(director/writer: Christopher Nolan; cinematographer: Hoyte van Hoytema; editor: Jennifer Lame; music: Ludwig Göransson; cast: Elizabeth Debicki (Kitt), Robert Pattison (Neil), John David Washington (The Protagonist), Aaron Taylor Johnson (Ives), Kenneth Branagh (Andrei Sator), Clémence Poésy (Barbara), Michael Caine (Michael Crosby), Himesh Patel (Mahir), Martin Donovan (Victor), Dimple Kapadia (Priya); Runtime: 150; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Emma Thomas; Warner Bros.; 2020-UK/USA-in English-Russian, Ukranian, Estonian-with English subtitles if necessary)
“If it wasn’t so smart and muddled it could pass for a Bond thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Christopher Nolan (“Memento”/”Dunkirk”) is the auteur of this complex and confusing high-concept Bond-like metaphysical action film (you got all that!). The unnamed protagonist is a CIA agent naturally called The Protagonist (John David Washington). He rescues other agents in distress, averts danger at an opera house in Kiev and heroically battles cosmic raids from the future. He does all this while time flows backwards and forwards at the same time (Wow!). There’s also a 747 plane that at first crashes into a warehouse and then back out of it by undoing its crash. There are ironical explanations that will only come later.
With its Bond-like action hero, international locations (London, India, Italy and Estonia), plenty of explosions and stunt set pieces, the film goes forward I think. If it wasn’t so smart and muddled it could pass for a Bond thriller.
The film’s head-scratching implausibility is cerebral, energetic, imaginative and filled with a delicious deadpan humor.
Neil (Robert Pattison) is a dapper British intelligence officer in Mumbai who makes contact with The Protagonist, and the agents form a bromance. The Protagonist is ordered by a shadowy American government agency to take on a new cold war situation: an apocalyptic attack from the future from forces capable of reversing time. To help in combat, the hero is given some frightening high-tech devices, such as guns that suck bullets from the wall. The hero then has contact with a wealthy Indian contractor (Dimple Kapadia) who points him in the direction of the film’s main villain– a creepy wealthy, malevolent Russian oligarch Andrei Sator(Kenneth Branagh), aiming to bring the future to war with the past. He can only be reached through his nasty, estranged, emotionally twisted, art dealer wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki).
In this astonishing but unrealistic film (with baseless themes, much of it not explained, cold characters and a story that appeals more to the senses than the heart), what stands out is the symmetrically recurring fist-fight scenes, which are revisited from different viewpoints, in which the combatants favor different time-flows: one forward, one backward. Though it doesn’t make sense, it offers some magical moments in cinema (as lushly filmed in 70-millimeter Imax).
It will open in limited theaters during the pandemic.
REVIEWED ON 9/5/2020 GRADE: B+