Well, here’s a name we like to drop often but haven’t seen too much of recently: Cary Fukunaga. On the heels of his newly launched miniseries on Netflix, Maniac, it was announced last week that Fukunaga was selected to replace Slumdog Millionaire‘s Danny Boyle to direct the currently unnamed 25th Bond installment. It is a relatively out of the box pick, given his indie background and dare I say… lack of experience, when compared with the recent roster of Bond directors which includes Sam Mendes, Marc Forster, Martin Campbell- and yes, Boyle. Additionally, his last theatrical release was Jane Eyre back in 2011 and everything else since then has been for a streaming or televised format- but Fukunaga is a fantastic pick for giving us that gritty, dirty, troubled Bond that we’ve wanted since the end of Casino Royale. He’s not an action director, but I think that works with where this particular section of the series has been wanting to go.
It’s just one of those things that made perfect sense when it was announced. I haven’t been this excited for a director announcement in a long time and I don’t typically pay attention to director news in big franchises- most of the time, it’s a lot of studio involvement and their overall lack of letting a director’s vision come through too much (like what happened with Edgar Wright and Ant-Man). And in general, I’ve just ignored big franchise behind-the-scene pieces because we’re going to get what the studio wants, regardless of who’s on the project- so there is a sense of “Here’s the product, that’s it,” and this can lead to more broadness, formulaic, or slapping a bunch of things together that “work.” While there’s an argument to be made that these pieces don’t exist to serve artistic vision and they’re just money-making vehicles, at this point there are so many of them that we really feel the impact when we get something different, like Guardians of the Galaxy and even going back to the first Bourne Identity and Batman Begins- and Fukunaga’s own True Detective– which gave us such different visuals and tones than what we were used to expecting from their genre.
But when Fukunaga’s name popped up for this franchise, oh boy. My brain got excited. This particular Daniel Craig series has always wanted to veer off in a more serious, grounded direction (Casino Royale, Skyfall) and the high points of the series examine Bond’s conflict within himself as 007. Then, the other ones always manage to tiptoe back to Unremarkable Action Movie and General Bond Roots (Spectre and that other one… Quantum of Solace, that’s it). I think with Fukunaga at the helm, we’ll be getting some serious reflection of Craig as Bond- it’s going to be much more about Bond at odds with himself rather than an obvious villain. It’s the chance for Craig to go out with a bang, which getting to those dramatic levels of Bond he’s capable of doing as an actor but has been denied of.
This is where Fukunaga has room to move and play- he’s that good in getting characters to reveal that inner turmoil and guilt without being overdramatic about it. There’s so much darkness and intimacy to his style that can absorb you as a viewer, and he’s really dedicated to visual storytelling, allowing the camera to rove around and feed bits of information, but only what he wants to serve. All of his work has this very natural dream-like state, while retaining a realistic grit- and without the whole “Look at me and how SKILLED I am!” His work is exceptional when it comes to setting moods and narrative tone and overall- if someone doesn’t get tense while watching Beasts of No Nation or certain scenes of True Detective, please… just… go away. Viewing his work is always impactful- not only is it usually marvelous in its technique, but I leave with a flurry of thoughts and emotions. It’s rare to find this in big budget pieces today.
What’s most impressive about his resume is the several different genres, having tackled crime, classic literature, war, dark comedy, and drugs- in both film and series format. I love that all of Fukunaga’s works feel very much like his, but what I find to be the best indicator of his work for a Bond movie- especially this final Craig outing before the role is inevitably recast- is the sense of closure that comes with each, even within a mini-serie format. He’s not someone that’s going to make sequels for the sake of it and when he’s done with a story arc, that’s it. That’s the story. There is something else to be told. Onto the next one. There’s always a definite ending, which I think this part of Bond needs and deserves- we started off with his one of his first missions in Casino Royale and it would be very fitting, especially since we’ve enjoyed Craig as Bond much more than people initially thought we would (“You’re too… BLONDE”). Let’s give the guy a proper send off!
I’m hoping that this doesn’t turn out to be another It and that MGM takes a backseat- in the long run, Fukunaga can rightfully close out this Craig and then propel that excitement forward for the overall series. Fukunaga has so much potential to make this Bond 25 great if people don’t get in his way.
P.S. If we can get one of those long takes for Bond, preferably towards the end… that would be great. Thanks.