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New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “The Devil All the Time, Antebellum, Mandalorian, and Pushbacks”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Bob Chipman for the fourth episode, primarily discussing The Devil All the Time, Antebellum, the trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian, and the changes to the release schedule after the releases of TENET and Mulan.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

New Escapist Column! On Kat as the Emotional Heart of “TENET”…

I published a new piece at The Escapist on Sunday. With the release of TENET, Christopher Nolan has been subject to the familiar criticisms of his work: that he is humourless, cold, emotionless. However, these criticisms miss the fact that Nolan’s films are often underpinned by deep reservoirs of emotion.

Elizabeth Debicki’s Katherine Barton is the beating heart of TENET. She also represents a clear evolution of how Nolan writes female characters. If TENET is a James Bond pastiche, than Kat is introduced as a disposable love interest – the character that the hero seduces to get closer to the villain, and is ultimately killed for her betrayal. She is also positioned in Nolan’s filmography so as to suggest one of Nolan’s “dead wives.”

However, as the film progresses, Kat becomes the emotional protagonist of TENET. It is her story that drives TENET. More than that, she assumes the narrative space that is usually reserved for Nolan’s male protagonists like Cooper in Interstellar and Cobb in Inception: that of a parent fighting desperately to be reunited with their lost children. As such, Kat is a fascinating character in Nolan’s filmography, both a deconstruction of the way that Nolan writes his women characters and a clear step forward.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Interstellar”, “TENET” and the Competing Visions of the Future…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier today. With the release of TENET, it seemed worth taking a look at some of the core themes of the film.

TENET has most frequently been discussed in the context of its relationship to Inception, but it is perhaps most interesting to discuss in relation to Interstellar. Both of those films are about the relationship between the present and the future, exploring the dynamic between mankind and a projected future version of themselves. Interstellar is a story about the hope held by the future, but TENET offers a more cynical perspective.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “Chadwick Boseman And Broken Time”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Bob Chipman for the second episode, primarily discussing the passing of Chadwick Boseman and the summer of broken time typified by TENET, i’m thinking of ending things, Palm Springs and Bill & Ted Face the Music.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

New Escapist Review! “TENET”

I have actually already reviewed TENET for this blog. However, given the state of the pandemic in the United States, The Escapist did not feel comfortable asking its writers to attend cinema screenings. As I am based in a country that is dealing with the crisis (relatively) well, I have stepped into the gap to provide written reviews for movies not receiving a streaming release.

This is unlikely to be a long-term dynamic, but I was flattered at the invitation and was happy to substitute in for this particular situation. This is a very unusual time. The review is much more conventional and concise than the reviews on this site, and even has a numerical score attached. I feel like a proper film critic. You can read the review here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “TENET” and the Return of the Discourse…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier today. With the release of TENET bringing life back to American multiplexes next week, it also seems to be resurrecting “the discourse.”

TENET is the first major theatrical release of the summer. It is the first such release since Birds of Prey. There have been direct-to-video releases like Hamilton or Greyhound or Palm Springs. However, none of these have managed to catch the conversation in a way that a big theatrical release does. For the first time in almost half a year, there is a movie that strangers can shout at one another about on the internet. TENET has not even been released in American cinemas, but it is already generating highly charged shouting matches.

This is simply how people talk about films these days, with intensely impassioned positions and aggressive stances, stakes on the moral high ground and narratives predetermined. In hindsight, the six months without a release large enough to spark such online debate, the pandemic offered something of a reprieve from the shouting and the screaming. I missed cinemas, but I did not miss “the discourse.”

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

Non-Review Review: TENET

NOTE: I live in Ireland. Our cinemas are open. Evidence suggests that it is (relatively) safe for people to attend the cinema if they take the necessary precautions. However, I am aware that it is not safe in every country to do so, and I also understand that many readers may not feel safe attending their local cinema even in areas where the evidence suggests it is safe. As this seems to be a hot-button issue with all theatrical releases during the pandemic – but with TENET in particular – it feels important to stress this outside the body of the review itself.

