Tenet

Tenet ★★½

For better or worse, the context surrounding Tenet makes it destined to become a milestone in cinema history, but I just wish it would’ve earned that merit on its own terms rather than because of the world it’s released in. Ever since his early days (at least as early as Insomnia), Christopher Nolan has shown an impeccable sense of creating great and memorable setpieces and with Tenet, he goes all-in. Absolutely filled with jaw-dropping imagery, the many bold sequences here takes great advantage of the film’s conceptual ideas and are truly a wonder to behold with some powerhouse-directing, though my favorite may actually be the more small-scale kitchen-fight early on.

Unfortunately, in most moments in between these thick, lavish sequences, Tenet falls apart. From its early explanation of the concept we see in the film; a basic and flat exposition of what we’re dealing with, it’s apparent Nolan doesn’t seem to care much about any deeper plot-exploration. The conceptual mcguffin gets the upper hand over basically everything else and the results are major, with main characters completely hollow and bland. No shame on the performances—aside from whatever Kenneth Branagh is doing, yikes—but the big players here have little to work with. Elizabeth Debicki, the highlight of the film delivers a great performance, but the film isn’t interested in exploring her as a character and makes most of the abuse she suffers come of as contrived plotting in an exploitative manner.

Tenet, as a visual blockbuster on the big screen (in a very unfortunate year) is truly a sight to behold, but the beautiful sets are surface in a film all about the concept and ideas. Nolan doesn’t seem to care about human emotions nor his characters, which is devastating as it makes Tenet an incredibly difficult film to emotionally engage with and thus, probably will make it hard for the film to engrain any actual impact in my memory.

Christopher Nolan

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