If that raises the question of why Nolan has yet to make a film that deals explicitly with the film business, the answer is that he almost did. Twenty years ago, he drafted a screenplay about Howard Hughes, the billionaire engineer and Hollywood mogul, which he has called “the best script I’ve ever written”. He was due to direct it, with Jim Carrey in the starring role, until Martin Scorsese’s Hughes biopic, The Aviator, got in the way. But as recently as 2017, Nolan said that the film was one “I still intend to make one day”.
For now we can look forward to the imminent arrival – touch wood – of Tenet, in which John David Washington’s hero learns about a mysterious time-reversal procedure. The trailer shows how Nolan put that procedure on screen: he filmed some footage of a ship cutting through an ocean and a car tumbling down a road, and then he ran that footage backwards. It’s simple, it’s spine-tingling, and it couldn’t be done in a book, a play, or a comic. That’s what makes Tenet a quintessential Nolan project. It’s pure cinema.
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