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Christopher Nolan should direct a James Bond movie. Here’s why

Throughout his long career, Christopher Nolan has been fairly open about how much influence the Bond movies have had on his work. Whether it’s the cool spies in Tenet or the sleek action of The Dark Knight, Nolan has been riffing on Bond in one way or another for years.

Now, as he’s promoting Oppenheimer, his latest project, Nolan also made it clear that should the opportunity present itself, he would be happy to direct a Bond movie. “The influence of those movies in my filmography is embarrassingly apparent. It would be an amazing privilege to do one,” he said on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, while acknowledging that making that kind of movie comes with certain constraints. Even so, it’s somewhat thrilling to imagine what a Nolan Bond movie would look like. Here’s what we’d like to see were he to ever actually take on the iconic British spy:

Cast Dev Patel as James Bond


Nolan and Dev Patel have never worked together, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t collaborate on James Bond. Patel is exactly the right age to play the character, has all the charm necessary for the role, and has already proven himself to be a remarkably gifted performer.

On top of all that, it would be great to see someone who isn’t white take on this pivotal role, and Patel seems like exactly the right guy to break that barrier. He’s never been the star of a movie this big, but the people who are cast as Bond are typically getting something of a promotion when they take on the role.

Elizabeth Debicki should be a Bond girl

Elizabeth Debicki in Tenet.
Warner Bros.

Nolan has only worked with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s Elizabeth Debicki once in his career, thus far, but she would fit right into the world of James Bond, exactly as she did in Tenet. Tenet has often been described as Nolan’s version of a Bond film, and Debicki is perfectly cast as the spouse of the villain who is much smarter than she’s initially given credit for being.

Debicki is one of the great actresses of her generation, and her height and beauty would make her an incredible Bond girl, assuming that she gets something that’s fairly substantive to play in the role and actually makes it to the end of the movie.

Play with time

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman look at each other in The Prestige.
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Christopher Nolan has never met a normal story that he couldn’t futz with by introducing several parallel timelines. Nolan seems to understand that one of the most powerful things a director can do in telling a story is to play with the editing of a movie to find intuitive connections between scenes that may be taking place years apart in a story.

He’s better at it than almost any director working today, and while most Bond movies choose to tell their stories in entirely linear fashions, Nolan seems like the perfect director to come in and futz with the formula just a little bit. If he can’t find a way to reinvent what Bond can be, then who can?

Cross-cutting action

Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio sit on a beach together in Inception.
Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the things Nolan is best at is setting up multiple, parallel tracks of action that can run simultaneously with one another. That’s what makes the final hour of something like Inception feel so utterly thrilling. You know what’s going on across a variety of different dreams, and seeing them all interact with one another feels thrilling.

If Nolan could do the same thing in a Bond movie, creating multiple settings where action needs to take place, he could create the kind of final set piece that often distinguishes an outstanding James Bond film from one that’s just okay.

Bring in an all-star supporting cast

A crowd of people in "Oppenheimer."
Universal Pictures

As Oppenheimer proves, Nolan is one of those directors that actors are willing to work with in almost any capacity. If anyone could lure a great supporting cast to a Bond project, it would be him. There are some Nolan regulars that would be great in a Bond project. We could see Cillian Murphy as a Bond villain, and Gary Oldman could play M or any other older character that Bond seeks wisdom from.

Assuming that the schedule works out, though, Nolan can pull in whoever he wants, which is part of the reason that his Bond movie would almost inevitably be stacked with many of the best actors in the world, even if they were only playing relatively small parts.

Make the non-action scenes compelling

Robert Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy shake hands in black-and-white.
Robert Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer Image via Universal Pictures

Perhaps the most difficult thing about making a Bond movie interesting is finding a way to make everything that isn’t an action scene compelling. We all know that Nolan is more than capable of staging a tense, compelling action sequence, but what would really separate his potential Bond movie from others is his ability to write a compelling, coherent plot that holds the various action beats together.

Inception, one of Nolan’s best movies, may be the best example of this trend, as it combined his penchant for highfalutin’ sci-fi with big ideas with his ability to stage action beats that work and meld together cohesively. If he could bring that to Bond, the sky would be the limit.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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