Alex Garland is such a mixed bag for me. I really didn’t enjoy Annihilation (2018) (though I’ll need to rewatch it some time, because everything about it appeals to me in theory), I very much liked (but not loved) Ex Machina (2015), and Dredd (2012) was decent – which is better than I had expected it to be. Up until now I didn’t know he also wrote the novel that The Beach (2000)1 is based on, a movie I remember enjoying very much (though I’m not sure it would hold up on a rewatch). I’ll have to read that book!
His latest work, Devs, is the best thing he’s done so far. I had no idea what it was about, and I hadn’t even realized it’s a mini-series. I’ve had heard good things, so I already decided to wait for more seasons to be finished before giving it a shot. Turns out, the entire show is already finished. So I gave it a shot. And I couldn’t have picked a better time2 to watch this than right after Tenet – especially at the beginning there is quite some thematic overlap.
It’s not a perfect show by any means, but there is much to love. For example, Nick Offerman! But the most striking thing about the show was its sound design and score. It had amazing visuals too, but even a few days afterwards I still hear the show inside my head. (To be fair, right now I’m obviously also hearing it because my HomePod is playing the official score.) Odd and eerie sounds, mashed into energetic rhythms… sometimes it almost felt like any second would be the moment where it crosses over into a Fatboy Slim song. It never did, instead it faded and left you longing for that conclusion your mind anticipated. Just like all the characters in the show are longing for something. I’d suggest to go into it with as little knowledge as possible, so I’ll quote Samantha Nelson’s review for The Verge as a brief summary:
The series starts as a conspiracy thriller involving international spies and remarkably accurate depictions of hacking, but it evolves into a deeply philosophical story about the nature of the universe and free will.
It’s a very slow burn, but with just eight episodes clocking in at a total runtime of about 6.5 hours it was hard for me to not finish it in one sitting. It really is similar to Tenet in its uniqueness as well – certainly not for everyone, but if it’s for you, you’ll love it!