Which Christopher Nolan Film Did His Peloton Instructor Insult?

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Photographs: Getty Images, Peleton; Collage: Gabe Conte

At an unspecified time in the recent past, Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan hopped on his Peloton bike for a routine workout and was confronted instead with an artistic flambéing.

As Variety reported yesterday, when Nolan won the best director prize at the New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony, he used his acceptance speech to opine on film criticism and shared an anecdote about a spin class that got unwittingly personal.

“I was on my Peloton. I’m dying,” he said. “And the instructor started talking about one of my films and said, ‘Did anyone see this? That’s a couple hours of my life I’ll never get back again!'”

“When [film critic] Rex Reed takes a shit on your film he doesn’t ask you to work out!” Nolan continued. “In today’s world, where opinions are everywhere, there is a sort of idea that film criticism is being democratized, but I for one think the critical appreciation of films shouldn’t be an instinct but it should be a profession.”

This raises some questions: What is the role of the artist in society? What is the role of the critic? Does Christopher Nolan wear athleisure? Did the instructor know Christopher Nolan was in the class? (Probably not. They can only see usernames, and we’re guessing his wasn’t ChristopherNolanDirector70.) And, most importantly, which Nolan film did the unnamed Peloton instructor insult—in, what we’re assuming, was nonetheless a peppy and inspiring tone?

Let’s narrow it down. [Top starts spinning.]

The British director has made 12 movies total. If, according to the instructor, this was “a couple hours of my life I’ll never get back again,” the phrase “a couple” allows us to at least eliminate several Nolan films purely by length.

Much was made of Oppenheimer’s three-hour runtime, so that can be knocked out. We can also safely cut Interstellar (2 hours 49 minutes), The Dark Knight Rises (2 hours 44 minutes), and The Dark Knight (2 hours 32 minutes). On the other end of the spectrum, let’s get rid of Following (1 hour 7 minutes).

Leaving some wiggle room of 30 minutes on each side of the two-hour mark, we’ve got Tenet (2 hours 30 minutes), Inception (2 hours 28 minutes), Batman Begins (2 hours 20 minutes), The Prestige (2 hours 10 minutes), Insomnia (1 hour 58 minutes), Memento (1 hour 53 minutes), and Dunkirk (1 hour 46 minutes).

Next, let’s consider when Peloton was booming: in 2020 and 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread and at-home workouts became all the rage. Do you remember the mass Peloton shipping delays? Mr. Big dying of a heart attack on his Peloton in the opening episode of And Just Like That? Wags on Billions having a heart attack on his Peloton a few weeks later? We were at Peak Peloton.

Around that time, there was one new Nolan film out: Tenet, starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson. Its opening was delayed by the pandemic, and while it was released in U.S. theaters in September 2020, most people didn’t see it until it hit HBO Max in May of 2021. It was also generally not enthusiastically reviewed.

Do I want to believe that the Peloton instructor had some thoughts on 2006’s magician drama The Prestige or 2017’s World War II epic Dunkirk that they really wanted to air out on the bike? Sure. But, realistically, they probably just saw Tenet and needed to get some stuff off their chest. Such as: what the hell was Tenet about?

Mystery Peloton instructor: GQ has the answer. Now drop your Letterboxd.

Update: The Peloton community has cracked the case, and it turns out we were more right than we could possibly have imagined. Feel the burn, Christopher Nolan. Feel the burn.

Originally Appeared on GQ

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