Credit: Francois Duhamel

Based on his theater-heavy, action-light résumé, Sam Mendes didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the hearts of 007 diehards when he was named the director of Skyfall (2012, 2 hrs., 23 mins., PG-13). But it turns out that the British filmmaker was the best possible gift for the franchise’s 50th anniversary. The 23rd installment was the finest Bond film in ages. It had a top-notch villain, thanks to Javier Bardem’s kinky blond-haired baddie, Silva. It seamlessly introduced a handful of new faces (Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Whishaw). And it deftly melded the old (Goldfinger‘s Aston Martin DB5) with the new (Adele’s towering theme song). Mendes was the right man for the mission all along — something that becomes even clearer when you listen to his fantastic director’s commentary on the new Skyfall DVD and Blu-ray’s EXTRAS. His remarks are, by far, the highlight of the disc’s goodies. (There’s also a long, surprisingly superficial making-of doc — the coolest part being a quick glimpse of Daniel Craig doing some of his own hairy stunts — plus a second commentary track from producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and the film’s production designer.) For almost two and a half hours, Mendes keeps our attention, channeling his ”inner 12-year-old” who fell in love with Live and Let Die in London way back when. Film nerds will love how he points out that certain scenes and angles were inspired by Roman Polanski’s Chinatown or Carol Reed’s The Third Man or Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. Bondophiles will smile when he mentions how the darker elements of the screenplay were influenced by the last three Ian Fleming novels. Acting students will eat up his thoughtful explanations of the psychological underpinnings and motivations that he gave his cast in various scenes. Bardem fans will be interested to know that the actor translated his script into Spanish and learned it in his native tongue. Trivia hounds will enjoy the fact that Mendes brought in the bartender from London’s Savoy Hotel to properly mix Craig’s martini in the Macau casino sequence. And just about everyone will appreciate his description of the sinister and sexually loaded initial encounter between Bond and Silva in the film: ”It’s two characters f—ing with each other…or are they trying to f— each other? You don’t know.” Well done, sir. A-

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