This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Knight0fCups’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This hits different on a second watch. Still stunning and almost overwhelming to watch of course, but I found it a lot more emotionally engaging this time around. The final goodbye from Neil was quite moving to me the more I thought about it after my first watch anyway and does work even more now, but everything with Elizabeth Debicki's character hit me the most. I was actually caught off guard and surprised when I started tearing up during the dinner scene early on when she talks about seeing a woman jump off the boat and how jealous she was of her freedom without knowing of course that the woman is actually her. (you could almost read this as a film about someone getting out of an abusive relationship if you wanted to tbh.) The emotion and heart of this film is not conveyed through overt sentimentalism and is so subtle that it doesn't seem to even fully register when you first watch it and so not only is this a rewarding film to rewatch in order to further grasp the narrative and mechanics of the time inversion, but it also manages to reveal a stronger emotional core to it than what is first apparent. Watching this again knowing how much Neil knows about what is happening also adds an interesting new perspective and my theory was seemingly confirmed on this watch that he is also the person in the opening sequence saving The Protagonists life in the opera house. So as expected this does open up even more when viewing it again and the aspects that were already so remarkable and effective just confirm themselves as being still fucking great. Also the score is a monumental work, just perfect.
And I must say it's great to see a time travel film this original in concept, in that have we ever seen time inversion before or at least done in this way? the "time machines" here don't place you back in a moment in time but rather invert you so that you begin to experience time in reverse and so whilst the world is technically moving forward around you, your physical self perceives it as moving backwards because that is actually what you are doing. A fascinating concept that I think Nolan executes flawlessly and to then craft such brilliant action sequences around them is almost incomprehensible. To me the most effective and mind-fuck moment is when The Protagonist fights himself in the Freeport, because the inverted version of himself is now switching places in the fight, so he already knows what moves he will make because he was the one that did them in the first place. Which almost makes it a fight scene purely of reaction and recreation. It's really quite impressive. Might be the most conceptually intricate and intelligent blockbuster ever made? Something that will be off-putting for people not really interested in this sort of thing but endlessly rewarding and satisfying to people like me who love it. And I think in the end if there is an overarching message here it's that the past and the future don't matter, it's what you do in the present that actually means something. You can't change the past and there's no action in saying you can do something later (or in the future), you have to act now. And whilst this isn't commenting on anything in particular, I do think it's a message that applies to us all right now. The time to act is now, not later.
Another small aspect I like is how Nolan perfectly taps into the individualist and selfish ideology of Capitalists and making the villains mantra of "if I can't have it, then no one can" into a pretty solid anti-capitalist metaphor in a way. They would much rather see the world burn with them than let it prosper without them. And of course it also relates to the twisted view of abusers too, which he also is. This isn't really a main point of the film but there's enough here for it to be at least a little effective. And I have to admit I actually really like Kenneth Branagh here, might be my favourite performance in the film. Although Debicki is great too and Robert Pattinson's accent and just entire elusive presence here is kind of wonderful. I just love everything about this!!! And one more thing I will mention is that aside from Nolan's typical great use of cross-cutting I kind of love how well this movie flows and jumps around. I know a lot of people found it quite messy and all over the place the way the film cuts between countries without any real establishing shots or anything like that, but I felt it worked perfectly with the films focus on time and by doing this it doesn't allow the audience to gauge any timeframe at all, which works for me. Just a constant flow of images. And it also helps with the pacing which is another great element here. Feels like it's over in an instant and just makes me want to watch it again immediately. I think this entire thing is just astonishing really. Just a series of nonstop God-tier action setpieces really and I'm all for it.