Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir-scr Christopher Nolan
prd Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
with John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Himesh Patel, Clemence Poesy, Michael Caine, Martin Donovan, Fiona Dourif, Andrew Howard
release UK 26.Aug.20,
US 3.Sep.20
20/UK Warners 2h30

pattinson branagh taylor-johnson

Is it streaming?

Debicki and Washington
Christopher Nolan's latest brain-bender is an entertaining if rather dense spy thriller, mixing the globe-hopping splendour of a Bond movie with Nolan's puzzle-style plotting, dropping clues into each Imax-scaled scene. It's gripping and enjoyable, even if the characters are cold and the themes thin. But no one explores issues of time and chronology like Nolan, and this one keeps the heart pounding even as it sets the mind spinning.
After an unnamed CIA operative (Washington) is almost killed when he barges into a terrorist siege in Kiev's opera house, he's drafted into a shadowy organisation that's trying to discover who is collecting objects that somehow move backwards in time, building an apocalyptic threat. When he tracks some inverted bullets to arms dealer Priya (Kapadia), she points him to Russian oligarch Andrei (Branagh), whose estranged wife Kat (Debicki) provides a way in if he'll help her get out. Working with Neil (Pattinson), he makes several shocking discoveries and learns that he can trust no one.
The story darts between picturesque locations in London, India, Italy and Estonia before the big finale in a "closed" Soviet city, which is little more than desolate action-movie setting with some clever Cold War echoes. Along the way there are extravagant assaults, chases, shootouts and some particularly eye-popping hand-to-hand combat. All of this is staged with robust energy by Nolan, who knows how to weave plot details into the action, including some wonderfully whizzy twists. Less successful are the murky conversations about what's happening here, not that it matters.

Washington is superb as an every-man hero, suddenly bursting into fight-master moves while revealing his weaknesses as a spy. When he's not swaggering, he's likeable, although a hint of romance never moves beyond flirtation. He has strong chemistry with both Pattinson and Debicki, who bring several quirky edges to their characters. Both also have some surprises up their sleeves. Branagh expertly provides heavy-breathing dramatics, while side roles for Taylor-Johnson, Patel and especially Kapadia are a lot of fun. As is Caine's extended cameo.

It's impossible to spoil the plot. "Don't try to understand it," says Poesy's scientist at the start. "Does your head hurt yet?" Neil asks later on. It might have helped to be able to hear what the characters are expositing without their words being obscured by music, crashing edits and now-too-familiar facemasks. But that certainly doesn't take away from the visceral thrills that come with each impressive set-piece, especially as the narrative itself inverts in time, ending before it begins.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 24.Aug.20

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