Despite a lack of weight, the film boasts some strong performances. Branagh, who seemingly spends half of the film with his jaw clenched, is a highlight as the insidious Sator, putting his Shakespearean background to work, fluctuating between highs and lows with complete control, yet total surrender. Pattinson shines once again with another effortlessly nuanced performance, totally embodying Neil as a fully lived-in character moving through his scenes with an impossible calmness and almost otherworldly demeanor as though he’s possibly only a figment of our protagonist’s imagination.
However, Washington as The Protagonist is an odd choice. While he definitely has enough screen presence to carry this film, it’s hard to feel that he’s right for the part. His delivery is never on the mark for the mood that Nolan is going for. When things are casual, he’s too intense. Then when things are serious, he plays it too cool. I love the actor in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, but here he recites lines like he’s reading cue ards. This wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan movie without its share of captivating, jaw dropping, and blissfully haunting twists. And he delivers them here more than ever. However, you might have to replay some scenes over (and over) again in order to get the full effect, but it’s a reward that’s well worth your time.