Christopher Nolan has put so much effort into ensuring that each of his films falls on movie theaters with the rotundity of an atomic bomb that no one should be surprised that his new work is, precisely, a biopic about Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who, after witnessing the first detonation of his diabolical invention, quoted the Bhagavad Gita saying: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” As bad as the somewhat arrogant director of Tenet may be for his detractors, it is worth repressing the temptation to establish automatic similes: in likelihood, the only world that the filmmaker would love to destroy is that of those streaming platforms that, when the silence of confinement was still resounding, pressured him so that his previous blockbuster could be enjoyed — or endured — in homes as well as in theaters.
Nolan won that battle, but Warner paid dearly for its defiance — and its entente with HBO Max — losing one of its most lucrative directors, who signed with Universal but not before including draconian clauses in his contract such as the one that prevents the studio from releasing any other film three weeks before and after Oppenheimer hits theaters to fulfill its promise to make the viewer experience the sensation of being in the very heart of a nuclear explosion.
Nolan likes ambivalent and contradictory figures, as his fondness for the Dark Knight has already shown, perhaps because he is as much a superhero as he is a supervillain: a messianic figure for those who ask the cinema-spectacle for epistemological packaging and a demon for those who yearn for lightweight distractions. What cannot be denied is that his singular touch affects the very marrow of the seventh art, which, since its origins, has been an artistic discipline whose essence is time, which Nolan twists, stretches, expands, compresses, accelerates and conjugates in reverse, leaving the doubt in the air as to whether one is witnessing a prestigious trickster or a master of the final trick.
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