Jake’s review published on Letterboxd:
Does a half star rating seem hyperbolic? Sure. Do I care? Absolutely not.
Its just so fucking smug. So convinced of its own intelligence. So INFURIATING in its desperation to be edgy and innovative that it ends up being inane and really fucking stupid... even though it attempts to tell you how smart it is for THE WHOLE RUNTIME. (WHICH CONSISTS SOLELY OF BORING PERFUNCTORY EXPOSITION!)
The only Nolan movie I disliked before this was Inception, and it feels like he took everything that made Inception drive me mad and amplified it by twenty billion to make a movie ENGINEERED to piss off those who dare enjoy film on any level beyond ‘vibes’ or whatever people who jizz themselves silly about movies like Miami Vice measure their enjoyment by. Tenet here is an emotionally cold, boringly directed, adequately acted, and spectacle-less spectacle ‘experience’ that does not provide me with other the slightest bit of what I look for in film or in art as a whole. A bunch of generic action scenes that I am SURE took time and love to craft and choreograph, but the problem is that they’re so badly filmed it really doesn’t matter. The hand to hand combat in this film looks like it’s right out of Batman Begins back when Nolan didn’t know how to do action scenes. It’s shaky, generic, bloodless, and devoid of impact. The time gimmick this time around is the true main character, an element the script EXPLICITLY TELLS you is something you, AND I QUOTE: ‘shouldn’t think about’ and just go with it. Nolan has abandoned any inherent advantage his gimmicks might bring him like they did so masterfully in films like Memento. I am still in awe that a man whose built his entire career on a overexplaining literally everything in his labyrinthine screenplays (a problem he creates for himself, more often than not!) had the audacity to look his audience dead in the eye and say ‘that thing I keep talking about endlessly in this? Yeah don’t think about it. Even as I keep telling you about it for the sake of context’- make up your fucking mind, man!
The characters are flatter than bargain value post-it notes. The actors are given a wasteland of a script that contains no personality, no defining character moments, and no humanity. And I thought the characters in INCEPTION were flat! This movie says ‘hold my fucking beer’ and stretches out these nothing people in this nothing story for two and a half hours and I know nothing about them. No one WANTS anything. No one FEELS anything, and if they did, they sure as fuck didn’t communicate it to the audience! The story is devoid of meaning, devoid of theme, devoid of EMOTION to the extent where I have to wonder how the fuck anyone can enjoy it. I felt nothing, I am exasperated, and I am so glad I didn’t pay to see this fucking thing and risk my life to watch something I loathed from start to finish.
Then there’s Debicki, who, like the others, is devoid of character or life, but doesn’t even get the ‘Nolan fridge’ treatment, she is SOLELY defined by her trauma, just her suffering at the hands of a man. Used only to try and inject empathy by constantly making her suffer and be put in pain to drive the plot. Stiffly acted as though she were as lifeless as any other Nolan leading lady, though her turn here makes Katie Holmes in Batman Begins look like Meryl Streep. For God’s sake, EMOTE. PLEASE.
Nolan’s worst film by a wide margin. It contains nothing but artifice, but even that is empty and boring. I can’t even say it’s well made. It may be impressively put together, but NONE of this effort shows, and is only furthered by the same-y score and cinematography. It was painful and laborious in every way, and I cannot think of a single solitary compliment I can afford it. It is exhausting, baffling, soulless, bloated, vapid, and most important, devoid of any humanity. It feels antithetical to cinema, but art in general. I deeply apologize for being so hard on Inception and even Dark Knight Rises, two vastly better films.
It sucks. It also sucks in reverse. So I guess it blows too.