PopcornIdeology’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tenet, the film we have all been anxiously waiting for, the film we have seen go through delay after delay, the film that has stood as a glimmering beacon of hope for movie theaters and contemporary cinema as a whole. Going into the film I couldn't help but be wary of all the mediocre to bad reviews I'd see being thrown around online, however I went in with an open mind and (unfortunately) open ears. By the end of the film I was convinced the people that love this film would dismiss my review as "someone who doesn't understand" it's complexity or discredit me as a "Nolan bandwagon hater." Those that hated the film may criticize me for being too soft on the film or for giving it a higher rating based on movie theater sentimentality. All I can say is at the end of the day the film I've yearned for was meh at best. Now that this lengthy and unnecessary introduction is out of the way I'll do what Nolan is best at and elaborate for way too long.
The first half of the movie is bad, plain and simple. It's ridiculously bad. You get whiplash from jumping from exposition dump to exposition dump, random side character to Michael Caine, random location around the world to another random location. All the while you are bombarded with so much overwhelming information that it feels nearly impossible to keep up. Then to keep you on your toes Nolan blares the soundtrack as loud as he possibly can to make sure you don't fall asleep. Characters feel undeveloped, the pacing is atrocious, and the dialogue is bland. John David Washington does his best with what he's given but he's not given much besides being a stereotypical "good guy." The dynamics of the inversion are lazily explained and quickly buried by a bunch of random story progressions. Probably the most frustrating aspect of the first half of the film is a lot of stuff is explained, but really not much is understood. I think the main problem with the first hour of the film is Nolan tries to focus on so many different things at once. It really feels like a mile wide and an inch deep.
Going into the second half of the film I was praying things would get better, and they did, not as much as I would've hoped but they did get better. Nolan excels at set pieces, I would argue he's the best spectacle director of all time, and in this regard I didn't think Tenet disappointed. Now the action sequences themselves were kind of lame, the tame PG-13 chloroform and chokeholds grew old fast, but some of the things he was able to pull off were really brilliant. There was a small stretch of time in the second act that I really thought Nolan was going to pull it off, but again I just felt let down. As the final act played out I wasn't really sure what was happening. Is it because the explanation for the entire last 20 minutes was hastily explained over loud music and with shitty and confusing diagrams? Probably yes. Is it possible it would make more sense on a second viewing? Certainly. Which brings me to my final point.
The main argument I will see from people is "this is a film you have to watch more than once to understand." This is true, but it's not entirely because the film's premise is confusing, more because the way it's descirbed and later demonstrated are needlessly overcomplicated and poorly explained. If Nolan would've spent more time showing how things work, developing the two main leads, and less time shoe horning pseudo dramatic characters and storylines, I think Tenet could've lived up to it's lofty expectations. I'll talk about them in the future once more people have seen the film, but there was one character specifically that to me really fucked the movie's entire focus, and I'm sure if you watch it you'll get an idea of who it is.
When I started writing this I was considering giving it a 7.0, but I've essentially talked my way down to a high 6. It's not a bad film whatsoever, however the terrible first half and convoluted and formulaic climax overshadow the few moments in the film that I thought were great. My rating is probably higher than my review would suggest, but that's mainly because with film's like these I feel obligated to go into detail as to why I didn't like it rather than what I did like. There were still a lot of great moments, but this is easily one of Nolan's weaker films.
6.8 / 10