Hollywood Treatment Awaits Country With Knack for Catching Spies


(Bloomberg) -- Ex-communist Europe’s spy-catcher-in-chief is attracting attention from Hollywood.

Once part of the Soviet Union, Estonia has in recent years unmasked nearly 20 Russian spooks, including the 2008 capture of a high-ranking defense official whose activities were deemed among the most serious snooping on NATO since the Cold War.

Now, the Baltic nation of 1.3 million people is buzzing with talk that Christopher Nolan -- director of Inception and Dunkirk -- will include Tallinn alongside locations in the U.K. and Italy for his new movie, Tenet. Little is known about the plot of the film, beyond its espionage theme. It’s set to hit theaters in July 2020.

Hollywood Treatment Awaits Country With Knack for Catching Spies

Prime Minister Juri Ratas wants Estonia and its capital to “be visible for years,” telling reporters this month that the push “is about attracting tourists over the long term.”

As well as the added attention, Tenet could net Estonia 16 million euros ($18 million), according to the country’s culture minister.

Other parts of eastern Europe have been down a similar road. Lithuania was a key location for HBO’s hit mini-series, Chernobyl. Croatia’s port city of Dubrovnik has featured in Star Wars and serves as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.

But that city could also offer a warning to Tallinn after huge volumes fans flocking to visit prompted a backlash.

Welcome Boost

Estonia’s tourism industry, which accounts for about 7% of the economy, would welcome a shot in the arm right now. Hikes in alcohol duties have been denting arrivals from neighboring Finland, where booze is much more expensive.

Recent events in the country would slot nicely into a spy yarn. Five years ago, Russian agents crossed the two countries’ border and used stun grenades to help swipe a local security-service officer.

He was whisked back to Moscow and sentenced to 15 years in prison before being exchanged in a swap that resembles the one in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.

Nolan’s movie is already causing controversy. The director has asked that a road connecting Tallinn’s biggest suburb to the city center be closed for a month. Ratas has said an agreement can be reached with minimal traffic congestion.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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