Tenet ★★½

While I wouldn't consider myself to be one of the fanboys that plague that other movie review site, I like Christopher Nolan a lot. I've seen and enjoyed the majority of his work. And after Dunkirk, a film where he seemed fully aware of and committed to his strengths as a director, I was thrilled to see where he would go next. The answer, it turns out, is a major step backwards that often borders on self-parody. Tenet, with its self-serious tone and 150-minute runtime, is a summer blockbuster that doesn't seem to want the viewer to have any fun. Its convoluted plot that twists and turns but offers little reward for keeping up beyond simply understanding what's happening in front of you. It's a movie that relies on constant exposition, but drowns half of it out underneath bombastic music, sound effects and gas masks. There's a sad-eyed wife character with little agency, existing solely in relation to the well-dressed men around her (whether or not she's dead this time is a complicated subject). Tenet's problems are like that of a jargon-stuffed college textbook - if you're so smart, Mr. Author, why can't you convey essential information with concision or grace? A text being hard to follow doesn't make it more intelligent.

Of course, none of these complaints are new when it comes to Nolan. But what separates Tenet from a film like Inception, or even more flawed works like The Dark Knight Rises or Interstellar, is that those films had something fundamentally appealing - relatable central characters with a clear internal goal to keep them going through all the chaos. John David Washington's nameless protagonist has no such drive, nor do the even blander characters that join him along the way. It's all about saving the world and not much else. And while Tenet is literally about time manipulation, the ingenious ways in which Nolan has been known to manipulate time through filmmaking itself are surprisingly absent. All the flashy reversed shots fail to capture the magic of what his greatest achievements - be it Memento, Inception, or Dunkirk - achieved simply through film editing. Once you strip away the surface-level pleasures - the charming and attractive cast, stunning IMAX cinematography, and admittedly impressive time-bending action scenes - Tenet is basically a generic spy movie with extra steps.

If you, like me, miss movie theaters so much that you're willing to risk seeing this, I'd actually advise going to Wikipedia and spoiling yourself first. Fittingly enough, Tenet might be more enjoyable if you already have a sense of where it's going.

Also that Dune trailer got me HYPED.

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