Tenet

Tenet ★★½

Inception but better. You gotta keep paying attention, and that's work, not because the plot is complex but because the exposition is boring. Michael Caine's obligatory cameo character is just called Sir Michael, as if Nolan said, hey, let's not pretend he's playing an actual character. The fact that he's Sir Michael is what his scene is about; it's what Blake Snyder called the Pope in the Pool: the element of entertainment that's meant to keep the audience's attention during bone dry dialogue. It doesn't work.

I guess calling the character Sir Michael has the same thematic relevance as John David Washington's character being called the Protagonist. These characters are never more than devices in a mechanical plot. That would have been fine if the story had been told a bit better. More visually, you know, like a movie.

The only character with some inner conflict and motivation beyond 'our job is to save the world' is Kenneth Branagh's villain, and his motivation is spelled out repeatedly. I don't know why Nolan wanted to embarrass Branagh by making him try to speak in a Russian accent, but I'm sure the line 'If I can't have you, no one can' wouldn't have been any less unacceptably literal and derivative in an accent that Branagh can do.

Technically it's all great.

People who say 'thingception!' when there's a thing within a thing will say 'thingversion!' when a thing goes backwards.

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