With ‘Tenet,’ Christopher Nolan Will Make His Version of a ‘Bond’ Movie

007 has informed the director’s movies already, but this might be his most open acknowledgement of Bond’s influence to date.

Christopher Nolan
Warner Bros.

Whenever Christopher Nolan announces a new film, a sense of excitement fills the air. He’s one of the few directors working in Hollywood today who can demand $200 million budgets for original passion projects, which is a refreshing change from the franchise fare that dominates the blockbuster landscape these days. We’ve known that the director has been working on something new for months now, but Nolan and his camp have kept us in the dark about what to expect from his 11th feature. Well, I’m happy to report that they have now shared some news about the film.

According to Deadline, the movie is called Tenet and it’s a globetrotting action epic about spies and espionage. Like actual spy missions, details about the film’s plot are being kept top secret for now. That said, the star-studded cast, which includes Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, John David Washington, and Elizabeth Debicki, is so damn good that we don’t need any more information. Furthermore, on the musical front, Black Panther’s Ludwig Göransson will provide the score.

It was only a matter of time before Nolan made his own espionage adventure. The genre has already informed a couple of his previous works after all. It’s no secret that the James Bond franchise is one of Nolan’s main influences, which is why he is always named among prospective future 007 directors. Nolan has also stated that he’d like to make a Bond movie someday, but only if he can bring a fresh spin to proceedings. With Bond 25 currently in production and the franchise in no need of an imminent makeover, Nolan’s talents are best served elsewhere.

With Tenet, though, Nolan will take what he finds most inspiring about the Bond franchise and apply those elements to his own story. Instead of reinventing the 007 wheel, he can do something completely different and make the world of espionage cinema a more varied and interesting place. At the same time, knowing what we know about Nolan’s thoughts on Bond, we can start to imagine the type of movie Tenet will be.

The Bond influence has never been more evident in Nolan’s work than it was in Inception, a science fiction heist thriller that revolves around corporate spies invading dreams. While the spy aspects were undoubtedly inspired by 007 movies to some degree, Nolan told the BBC that he mainly wanted to capture the franchise’s massive scope in his movie:

“The Bond influence on the film was very intentional because, for me, growing up with the Bond films — they’ve always stood for grand-scale action.”

The director has echoed his love of Bond‘s action and spectacle in several interviews, as well as their sense of adventure and ability to make viewers suspend their disbelief. In a conversation with IndieWire, he revealed that The Spy Who Loved Me instilled a spark in him at a young age because of these aspects:

“One of the first films I remember seeing was ‘The Spy Who Loved Me‘ and at a certain point the Bond films fixed in my head as a great example of scope and scale in large scale images. That idea of getting you to other places, of getting you along for a ride if you can believe in it — in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me,’ the Lotus Esprit turns into a submarine and its totally convincing, and it works and you go ‘Wow, that’s incredible.’”

Most of Nolan’s movies are high in spectacle, so it’s clear that the Bond saga informed his own filmmaking ideas in that regard. However, another factor which draws Nolan towards the Bond films is their social commentary. Spy movies are perfect vehicles to tell stories about the conflicts and tensions of their times, and the Bond franchise has reflected the tumultuous sociopolitical climates of several zeitgeists. As he told The Beat:

“Interestingly, the Bond films, back in the ‘60s, they were very specifically about Cold War fears — they introduced the threat of nuclear terrorism very specifically for the first time in movies and they were closer than people realize, in pop culture terms, to what people feared at the time.”

Our modern world has no shortage of terrifying conflicts, so I imagine that Nolan will tap into these if the movie is set in the present day. Or perhaps he’ll opt for a period piece given that he seems to have a strong affinity for ‘60s spy thrillers. Either way, we can expect some fascinating commentary to be explored in Tenet.

Elsewhere, Nolan’s Dark Knight movies are also worth noting in regards to how he might present Tenet‘s heroes and villains. In those Batman movies, the iconic superhero is portrayed as flawed, cold, and morally conflicted, with his duty to Gotham being so strong that his ethical code and personal feelings are compromised. With an espionage movie, Nolan will likely apply similar ideas to spies and explore the lengths they must go to in order to accomplish the mission at hand. The director’s love of grand-scale action and romantic notions of the genre will make for an entertaining ride, but he’ll probably dig into the minds of these people and give us a movie that paints a dark, nuanced vision of good and evil.

Still, we won’t know what’s in store for us until the movie hits theaters on July 17, 2020. Regardless of what the movie is about, Tenet will see Nolan fully realizing a genre that’s near and dear to him. Therefore, fans can look forward to the possibility of another cinematic treat.

"Kieran is like a steady flame that refuses to waver in the breeze, eternally burning and guiding us to a better world." - Ian West