will’s review published on Letterboxd:
don't try to understand it. feel it
the unreal here is an anxiety, and it always is in nolan's films. it's an anxiety that invades the real world. but it's logical, principled, and able to be understood as an extension of our own reality. its end here is pure annihilation. inescapable void. a function of this anxiety manifests in words, exposition. nolan can't escape the overwhelming drive to make things understandable. he even has robert pattinson explain (in the cut, thankfully) to one of the other clueless, normal people (like us). but there's a wonderfully orchestrated sequence which would have through image revealed to us the incredible power of the conceit here. actually, everything clearly is orchestrated here, therefore self-evident in its machinery. but nolan cannot help but use both word and gesture (tenet), even when they cancel each other like wave interference. left with the ripples, we see a play that's already fizzled out go back through the motions, like a rehearsal. it's a fantastical world that somehow ends up back where it started -- reality.
what good is someone's word in our line of business?
tenet is a beautiful contradiction, and probably nolan's greatest success. a serious devotion to the silly, but a refusal to yield to the unreal, and this nolanish convention is stretched to its utter limits. this film asks in its continuity, in the year 2020: how much longer can we resist the unreal? the idea in all of its various, weighted contexts: like the images we take for granted. the oceans, the land. a film made before a pandemic seems to gravitate towards a critical moment, as a whole industry buckles under duress at the continuity being shifted. and reality will be brokered once more, already has for so much of the world -- but the pulse was felt here. one that might be so banal and/or empty that someday i'll be embarrassed i spent the time here to demarcate it. time, only time will tell.