Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 18th, 2021
The Tangle (Christopher Soren Kelly, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
In many moments, director Christopher Soren Kelly’s film makes a plethora of positive first impressions, promising a stunning near-future experience and boasting an articulate, novel approach to the science-fiction genre. The subtle onscreen scientific advancements appease the viewer as creative visual effects, and the story and its characters weave together to create a small flare of mystery and drama. Overall, however, The Tangle attempts to generate high sci-fi concepts with minimalist production value and lukewarm direction, making an otherwise fascinating premise feel less than superior in delivery.
The Tangle tells the story of a world where nanobots have become an everyday implantation into the human brain. The world is “plugged into” a network of nano-organisms called the “Tangle,” which control a human being’s very existence: his/her movements, visuals, and every other element of their reality. A scientific team called the ASP (Army of Simply Purity) oversees the Tangle, while the Tangle itself keeps the world in harmonious balance. When a member of the ASP is murdered, the team is panicked as they search to find the culprit to the murder, an act only possible by one of the science-team members themselves.
The basic story of The Tangle does a sufficient job in moving the concept forward from start to finish, and the accompanying acting and direction certainly have a strong enough impact to keep the viewer invested. The major issue is that director (and lead star) Kelly creates an intriguing concept around a world controlled by nanobots (very similar to the “wool over their eyes” theme found in films such as The Matrix) and then immediately tunnel-visions the narrative to encompass only a few key characters and a few minimalistic settings. For the majority of the film, the sci-fi elements are somewhat ignored, and a drama/mystery takes over the main ideas of the story. This leads to a film that’s far less interesting than the originally established themes, which snags on some rather disappointing halts in pace and ideas.
As an overall work of cinema, The Tangle does in fact establish a unique setting, and is able to keep the viewer invested in a basic whodunit storyline, with a few surprises to boost us into the falling action of the film. I can definitely see The Tangle inspiring many other “nanobot” sub-genre films, hopefully ones that explore the scientific aspects of nanotechnologies and the various ways science fiction (in a sci-fi film) can drive the overall narrative. It just seems a shame that Kelly only explores this fascinating concept for brief periods of time. The few scenes where we see a character “unveil” themselves from the Tangle and show us the real world are truly stunning visual achievements, and really establish how virtually deceiving the Tangle makes society. In the same way, The Tangle has the potential to open viewer’s eyes on the virtual world we find ourselves in as a society. As it is, the film settles merely for a murder mystery, with a terrific sci-fi element in the background.