Like many, the film industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, with budget films canceled, theaters recently opened, and release dates for major films being pushed back by studios. Christopher Nolan’s Principe is increasingly being touted as the movie that will change all that – the movie that will bring people back to their local cinema (with a mask, of course).
Nolan as the messiah of the movie industry, rushing to resurrect the industry, in these difficult times? It is not crazy to suggest such a thing. The director has an impressive track record and the marketing for Principe has been second to none. Even before watching it in my native London – and certainly, for those looking forward to it elsewhere – it really felt like this film.
John David Washington leads the cast as “The Protagonist,” a CIA spy who, having proven his worth and loyalty to the organization, is inducted into a faceless underground organization called Tenet.
The protagonist, named so only in the end credits, is placed on the track of time-reversing balls, leading him to a face-to-face with Russian oligarch Andrei Sator, excellently played by Kenneth Branagh, with the goal of ‘avoid a cold war. . “Nuclear Holocaust?” asks the protagonist of Washington. But no, it’s worse.
Principe defiantly declares itself early enough as a film that is categorically not about time travel – instead, here we have time reversal. In a scene where she explains that the balls work with “a technology which can reverse the entropy of an object”, explains Laura, scientist of Clemence Poésy to the Protagonist, “do not try to understand it. Nolan seems to be saying the same thing, encouraging audiences to trust the film and go with it., A Nolan motive, at this point
For all his entropy and inversion discourses, Principe strikes a balance between sci-fi film and Hollywood blockbuster. That’s high stakes and a high budget – James Bond on steroids. In the first hour we are greeted with explosions, high speed car chases and bungee jumps, as we spin around with the cast (literally – filming took place in Italy, India, Estonia , Norway, United Kingdom and United States). But this is not a Bond replica – although probably inspired by the classic series, Principe manages to be a different kind of spy movie. It’s a refined excess, a new take on the spy genre and opens up a new avenue for us.
Calls for a Black James Bond have been floating around for years now, with several actors saying they would love to play the part. But what Nolan and John David Washington are doing here is running 007 playground with their own toys, without the pressure and obligation of the story. Washington doesn’t miss a beat Principe. He’s not a playboy with a Martini glued to his hand, but instead, he distinguishes between suave and assumed, remaining magnetic throughout the film with unflappable humor, sleek outfits, and a convincing confidence in watch.
As a result, the plea for a Black James Bond is basically answered here – in physicist Laura de Clemence Poésy, we have a Q; in Robert Pattinson’s Neil, we have an ally; another Agent 00, of sorts, with which the Washington protagonist forms a muted bromance; Andrei Sator of Branagh, a Russian arms dealer, is an archetypal villain. We’ve got all the pieces to work – it’s enough to run an inverted physical machine at full speed, so fast it’s often hard to keep up.
But try. Because even if you don’t fully understand it, it’s clear that it’s okay. Principe is another letter of appreciation in Nolan’s love affair with time – of Start, Memento and Interstellar, he again uses time not as an instrument of intrigue or a metaphor, but as the very heart of the film. The cast is brilliant and the ambitious plot means it might not make sense to all viewers at some point, but allowing yourself to bypass it and enjoy it is a decision you won’t regret.
Ore Abiona is a UK-born freelance journalist and content creator founded in South London; a film and music enthusiast who has always encouraged everyone Black.