Tenet ★★★★

In many ways, I think Cristopher Nolan’s latest film is a culmination of the director’s best qualities. In others, I think it’s a culmination of his worst. That being said, the best qualities in this film are so damn impressive they overshadow the underwhelming (or overwhelming) ones and greatly tip the scale toward the positive side for me. Or maybe I’m more forgiving due to the extensive longing for a grand cinematic experience I’ve been neglected of since March. Whatever it is, I enjoyed the hell out of Tenet. 

Tenet is by far and away Nolan’s most divisive film and even his most hardcore fans would agree - and I can see why. 

It is definitely his most inaccessible film. Many claim films like Inception or Interstellar to be too complex and hard to follow. To me, they are perfectly easy to follow if you just pay attention. Tenet is the film I think would fall on that category. Comparatively, I was paying close attention to every set-up, every dialogue (whatever the sound-mixing let you hear at least,) and every exposition dump, and I still have a hard time grasping what the hell happened in some of this film. 

The first half was hard to follow, not because of the fancy “time-inverstion” extravaganza but because these characters’ motives and missions are all over the place. We follow them to point A, then to point B, then C and D, all the way through Z, without any clear indication of what they’re doing. I get that Nolan wants to create mystery within the narrative and slowly pull the threads together as the film develops, but you gotta give us something. I don’t want to watch the entire first hour of a film and feel completely stupid. It was the second half of this film were things really started to excite me. It’s like getting a cube of ice as an appetizer, and then an entire killer whale as the main course. 

I was (surprisingly) able to attach to Washington’s character, which is mind -blowing to me given how he was barely a character. He feels more like a vessel to propel the plot forward. He’s a very passive character, things sorta just happen to him. But this is Nolan, and it is pretty much the director’s staple at this point to have a plot-driven movie with underdeveloped characters. But I guess Washington is too damn charming I didn’t mind as much as I did in films like Inception. 

Now for the positives: 

That entire second half is absolutely breath-taking, it presents visuals I’ve never seen on screen, and it presents them in such an expert way it is absolutely mind-boggling how Nolan was able to bring all this visual spectacle forward and make it fit so naturally in the narrative without feeling even a tad-bit janky. It was absolutely glorious. There are visuals of people fighting with time-inverted people, different parts of their environment interact with different points in time, different groups of people fighting for middle-ground, each experiencing time in the complete opposite way -  yet all these headache-inducing concepts are presented so naturally without ever loosing the bombastic flashiness. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. 

It is definitely Nolan’s most ambitious film to date, and while I get a lot of the complaints I see from other moviegoers (myself agreeing with some of them) I can’t fathom how someone can watch these action sequences on screen and not be floored. 

In true Nolan fashion, you know he loves to pull that rug from underneath you and present the same narrative forward in the second half through its truth, which completely changes the course of the film through a reveal that makes you see the film through a different perspective. He did it beautifully with Memento, but may I say he probably topped this aspect of his filmmaking with Tenet? 

A lot of people say: “The best films make you forget you’re watching a film”. And I agree, but what about the other side of the coin? I would also say the best films REMIND you you’re watching a film. Because Tenet did just that, it reminded me I was watching a film because I had to stop at some point in that third act and think to myself: “How the shit was this made? How did he do that, and that? And that?!” And there I was contemplatively picturing how all the moving parts were edited together and in what sequence they were shot.

And the score is absolutely brilliant. Oftentimes annoying, because the massive percussion, enough to turn your seat into a giant vibrator, would play during many dialogue sequences and completely test your patience, but nonetheless, excellent work with the score.

Tenet - The janky first half might be a lot for your patience, but once the Nolan takes you were it all matters, you’ll find yourself drooling over the visual spectacle and marveling over the components of a grand picture that you have not experienced in a theater before. 80

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