The Tangle cultivates a world not completely far-fetched. In the near future, the world is completely connected by an airborne nanotech called the Tangle. Along with completely stopping crime, the Tangle has allowed people to retreat into their own personally-crafted spaces. The people of Earth are able to converse across cities simply by speaking into open air, avatars are assigned to each person, the world is searchable, and there are cameras just about everywhere. Think Google Glass™ except it’s embedded into your brain and body.
A few select government agents opted out of the Tangle in order to keep a check on the powerful system. On the outside, they appear cool and collected, but the facade is lifted and tension broken as one of their agents, played by Mary Jane Wells, is violently killed. The film then forms itself around the murder, satisfyingly pulling together the threads of its mysterious, near-future world.
Tucked in a cellar-like space – free from all advanced technology, beyond a dial-up telephone – two agents interrogate Carter Carmine (Joshua Bitton), a leading computer scientist that the agents are convinced was involved in the murder. For good portions of the film, this is our setting and interactions: suitably claustrophobic and tense.
The agents – who are also married – have history with Carter, as they were all part of the Tangle’s creation. Edward (played by director, Christopher Soren Kelly) and Laurel (Jessica Graham) find themselves questioning the world they help monitor, as they attempt to solve the first murder in years – a premise reminiscent of Minority Report. While the film never really leans into this “first murder in years” angle, it does hone in on the interrogation of Carter in a tense, close-knit quarters as their interpersonal tangles comes to light.
From the ‘50s-style clothing and mechanics, The Tangle‘s noir roots are well-established. Understandably, then, the dialogue is snappy and deeply verbose – with run-ons and metaphors galore. Your enjoyment might well depend on your own threshold for that kind of gumshoe gumption (mine’s pretty high, so I was completely in for the ride). The actors’ delivery of their purple speeches and quips completes the experience – although I will admit, some of the solo poetry deliveries, like one included in the trailer, did make me a little wary. Nicole da Silva, playing a fellow intimidating agent, easily gives some of my favorite deliveries in the entire film – wielding a violently fun energy as she shatters the composure of some of the more collected characters.
Consistently throughout, I found myself more invested in the world than the murder. Whenever characters went deep into their conversations, I was trying to figure out more of the universe’s mechanics and rules (which were sadly left a little under-explained). I admired the set, too: the gadgets and the old-school mechanics, even if I had no idea what their exact use was.
That belief is one of the glaring gaps in watching The Tangle – not only are we piecing together the murder, but we are also losing ourselves in the world that has been created, and so I was often left confused over some of the character conflicts. That being said, however, there are certain scenes that genuinely made me gasp out loud.
The film leaves you questioning its actual stance on the themes of over-connectivity and surveillance that we are grappling with in our own contemporary word. And with these current worries over privacy, The Tangle actually seems surprisingly forgiving – opting against the “tech is bad” mantra that other films of its type often engage in.
The Tangle presents its viewer with a compelling case and a stylish set. While not everything ultimately aligns, its engagement with the noir genre is done in a way that feels both familiar and fresh.