The Tangle (2019)

In a future Los Angeles, a pervasive complex of interconnected, semi-intelligent nanobots, both in the air and under our skin, keeps everyone permanently online (or ‘on-Tangle’) and under surveillance, modifying our perception of ourselves and the world around us and preventing any acts of violence. A small group of people – mostly geek designers – polices this system in ‘technology safe rooms’ and hazmat-like ‘ghost suits’ that make them immune to the Tangle’s influence. When agent Margot (Mary Jane Wells) dies violently in one of those safe rooms, husband-and-wife agents Edward (Christopher Soren Kelly) and Laurel (Jessica Graham) extract former Tangle designer/poet turned cyber gumshoe Carter (Joshua Bitton) from his plugged-in state and bring him, as their chief suspect, to a safe room for interrogation. After all, Carter had once been romantically entangled with the victim, had been hired to follow her shortly before her death, and was mysteriously off-Tangle when she died, his exact whereabouts unknown.  

“Your neck is already noosed,”  ‘good cop’ Laurel informs Carter in the mannered mode of hardboiled language that characterises The Tangle from start to finish, while her ‘bad cop’ husband and the ‘genocidal cop’ Francesca (Nicole da Silva) try to torture him into confessing to murder, believing him to be in conspiracy with the elusive and deeply mistrusted nanobot grokker Cleopatra. There is, of course, much more to this tangled ‘tec tale. For in his feature debut as writer/director, actor Christopher Soren Kelly (Ink, 2009; Infinity Chamber, 2016) sets a locked-room mystery in a post-singularity world, finding ingenious ways of blending genre intrigue and ambitious ideas, all on a budget. Where technology has allowed – forced even – most people to live in a fantasy Xanadu, here we are confined almost entirely to that world’s shabby back offices, and shown the mindsets of those who create and control its workings – its largely unwatched watchmen and -women. This offers a slippery perspective on our future as all at once utopian and dystopian, paradisiac and paranoid, in what is a wonderfully stylised cyberpunk investigation into the all-too-human ghosts haunting our machines. And oh what a tangled web it weaves.

© Anton Bitel