is parachuted into the Austrian Alps in order to rescue a captured American general, but it quickly becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Twists and double-crosses ensue as a complex and rewarding plot unfolds, which goes far beyond the usual expectations of escapist entertainment. More importantly, Where Eagles Dare combines an infinitely hummable soundtrack with an array of superbly executed action set pieces, whilst Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood offer effortlessly charismatic lead performances.  The ultimate “blokes-on-a-mission” movie, this is the best example of a genre which includes classics like The Guns of Navarone, The Dirty Dozen, and Inglourious Basterds – a perfect accompaniment to a lazy bank holiday or Sunday afternoon.

4. Apocalypse Now (1979)

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Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now often feels more like an ordeal than a movie. Adapted from Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel Heart of Darkness, this film is the definitive cinematic treatise on the Vietnam war; a bloody, surreal, and darkly comic odyssey down the Nung River. At every turn, Coppola fills the frame with iconic images, from the opening shot of a jungle doused in napalm to a swarm of helicopter gunships descending on a beachside village. The eclectic soundtrack relies as much on The Doors as it does Richard Wagner, providing a perfectly intoxicating backdrop for the increasingly hellish events on screen. By the time of the climactic montage of death, it’s difficult to argue with Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz as he whispers his final words; “The horror. The horror.” Perhaps more impressive than the film itself is the story of how it was made, an astounding tale which is excellently chronicled in the 1991 documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

3. Paths of Glory (1957)

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Stanley Kubrick’s First World War drama spends most of its time in a picturesque chateau far behind the front lines, but still provides a powerful commentary on the inhumanity and callousness which guided the so-called Great War. The first act of Paths of Glory contains one of the most visceral sequences of trench warfare put to film, showcasing Kubrick’s rarely observed talent as a director of action. Kirk Douglas has never been better than in this dominating performance as Colonel Dax, a French officer who defends his three of his men against trumped-up charges of cowardice. The emptiness of death hangs over the film like an unbearable stench, serving as a constant reminder of the utter hopelessness and terror of war. Despite its cynicism, however, the film’s final moments are a plea to the essential goodness of the human spirit – a much needed tribute to humanity within an atmosphere of oppressive inhumanity.

2. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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Set in a Japanese forced labour camp in Burma during the Second World War, Bridge on the River Kwai serves as a powerful testament to the madness and futility of war. What the film lacks in historical accuracy it more than compensates for in drama, as the perilous construction of the eponymous bridge is contrasted against the allied commando unit who are despatched to destroy it. Alec Guinness stars in an Oscar-winning turn as Colonel Nicholson, a British commanding officer who’s pride and upper-class fortitude lead him to unwittingly collaborate with his Japanese captors. It’s a brave and complex story for a film made so shortly after the war’s end, and was not without controversy upon its release. Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson’s script deals in weighty and existentialist themes, but they’re packaged within an exciting World War Two adventure and complemented by David Lean’s characteristically stunning cinematography.

1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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David Lean’s finest cinematic achievement and probably the most beautiful film ever made, it feels like a disservice to call Lawrence of Arabia a “war movie”. Of course, this First World War drama deals heavily and effectively in epic battle sequences and sweeping desert panoramas, but these serve as an accompaniment to the nuanced character study which forms the centre of the film. Peter O’Toole’s performance as the enigmatic and controversial TE Lawrence is rightfully iconic, masterfully moving between charisma, melancholy, and madness, while the camera lingers lovingly over his absurdly striking features. Over the nearly four-hour runtime, Lawrence remains a frustrating and impenetrable figure, a perfect cipher for the confusion of war and what it does to the human soul. In its final act, Lawrence of Arabia moves beyond the personal to cast a cynical eye over the political machinations which control and manipulate conflict for their own benefit. It’s a multi-layered experience which reveals more upon every viewing, and should be seen on the largest screen possible.

Where next for James Bond?

With the next film years away and the future of the Bond series in question, it’s time to speculate where it could, and should, be going next…

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Copyright MGM/Eon Productions.

It’s a difficult time to be a Bond fan. Only a few months have passed since the release of the twenty-fourth film, Spectre, yet we have already been cast adrift, caught in limbo between film releases. Only the tiniest morsels of news are fed to us, either from tabloid reports or the ever-unreliable internet rumour mill. This time around the wait feels even worse, as Daniel Craig has become Schrodinger’s Bond, simultaneously returning for the next film and never coming back.

