Ollie Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd:
First things first: Tenet in IMAX is worth the experience. The moment when the first image fills the massive screen, the music breaks your eardrums from the pure volume and the whole room starts vibrating because the speakers are so bloody huge, you know it's worth the price. Christopher Nolan specialises in films that give you experience. It doesn't matter whether it's shit or incredible, sitting down and becoming fully engrossed in the magic of cinema is a feeling I will forever replicate, never growing tired of it. So today, after driving 1.5 hours to see Tenet at an IMAX screening, I can safely and confidently say: it was a mind-blowing experience.
Without a doubt Nolan's most complex and sophisticated film to date, Tenet is a challenging and adventurous film, allowing viewers to experience an indisputable mindfuckery as you constantly try to piece together pieces of the elaborate puzzle. It challenges you as a watcher - encouraging you to work out things for yourself, allotting to leave out exposition where it might have been needed. Not to say there's none. There's still the typical "characters-walk-through-luscious-setting-giving-exposition-under-the-guise-of-them-discussing-something" which Nolan loves so much - *cough* Inception. And I'm fine with that. It's definitely necessary for some moments and, if you were to ask me what happened scene by scene, I'd struggle to piece together a coherent answer because Tenet is a confusing movie. It's layered with complex threads, but encompasses ingenious storytelling and, for me, had some serious wow factors. Even so, it just doesn't live up to Nolan's standards - which are ridiculously high, in his defence.
The characters are slightly emotionless and feel devoid of personalities. Dedicating a lot of time to the central concept is a bold move and, as a result, the character development falters. John David Washington is a bit of a badass but didn't do that much for me. Pattinson is fabulous though (can't wait for The Batman). Still, there was no reason for me to be invested in them. Tenet plays out like your stereotypical spy thriller in this regard: you root for the "good guy" because... well he's "good". And, with some films, this is fine; however, I find myself disappointed with this from Nolan. Especially since I'm coming off having watched both Interstellar and Inception recently - where the spectacle never dwindles despite significant focus on emotion.
Also, whilst I can praise the IMAX speakers as much as I want for keeping me constantly vibrating with the action, I feel I have to mention the sound design (and production design slightly) failing on numerous occasions. Dialogue is disregarded, with Nolan choosing to allow more prominence for sound effects and music. In an already confusing story, the dialogue becomes incredibly difficult to understand in action sequences (where the music plays loudly). What's more, any moments where characters wear masks is immediately discounted in regard to whether you can understand their words.
But, and this is a big but: I had a blast watching Tenet. It was a fantastic experience. And so while my expectations were slightly too high, it still proved to be an absolute rollercoaster of a journey with many genuinely fantastic specks of cinematic magic. I felt it was necessary to avoid spoilers for the moment; so targeting specific moments of brilliance will come with subsequent revisits and later reviews - hopefully I'll be able to get my head around it all by then!