Tenet ★★★½

Pretty violently mixed on this film. Some random non-spoilerish thoughts (although if you're a rasa type, stop reading):

* I think the "humourless" aspect is at least somewhat off-beam: between at least a half-dozen lines of Pattinson's, Caine's line about the English and snobbery, and Branagh icing a guy by breaking his windpipe with a gold bar, then checking his pulse on a FitBit, I had a few giggles. (Plus: bungee-jumping! You don't get that shit in a Bergman film!) I suspect if you sat next to Nolan at a screening, he'd be chuckling more than anyone else.

* Lots of fear that the dialogue would be inaudible, but I found this clearer than either TDKR or DUNKIRK, except where it clearly wasn't supposed to be clear, either because the key information was to be recapitulated many other times (the speedboat scene, which is about something else entirely than exposition) or will literally be revisited later in the scene (a later Branagh/Washington scene through a glass window). That said, I saw it at Auckland IMAX and that shit was loud; I'm not surprised that at a lower volume it might all compress to mush.

* Christopher Nolan's action keeps pushing the edges of PG-13, and there are moments of this that made me wish he'd do a hard-R action film with no grand conceit. If I had the power to give him FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS, that would be two of them. (All-female leads, sub 100 minutes, and strict linear time with no cross-cutting would be the other three.)

* Basically, until Elizabeth Debicki shows up, I fucking loved this film. I don't blame her, although between this and THE NIGHT MANAGER I literally never want to see her as the beautiful trophy wife of an arms dealer who another man becomes obsessed with ever. (Let her be in comedy! She's fucking great at it!) But her whole storyline feels just like a terrible convoluted mismatch with everything else, and bogs things down for ages with countless exposition and dialogue scenes that I could not give a shit about.

* I've being spoiler-averse, but let's talk about her legendarily terrible line of dialogue, "including my son", for a moment. First of all: it is terrible, and I laughed out loud. Second of all: it underlines both where Nolan was going thematically and why it doesn't work. By the end of the film, it's pretty explicit that Nolan's evoking the idea that if we keep ruining the Earth for future generations, it will come back to haunt us. So I expect that the notion of Debicki's relationship with her son is to posit the opposite and show an example of caring for future generations, their survival mattering. But boiled into the dramaturgical structure of this, conflating end times with "OMG my son will die" is just sheer narcissism.

* But maybe that's the point. I feel like there's a critique of materialism and narcissism that runs through the film, albeit one that's not adroitly handled, but one that ties into a blindness that the rich have in our present times to the effects their actions have on the future.

* There's probably a lot of arguments like this you could make for literally every line of dialogue and moment, but honestly, a lot of it was just fucking boring, and I wish there'd been a less convoluted plot structure to get us to the action scenes.

* But Jesus, those action scenes. Nolan in some ways does himself a disservice by making everything look so easy in the way he shoots things; he rarely overemphasizes just how crazy it is that he's combining forward and backward motion. Still not sure I comprehend how driving in backwards time works, and some of the cross cutting between different directions hurt my brain, but Nolan handles it in a way that I trust that he does. And even the small things on this front are terrific, like Washington fighting his way out of a kitchen and cheese-gratering a guy. We're a long long way from whatever the hell BATMAN BEGINS was on this front.

* A shame that the final action scene has to cross cut with a Debicki scene which grinds the rhythm to a halt, not helped by some weird staging that feels written for a location with a different spatial layout but comes off as a bit implausible given the proximity of the characters..

* Robert Pattinson: MVP. Most pleasant surprise: Branagh, managing to keep his performance almost entirely the correct side of ham despite myriad opportunities not to. Biggest disappointment: Martin Donovan literally only has one scene as captain exposition. Ah well, at least he got to shine in COME TO DADDY.

* Really loved Goransson's score, although the auto-tune vocal crap over the credits was a bit, well, crap.

Doug liked this review