With Daniel Craig looking more likely than ever to return in the next Bond film, he needs a new director to join him. Rumours have been swirling that Christopher Nolan is in the frame, so we thought it would be the perfect time to go deep on our favourites for the director’s chair and why they’d be great.
Kathryn Bigelow is a master at examining the impact of crime and warfare on the human soul. Her Bond would operate in an increasingly murky world of espionage, stripped of humanity for the benefit of the greater good… but at what cost?
Bond’s literary origins reveal an intelligence operative forged in a hot war and forced to exist in a much colder one. Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is a perfect example of how she can capture that sense of masculine frustration in the face of bitter conflict. Like Bond, Jeremy Renner’s bomb-disposing Staff Sergeant William James is a man who seeks danger, outwitting the enemy while inviting them to try and kill him. In his mind, it’s all part of the game.
And when that game is won, is there ever a victory parade? Not in this business. Bigelow confronts the inevitable void of victory with her 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty, following CIA officer Maya (Jessica Chastain) in her hunt for bin Laden. The entire film builds to the crescendo of the Seal Team Six raid where bin Laden is killed, and then… nothing.
It’s a decade’s worth of intensive intelligence gathering, hampered by false leads, CIA bureaucrats, and assassination attempts, all for it to end unceremoniously with six bullets and a body bag for the figurehead of 21st-century terrorism. Maya sits on the plane, her job done and her purpose fulfilled. Yet all we see is the face of a woman feeling lost, as she stares into a world for which she has no plan. Like Maya, Bond is a weapon, pointed at a threat until it is destroyed – and then left alone, pointless until the next mission.
Bigelow’s Bond could build on Mendes’ Skyfall/Spectre 007, where we saw the cost of Bond’s chosen profession on his soul and humanity. She can balance exquisitely tense action set-pieces with a deep character exploration of what makes Bond, as he fights against the inevitable void of hard-earned but short-lived victory.
Already a frontrunner to take on Bond 25, Nolan is a British director fit to tackle Britain’s greatest intelligence operative. His audition piece was 2010’s Inception, a film whose stunning set-pieces were underpinned by intelligent filmmaking and murky motivations.
Nolan’s first foray into intelligent blockbusters was with Batman Begins; his Bruce Wayne is a man of privilege desperately pursuing the purest, basest form of justice. Through brutal training and a reluctance to do as he’s told, he becomes a self-obsessed creature of self-defined righteousness. Sound familiar?
Nolan loves to put his characters through hell to see how they react. Think of the nightmarish cycle of vengeance in Memento, or the heartbreaking time difference Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) faces when separated from his daughter in Interstellar. Giving Bond a Nolan world to operate in would enable us to see how Britain’s toughest spy survives in the harshest of conditions. Bond villains impose their own rules and challenges on Bond, and it’s this kind of constructed psychological warfare at which Nolan excels.
Nolan’s ability to combine large-scale, uniquely defined worlds with intimate human complexity makes him well-suited to take on Bond. Imagine him constructing an impossible blockbuster obstacle course to really put Bond through the wringer, and test not only his physical abilities but his mental strength too.
Rumours circulated around Susanne Bier’s possible involvement with the Bond franchise following her critically acclaimed work on the TV adaptation of John Le Carré’s novel The Night Manager. Her take on the murky world of state-backed arms dealing and proxy wars brought the opposing visions of Fleming and Le Carré closer than they’ve ever been. Bier’s ability to frame the battle for true justice portrays it not simply as right versus wrong; instead it’s a horrible web of infighting, backstabbing and personal gain over the suffering of others.
The biggest question in her version would be who controls a weapon as dangerous and unpredictable as James Bond, and how do they do it? She is great at picking apart the relationships between the people who give the orders and those tasked to carry them out, and with the rebuilding of MI6 under Ralph Fiennes’ M, the Bond universe is primed to examine how Bond will function under a new command.
Likewise, the politically-driven relationships between the CIA and MI6 are a power struggle explored in both the early Craig films and The Night Manager, forming a cruel and fascinating backdrop for Bond. Picture him now: a reluctant government weapon, striving to maintain his humanity and individuality at the hands of his masters while embroiled in the machinations of duelling intelligence agencies. Bier’s Bond could be the perfect bridge between the escapist blockbuster side of Bond and his gritty, complicated intelligence work.
How far would you be willing to go to seek justice? And how much of your humanity might you lose along the way? These questions haunt several of Villeneuve’s films, and they’re the reason why he’d be an incredible choice for Bond 25. Take Sicario, which sees Emily Blunt’s Kate Macer as a new pawn in an old game where justice becomes about revenge. She struggles to maintain the ideals drummed into her against those who have thrown them away in search of victory.
Bond is cold, calculating and efficient, but there’s always a shred of humanity desperately clinging to the ideals he holds. Villeneuve’s approach could explore what happens when Bond and the values he’s expected to uphold are pushed further than ever before. How would Bond function when forced to deal out justice he does not agree with?
Villeneuve’s characters blur the lines between what is right and what is legal, and test how readily people are willing to cross those lines for what they believe in. In the legal and moral grey area of international espionage, Villeneuve’s Bond would face highly contentious conditions which he’d never encountered before. Intertwining the morals and objectives of agencies and operatives provides a complex landscape suited for a modern Bond to provide his personal form of justice.
A Villeneuve Bond could be one facing up to the realities of a world that no longer reflects the clearly defined boundaries we know, or the concepts of justice that we have become comfortable with. These conflicting morals plunge Bond further into situations where he is on the back foot, having to rely on his skills and instincts to navigate a lethal and unmapped landscape of intrigue, deception, and death.
Honourable mentions: Jose Padhila (Elite Squad & Narcos), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Michelle McClaren (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Westworld)
These are our picks, but who would you love to see as the director of the next Bond film? Comment or tweet us back to let us know.