On the other hand, all this time does give us more opportunity to speculate. The producers of the Bond franchise, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, have a lot of decisions to make about where to go with the series, especially following the lukewarm reception of Spectre in certain critical circles. A new approach is desperately needed if the series wants to remain a brand leader, with fresh blood on the writing team, in the director’s chair, and maybe even with Bond himself.

Personally, I’d like to see Daniel Craig return for a final film, just to give himself the chance to go out with a bang and conclude the Blofeld/Spectre can of worms that they’ve so clumsily opened. But recent events, including Craig’s less than enthusiastic remarks, have made such an outcome increasingly unlikely. And if Daniel Craig’s heart isn’t really in it, perhaps that’s for the best.

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The original drawing of James Bond, as commissioned by Ian Fleming.

So if Dan’s out, who should replace him? This is the area that gets the British press really excited; rarely a month goes by without a new, exclusive story about the next actor to take on the role. Tom Hardy has asserted that he’d “smash it out of the park” if given the opportunity, whilst Poldark star Aidan Turner reportedly “had talks” with Bond producers just last month. Meanwhile, Tom Hiddleston has spoken cagily of the role as an “extraordinary opportunity”, and even Peep Show’s Olivia Coleman was suggested as an April Fools’ choice by the Daily Mail. One name that refuses to go away is Idris Elba, revealed to be the favoured choice of Sony Pictures Chairman Amy Pascal in 2013. It’s been a discussion so overwrought that the actor himself has claimed that he “can’t even talk about it anymore”. Elba’s candidacy for the role has been elevated much thanks to apparent controversy of casting a black actor as James Bond. It’s quite a ridiculous debate, but has incensed a lot of anger on the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the internet.

Despite all this sound and fury, Idris Elba isn’t going to be James Bond. Much like another bookies’ favourite, Damien Lewis, Elba is simply too old. He’ll be 44 this year, and assuming that the Bond films will continue to run on three year cycles, that doesn’t give him much time before he has to hang up the holster. As much as I may like Idris Elba, I don’t think any of us want to see a repeat of Roger Moore’s geriatric turn in the dinner jacket, who typically seemed a step away from cashing in his licence to kill for a free bus pass.

Many of the popular younger choices are also unlikely – Henry Cavill, for example, already has an iconic character to his name and a schedule full of DC Universe sequels. If you’re the betting kind, you’d be wise putting money on thirty-something British actors without any hectic franchise commitments over the next decade. Indeed, if Daniel Craig’s casting is anything to go by, the next 007 may well come out of nowhere.

My personal choice would be the legendary Michael Fassbender. The German-Irish actor has already proven his suave credentials with Inglourious Basterds and the recent X-Men films, and he has the cruel, ruggedly handsome appearance of Bond as he is described in the novels. Unfortunately, it seems doubtful that an actor as busy and prestigious as Fassbender would tie himself down to a series of Bond films, and there’s been a distinct lack of buzz around his claim to the role. Nevertheless, a man can dream.

Looking at the most probable names currently in circulation, Aidan Turner certainly seems an attractive prospect. He’s demonstrated his diverse acting chops in a number of television appearances recently, but is yet to find a major, starring role on the big screen, which would likely make him one of the cheaper options for the film’s investors. He’s also youthful 32, which puts time on his side if he’s keen to beat Moore’s record seven films in the official series. My girlfriend likes him too, so it would at least make my life easier during the inevitable repeat viewings. Tom Hiddleston isn’t a million miles off either, and he’d certainly bring some star power and an existing fan base to the role. But I can’t help but feel he’s a little too obvious and a little too Brosnan – it would be disappointing to see the producers making such an obvious choice.

Beyond the casting of James Bond, the rest of the personnel need to be accounted for. Ideally we’ll see the return of the recurring cast of MI6 characters, with Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Wishaw as Q, and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny. Behind the camera, however, a change-up is seriously needed. The writing team needs a comprehensive overhaul, with the talentless Neal Purvis & Robert Wade jettisoned for good. Towards the ends of last year, rumours spread that the production team had contacted Mad Men writer Matthew Weiner to work on the next Bond instalment (which, despite the claims of the Daily Express, is not going to be set in the 1960s). Although this news should be taken with a grain of salt, such a move would be hugely welcome, choosing a writer with proper dramatic credentials and none of the fanboy-baggage that plagued Spectre’s derivative script.

