There are days that I wonder what Nolan, the man behind Tenet, Interstellar, and Dunkirk, is up to.

He's obviously in the system, and regarded enough to have men like Michael Caine and Mat Damon eagerly take part in his movies. On the other hand, almost every recent movie is a giant fuck you to globalist and leftist shibboleths in some way shape or form.


This is one that doesn't quite fit the mold, as the trend I'm noting is a more recent change. I think the point Wright made in his review of Tenet is well put - it may be masterfully executed, but this is a broken man, and we don't really care. It nevertheless is an early example of Nolan's preoccupation with time, with the story effectively being told backwards.

Others - the 2000's

I'm going to skip Insomnia, and the Prestige, which was also finely crafted, but left me cold.

The Batman Movies

If I can find the link or video to a specific example I'd seen years back, I will, but I've seen the argument made from what is presented, at minimum in the third film, even as it overtly echoes the French Revolution and the terror that arrives with calls for égalité, that the movie is subtly pro-monarchist or pro-nobility.

The kangaroo court trials in the movie certainly would have fit in with the days of terror in France, or the Soviet Union.

These also are the first movies, looking back, where he portrays a hero as a hero, and fighting the good fight is not a chumps game.


Looking back, this is the beginning of the "fuck you." Sure, the protagonist we follow is, well, here's how Wright put it:

But in other Nolan films, his characters were either disgusting or horrible: murderers, suicides, industrial spies, brainwashers, and so on. For example, the creepy dream-brainwasher in INCEPTION lost his psycho wife to psycho suicide. I could feel sorry for him because he lost his wife, but since he lost her due solely to the risks involved in his choice of criminal profession in creepy dream-brainwashing, I cannot feel sympathy.

That said, what is the theme of the movie?

Chris Nolan has admitted that the entire movie is a metaphor for the movie making process, with each of the main roles mapping to director, producer, and so on. In short, the theme of the movie is that the people creating these films are broken brainwashers working to plant ideas in your head below your conscious awareness to influence your behavior to suit their interests - and they may not really be living in reality themselves.

Put another way - Hollywood is full of people divorced from reality manipulating you and trying to do so without you even being aware of it.

It also shows a dramatic return to Nolan's work with time, with each deeper layer of the dream reality being encapsulated within, and running faster than, the one above it, with every action in the higher, parent reality having impacts within the deeper one.

Edit: I was reminded that the movie also has a strong plot thread of the main character being a man who wants to see, and spend time with, his children, as a virtue. While it's no longer precisely a rare trope these last few years, it is recently usually used as the transparent fig-leaf excuse a man uses to be abusive and violent. In short, it is undercut and poisoned.


Time again plays an important part, this time dilation, with the time loop in play being that of information, and the question of the causality of the formation of the black hole at the edge of our solar system. This film most blatantly kicks modern nihilism in the teeth of his works so far, to the point of an explicit speech of how we should be reaching for the sky rather than staring at the dirt and merely trying to make do. Society at large has given up, and teachers teach the official line that we never went to the moon or space because that might give people the wrong ideas. Matt Damon's character, portrayed as the best that society, reason, and science have to offer, turns out to be a cowardly death cultist who would sell out the future of humanity for a few more brief moments of life, because deep down he believes we deserve extinction.  Of Nolan's work so far, this is likely his best, and the movie doesn't just speak, but sings a hymn to love, beauty, perseverance, and logos to a degree little else, and nothing else of his does. John C Wright gives an excellent review here.


The manipulation of time here is that of several story streams, starting at different points, in parallel over days and hours intersecting at a critical juncture over the english channel. Bane makes an appearance as an RAF fighter. Relevant here is that this is an open and explicit inspiration found in the heroism of the ordinary men who strode into danger with open eyes, the pilots, and the soldiers who faced annihilation. If anything, the average grunts here come off in many ways as the least courageous. While the civilian small boat owners put themselves in harms way with open eyes, the main viewpoint character for that arc tries to run and hide, or cut the line to get aboard a navy ship that holds out the hope of safety. I don't blame them much: stuck, with little news but the meagre hope of escape even as the beach is strafed and shelled, it's enough to break nearly any man - and many of them returned to those same French beaches in the face of machine guns for D-day.

It is a story that holds out an ideal of bravery for English men to follow, and shows those very sons of England answering the call with steadiness - a call without which far, far more men would have died. It is a story of courage snatching, if not victory that day, salvation and eventual victory from defeat.

No lectures on how awful and ableist and racist we were, but an unironic story of bravery and sacrifice and virtue - especially that of the common man - saving the day.

Of course it was chastised for not having enough black people in it. That brings us to:


Ok. Hollywood wanted a black protagonist? Well... you have one. Named just that: protagonist. No other name.

There are a few more spoilers here.

The movie explicitly takes on an anti-nihilist frame - that the future is something worth fighting for. Sator, the antagonist, embodies the view that if he can't have it, no-one will - the world begins and ends with him, and nothing else matters. While there's a bit of over-the-top "standard feminist abusive husband" to Sator's character, his defeat is not through pixie-ninja butt-kicking, and his wife's goal throughout the film is to protect what she can of her family, especially her child.

She also does not cheat on her husband, or sleep with the protagonist.

The female Indian arms dealer, with a throwaway line about her husband as front because it's useful in a man's world, is nevertheless one of the most cold blooded and sociopathic characters in the movie, willing to off any loose ends with little compunction. Looking back, the friendship between the protagonist and Robert Pattinson's Neal displays the most actual heart and sacrifice in the movie - where they not only hew to the usual tropes of the spy genre, but rise above them as well to save those that might be simply discarded as loose ends. They even hang a lampshade on it a couple times by referencing usual protocol before breaking it.

In trying to save humanity, this protagonist is not willing to lose his own any more than he absolutely has to.

It occurs to me that this movie shares an element with Inception in that you can view the backwards-travel, with knowledge of what has already passed, as rewinding a movie, and that you get to see the events, whether in rewind or going forward again, with new eyes and understanding of what is going on, much like rewatching a well crafted film where you already know the twists, but are now looking for the deeper connections between elements you missed the first time.

With the protagonist as a blank, unnamed slate, it also speaks to introspection, the ability to review the past and learn from it. Much like our past can no longer be changed, what has "happened" is presented as something that can still be learned from, but is likely-immutable, at least insofar as the main characters can tell - and handwaving away the consequences of being able to repeatedly loop through a slice of time is the greatest failing of this movie, one that cannot really be avoided due to the nature of time travel stories.

So we have a movie about fighting for the future rather than selfishly destroying everything around one, and learning from the past - the latter, incidentally, requiring that the past be preserved.

We owe an investment of our time and effort in planning for and setting up the future, and the future owes us the duty of preserving the past rather than destroying it.


I'm still not sure where his brother Jonathan and the series Person of Interest fits in. On the one hand, Jonathan was involved in that mess of HBO's Westworld which was a brick-to-the-head obvious woke metaphor from the first episode. On the other, PoI explored, in bits and pieces, the hazards of a panopticonic surveillance state and algorithm, with Jim Caveziel playing one of the two lead roles.


His earlier films may not show it, but as he started tackling heroic roles, Nolan also started to tell us that heroism isn't a chumps game, that war, and courage, valor, not "brave" SJW posturings, are real things worthy unto themselves. That love is real. That the future is worth fighting for, and the past and history must be preserved. Finally, that Hollywood manipulates us.  He does this all while skewering the "humans are a plague" and "make do with less" philosophies behind the environmental movement, praising western civilization, and saying "so you want a black protagonist? hold my beer..."