Sam Mendes is back in the director's chair this week as he returns to the helm of the Bond franchise with the highly anticipated Spectre.

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Spectre is the second Bond film for the Oscar winning filmmaker, who steered Skyfall to critical and commercial success back in 2012. I don't know about you, but I am glad to see him return to the franchise for a second movie.

To celebrate the release of the film, we take a look back over Mendes' career and the terrific movies that he has brought to the big screen over the years.

- American Beauty (2000)

American Beauty saw Mendes explode onto the filmmaking scene in 2000 and made every one sit up and take note of this new director. Hard to believe that this movie is already fifteen years old.

American Beauty may have been Mendes' debut, but he brought together a wonderful cast that included Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari Chris Cooper, and Allison Janney. Spacey took on the central role of Lester Burnham, a sexually frustrated middle-aged man who becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter's best friend.

American Beauty was one of the most talked about films of 1999/2000 and was the film that well and truly put on the movie map. This is a movie that is as intelligent as it is witty and is a film that is packed with some wonderful dark humour.

For me, American Beauty saw Spacey deliver his best performance since The Usual Suspects - to be honest, there is not a weak performance amongst the cast as they are all just wonderful.

This is a movie that explored the themes of the American dream, the disappointment/failure of the American dream, midlife crisis, and the sadness over the loss of youth. Mendes explores all of these themes in an incredibly powerful and poignant way, while always maintaining a dark and dry sense of humour.

American Beauty was both a critical and commercial smash and went on to be nominated for eight Oscars. On the night, the film won five awards, including Best Picture, Best Director Best Actor Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography. It remains one of the best films of the nineties.

American Beauty

- Road to Perdition (2002)

In 2002, Mendes returned to the director's chair for his second feature film, which saw him tackle the gangster genre with The Road To Perdition. The movie was based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, and Richard Piers Rayner and was adapted into a screenplay by David Self.

Road To Perdition couldn't have been more different from American Beauty as Mendes immediately wanted to show his versatility as a filmmaker. Road To Perdition remains one of my favourite Mendes movies and it is one of the best gangster films of recent times.

Starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, and Tyler Hoechlin, Road To Perdition follows Michael Sullivan, a hit man for an Irish gang turn on those he worked for after his wife and youngest son are killed.

Road To Perdition is a great looking movie that is packed with action moments, shootouts and bad guys... but the heart of this film is a father and son story. The moments between Michael Sullivan (Hanks) and Michael Jr (Hoechlin) are some of the film's best as they get to know each other whilst on the run. It is a fractured relationship that slowly begins to heal as father and son start to know and understand one another - this is the heart of the film and Road to Perdition would not work without this central relationship.

Road To Perdition is a beautiful looking film and Mendes really does seem to capture the look at the time of the Depression-era Midwest. The cinematography really is just stunning and a real highlight of the film.

Hanks and Newman are wonderful as two men who consider themselves father and son but find themselves on different sides. The moments where they come face to face are incredibly powerful and Newman well and truly shines.

The movie was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for Newman. Conrad L. Hall triumphed for Best Cinematography.

Road to Perdition

- Jarhead (2006)

Mendes tackled the war genre for the first time in 2006 as he returned to the director's chair with Jarhead, which was based on the memoir by soldier Anthony Swofford. The book chronicles the experiences of Swofford as a Marine during Operation Desert Storm when Iraq invades Kuwait.

Jake Gyllenhaal took on the central role of Swofford and was joined on the cast list by Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper, Jamie Foxx, Brian Geraghty, and Lucas Black.

Jarhead may not have been one of Mendes' most critically successful films, but it was a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. Mendes really does capture the boredom and the frustration felt by the American troops in the conflict - trained soldiers who were never given the opportunity to fight.

Jarhead is a movie about the boredom of war and the psychological challenges that brings for these highly trained soldiers. This is a really interesting first person look at war and how it didn't live up to the expectations that the soldiers had.

Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard are particularly good as Swofford and Alan Troy the latter who struggles with the lack of action when he returns to civilian life.

Jarhead may not be a film that is an action-packed war film, but it is a great character study of soldiers and the impact that conflict had on them; it really is a riveting watch.


- Revolutionary Road (2009)

Mendes fans had to wait three years for him to return to the director's chair... finally coming back with Revolutionary Road in 2009. The movie was based on 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates and saw Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite for the first time since Titanic.

Revolutionary Road followed April and Frank Wheeler, a young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s struggle to come to terms with their personal problems while trying to raise their two children.

First and foremost, it was great to see DiCaprio and Winslet sharing the screen once again - over ten years since the release and success of Titanic and playing completely different roles.

This is a story about a fading marriage and Mendes is completely unsentimental and unflinching in the way that he depicts the disintegration of this important relationship. With the help of two wonderful performances from Winslet and DiCaprio, Mendes is able to capture the raw, real and emotional moments of these interesting characters.

This is a movie that does have its flaws - I think Winslet and DiCaprio are better than the movie as a whole - but that does not stop Revolutionary Road being a powerful and touching film that feels relevant and real - despite being set decades ago.

Winslet went on to win a Golden Globe for her performance in the film, while Revolutionary Road was nominated for three Oscars; Best Supporting Actor for Michael Shannon, Best Achievement in Art Direction and Best Achievement in Costume Design.

Revolutionary Road

- Away We Go (2009)

One of Mendes' most charming films came in the autumn of 2009 as he returned with Away We Go, which was written by husband and wife team Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida.

Starring Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski in the central roles of Verona and Burt, Away We Go follows a young couple, on the verge of having their first child, who are travelling around the U.S. to find the perfect place to settle their family.

I really didn't know what to expect when I kicked back to watch Away We Go on DVD but I found it to be a charming watch that really did leave me with a smile on my face. This is the most low-key movie of Mendes' career and he has focused on the story and on the character instead of capturing that visual style that he is so well known for.

Away We Go is a truly down to earth movie that explores some of the realities and fears about having a child for the first time. Rudolph and Krasinski are perfect as Verona and Burt, two people who are just trying to do right by their child whilst trying to find their own place in this soon to be new world. There is a real quirkiness to Krasinski's performance, while Rudolph perfectly captures the eccentricity of Verona. They just work so beautifully together.

Away We Go is a movie that should have received far more exposure than it actually did but I would love to see Mendes make more movies like this in the future as it is a real gem.

Away We Go

- Skyfall (2012)

Mendes tackled the big budget blockbuster for the first time in 2012 as he took on the challenge of the Bond franchise. It was the first time that Mendes has been behind a Bond film and Skyfall saw the director reunite with Daniel Craig; the duo had worked together on Road To Perdition.

Skyfall was the third Bond movie for Craig and followed Bond as his loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. Whilst MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Skyfall was one of the most anticipated films of 2012 and it was a movie that well and truly did not disappoint. For me, it was the best Bond movie of all time and was both a critical and commercial smash.

It was a film that had all the action set pieces that you would expect from a Bond film, but was a movie that humanised the agent like never before. Craig has never been better and takes full possession of this role. He gets his teeth into this character and his afflictions like never before.

Skyfall is a movie that stays respectful to the movies that have gone before, but it takes the character of Bond and the franchise in a new and exciting direction.

The movie went on to gross in excess of $1 billion at the global box office and it the most successful Bond film of all time financially. Scandalously, the movie was overlooked for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, but Adele did triumph for her fantastic theme tune.


Spectre is out now.

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