By DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Joshua Bitton, Christopher Soren Kelly, Jessica Graham and Nicole da Silva
Written and Directed by Christopher Soren Kelly
Transhumanism advocates for the advancement of humankind by introducing all sorts of wacky technology into our bodies; stuff that will make us live longer, be smarter and most of all, keep us happy. Making sure humans always act in their own best interest is the core concept of THE TANGLE, which has an interconnected network of nanobots weaving all humans together, unable to cause harm to others or ourselves. In this seemingly utopian world, an impossible murder has taken place. It is up to four suspects to uncover how this is possible, and the far reaching implications it has for the now interwoven world.
The film starts with Carter Carmine (Joshua Bitton, The Pacific, The Night Of) being interrogated by Agents of Simple Purity, or A.S.P. We learn that he is being held in a technology-free room, away from the ever watchful eye of the Tangle, and he has had his own personal hard drive surgically removed from his brain. He is the chief suspect in the murder of an agent, Margot, who was found with her brains bashed in while locked inside another technology-free room. Carter is a suspect not only because he helped design the Tangle, and would therefore have the technological know-how to become invisible to it, but he was also following the agent right before she was murdered. This is doubly suspicious because he had a previous romantic infatuation with Margot, which is complicated by the fact that he was also hired, in his capacity as a private detective, to follow her.
We quickly learn that his two interrogators, Edward Banderas (Christopher Soren Kelly, Infinity Chamber, Ink) and Laurel Arrow (Jessica Graham, Murder Made Easy, Monkeys) are married, but the marriage seems strained. Perhaps part of the problem is that Edward was having an affair with Margot, and Laurel was the one who had hired Carter to follow her. So now all three characters have now been outed as suspects, which doesn’t put anyone a single step closer to figuring out how a murder took place in a locked room, in a world where violence is rendered obsolete.
As new technological loopholes are revealed, like hazmat suits that make you invisible to the Tangle, or a cleansing spray that destroys the nanobots in your blood, or how romantic partners can open up their personal firewalls to allow others access to their hard-drive, a clearer picture is painted as to how something like this might be pulled off, but the true motive is the last missing piece. As it becomes clear that the sentient being that is in control of the Tangle, Cleopatra, is behind the murders, the agents of A.S.P. reveal that they alone hold the ability to shut down the whole system for good, a failsafe they have had should the Tangle ever prove to be less than beneficial to mankind.
Obviously, as a mystery, the ending is the best part, so we won’t discuss it here, but it’s a doozy. What makes it all the more satisfying is the presence of clues early in the film, making the end solvable to the armchair detectives in the audience, a feature missing from many modern mysteries. THE TANGLE is a fascinating sci-fi concept, a great character study and a satisfying mystery all wrapped into one stylish package.
A great element of the film is its retro-futurism, with rotary phones and typewriters decorating the singular set of the interrogation room, since avoiding modern technology is how the agents keep out from under the Tangle. It’s a great way of keeping budget low on a high concept science fiction piece, while also having a distinct and fun visual. This is especially satisfying when the technology to destroy the Tangle is revealed to be some steampunk collection of gears and keys, an amazing set piece.
As an homage to detective films of old, the dialogue is amazingly anachronistic, with people saying nonsense like “peachy keen” while discussing nanobots and artificial intelligence. It’s a beautiful and jarring bit of juxtaposition that truly gives THE TANGLE a unique feel, unlike anything seen before. There aren’t a lot of films to compare this to, so if you have genre fatigue from being locked inside during the pandemic, this film should give you something so fresh you’ll have trouble classifying it. This is an amazing first feature length film for Christopher Soren Kelly, who pulls triple duty as Writer, Director and co-star. While it’s usually a detriment to have directors or writers star in their own films, Kelly knew what his acting chops could pull off, and he suits the role perfectly, never distracting from the quality of the film, and never self inserting out of narcissism.
It’s a mystery, it’s a science fiction exploration of transhumanism, it’s a whole lot more. THE TANGLE defies classification, but the only thing that is certain is that you’ll love it.
THE TANGLE hits VOD March 19th, 2021 from Indie Rights.