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Who’ll be behind the camera this time?

Of course, with Sam Mendes almost certainly gone for good, a new face is required in the director’s chair. Although much of the Bond fandom is calling for the return of Martin Campbell, the helmsman behind Godeneye and Casino Royale, I think we can aim a little higher than that. Whatever one thinks of Sam Mendes, he was at least a director that brought his own creative vision to the franchise and appeared to be more than the dull journeymen we’ve been dealt for much of the series’ recent history.

Ideally, three names come to mind when filling the director’s spot for Bond 25. The first, and probably most optimistic, is Christopher Nolan. He’s made no secret of his love for the James Bond films in the past and has paid direct homage to them multiple times, perhaps most notably during the snowy climax of 2010’s Inception. When asked about his chances of directing his own Bond film, the 45-year-old has been cagey, asserting that “it’s not a no, but it’s not a yes”. Nolan might be a little too expensive and a little too controlling for the folks at Eon Productions, the company behind the 007 films, but the opportunity of combining Nolan’s name and the Bond brand would surely be too great to pass up.

Looking elsewhere, there are a number of smaller scale directors with the necessary abilities to helm a Bond film. Last year Denis Villeneuve was acclaimed for his crime-thriller Sicario, which highlighted his deft hand for action in addition to character drama. He’s also been very vocal about his admiration for the James Bond films, stating that he’d “love to do a James Bond movie one day”. Taking a more left of field approach, Atonement director Joe Wright would also be an interesting choice. 2011’s Hanna illustrated that he could direct action compellingly, and his penchant for long takes lends his films an artistic flair that often elevates quite pedestrian material. Although his recent catalogue has been somewhat hit and miss, with a quality script he could create an exciting and visually distinctive Bond film.

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A simpler time, when you always knew what you were getting. Copyright MGM/Eon Productions.

With the cast and crew dealt with, the fundamental question facing Bond 25 is what direction to take the film in a broader sense. Do we go for a stripped back, Casino Royale style spy thriller, or continue to incorporate more absurdist and humorous elements in the vein of Skyfall and Spectre. I’ve always preferred the films that stay closest in tone to the realistic, cynical edge of Fleming’s novels, and would welcome a return to such a style. But I’m not really averse to a more whimsical quality, and with the immense popularity of the Marvel and Star Wars brands recently, that certainly seems to be the direction that Hollywood is going. While Spectre is a film I love dearly, it’s confused tone was undeniably an issue; it was a film that wanted to have its cake and eat it, often acting like a Moore style romp against a surprisingly gritty personal story, and the final product just felt a bit muddled. As long as we don’t have any more Fiat airbag gags, we’re moving in the right direction.

More than anything, however, the producers need to scale down the budget and reassess what it is they are trying to do with Bond films. Skyfall’s unprecedented, billion-dollar success came in a perfect storm that has proved impossible to replicate. James Bond should be, first and foremost, an espionage thriller. It is not an action franchise, and it has no place competing with blockbuster superhero films and sprawling, Hollywood mega-sagas.

If Casino Royale taught us anything, it’s that when in doubt, go to Fleming. In stripping the series back to the core elements and reassessing what made Bond great, the franchise was able to make itself relevant again. References to old films are fun, but if you’re just drawing attention to iconography that was done better before, the result is a film that can’t stand on its own two feet. Likewise, bogging the films down in personally motivated stories and inter-connected plot threads only makes Bond’s world feel heavily contrived. Bond 25 should obviously pay respect to what came before it, but be bold in blazing its own trail.

These are just a few of my thoughts as a long term, and probably unhealthily obsessive, James Bond fan. In a world where big-budget action franchises are only growing larger and larger by the day, I want Bond to show everyone else how it’s done, not limp along in the rear. 007’s fertile heritage consists of industry leading stunt work, special effects, set design, and most importantly, writing. A film is nothing without a taught, intelligent script, and that’s what Bond will need if he’s going to thrive for another fifty years.