nolan of palo alto’s review published on Letterboxd:
Big movie. Big screen. Didn't love it.
Chris Nolan at his most indulgent, messy, annoying, hilarious, vulgar, and LOOOOUUUUDDDD. At this point, he is channeling modern Michael Mann. He basically remade HEAT when he did THE DARK KNIGHT and now he has gone full out BLACKHAT with a touch of Richard Kelly's SOUTHLAND TALES. At least TENET has some visual flair though even if it lacks any sophistication.
First of all, the sound mix was straight-up bad and what people have been saying is true. Sometimes I wouldn't mind it too much if the elements of the surrounding environments were hindering the inaudible dialogue, but most of the time it's the overwhelming score, and even if it was the environment, the characters are ALWAYS speaking at normal volume as if they can hear each other perfectly. This feels like a parody. What we get are countless moments that take me out of the film. This also isn't Robert Altman's chaotic and overlapping dialogue painting a portrait of a culture validating why the dialogue is incomprehensible. This is a plot driven espionage picture requiring an understanding of what's going on. One character does say "Don't try to understand it. Just feel it." which would be true if I was watching an impressive action scene, those of which are stunning even though there is ZERO tension. Also, the sound is LOUD pretty much 100% of the time and had me on the verge of covering my ears. This is mostly warranted for me during many of the grand moments where the action and large set pieces take over... yet every damn scene is loud. When everything is loud then nothing is loud for me. Nothing is emphasized. In other words, if the sound had more contrast between quiet exposition scenes and loud car chases, the film would A) be easier to understand and B) have even more engrossing action scenes. The dialogue is full-on Nolan exposition and while I thought it didn't have the cringe lines of something like INTERSTELLAR or THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, part of me thinks there are more hilarious lines in this and I just missed them because of the awful sound mix.
The characters are Boring with a capital B and it is absolutely hilarious that the protagonist's name is The Protagonist. The only character that is somewhat entertaining to watch is the villain but only in a semi-ironic, vulgar way. The pros of this film are as expected the solid technical elements such as the cinematography, editing, and in-camera effects. Just in case, if you didn't know that everything is practical, look up any video of Chris Nolan talking. He REALLY wants you to know. Anyways, much of this contributes towards some jaw-dropping action scenes that are not as good as they should be because of the boring characters, bad sound mix, and messy plot. The opening scene for example is great even if it doesn't make sense. It's hard not to commend the impressive scope of this thing though and much of the inversion effects were pretty cool even if the red room in Twin Peaks draws in more of my attention. Seriously though, I felt very little tension in this especially when reflecting on Nolan's other films. Characters chat about the end of the world in TENET, yet I could never feel any of the stakes (I could understand it but I couldn't feel it). So yeah... fucking TENET lads. I definitely could see me admiring this more or less down the road. I highly doubt I'll see it again in cinemas though because of the pandemic as well as my lack of excitement for a rewatch currently. A blu ray watch with subtitles will be next!