This should go without saying, but given the nature of the current pandemic it is worth repeating: No movie is worth risking your life for. If you feel – or if information from sources you trust suggest – that it is unsafe to go to the cinema, then please do not go. I loved this film. I will see it in cinemas again at least twice within the next week, because it is safe for me to do so. This review should not be taken as an endorsement that the reader should feel they have to (or are expected to) risk their lives to see this film. With that in mind, here is the review.

“Time isn’t the problem,” insists Neil early in TENET. Like a lot of things that the shady operator says over the course of the film, this is not exactly true.

There is a lot riding on TENET. Almost none of this was intended when the film was conceived and produced. As the first major theatrical release since the coronavirus pandemic, TENET effectively shoulders the burden of saving cinema – particularly with a death of major releases between now and Wonder Woman 1984 and with the planned release of Mulan on Disney+. It’s a lot of weight for a film like TENET to carry. Time will tell whether it can succeed or not, but it makes a valiant effort.

Shattering the release window.

TENET rises to this challenge in a couple of ways. Most obviously, TENET is quite simply a triumph of blockbuster filmmaking. Director Christopher Nolan has boasted about how much of the film was completed using in-camera effects and how carefully choreographed it all was. TENET is a movie that showcases the power of spectacle, whether in its delightfully complicated action sequences or even in Hoyte Van Hoytema’s breathtaking establishing shots. TENET is a movie that demands as big a screen as possible, reminding audiences of the scale of such filmmaking.

However, there’s more to it than that. TENET is a film that feels curiously attuned to this cultural moment. It is a film that deals with many of Nolan’s pet themes and obsessions, but in a way that feels very much in step with the modern moment. It’s hard to summarise TENET without spoiling the movie, without revealing too much in terms of plot mechanics or character motivations, but TENET is a film about the breakdown of time itself. It is a film about the collapse of chaos and effect, and a world in which the future and the past are a war over the present.

A career highlight?

It’s an ambitious film. Nolan’s movies are frequently driven by high-concepts and abstract ideas, and the director is remarkable in his ability to build crowd-pleasing blockbusters around concepts like time dilation in Inception and the theory of relativity in Interstellar. If anything, TENET seems to push that idea to breaking time. As Neil repeatedly points out over the course of the film, he has a degree in quantum physics and he struggles to make sense of the film’s internal logic. Perhaps the film’s protagonist (known simply as the Protagonist) sums it up best, “Woah.”

TENET is an interesting film from Nolan in a number of ways. The villainous Russian oligarch Andrei Sator is probably the director’s scuzziest character since Insomnia or Memento. The film itself is perhaps Nolan’s most emotionally repressed since The Prestige. These sensibilities are blended with his more modern high-concept blockbuster aesthetic, and flavoured with a surprising amount of self-awareness. The result is a heady cocktail that is occasionally overwhelming, but never unsatisfying.

Well, masks are recommended at cinema screenings.

Note: Warner Brothers have specifically requested that reviews avoid spoilers. As a result, this review will talk rather generally about TENET. However, if you want to see it completely unspoiled, it is perhaps best to just take our word for it: it is good. It is probably even the best film we’ve seen this year. That is a very short review.

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New Video! Talking “TENET” on Turkish Television…

I had the pleasure of appearing on Showcase on TRT World earlier this week, to discuss the upcoming release of TENET and Christopher Nolan’s career in general. You can watch the segment below, if you want.

New Escapist Column! On “TENET”, and Christopher Nolan’s Fascination With Time…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This week saw the release of the latest trailer for TENET, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to talk a bit about the work of Christopher Nolan.

Nolan’s filmography is absolutely fascinated by the flow and manipulation of time. It warps, distorts and bends around his protagonists. However, it’s a force that cannot be controlled or governed, but which acts upon the characters nonetheless. The trailer to TENET is interesting because it seems to suggest that the villain of his latest film has learned to manipulate time, which in the context of Nolan’s filmography suggests that he’s messing with the most primal of forces.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.