a k’s review published on Letterboxd:
pynchon: what if i used entropy to destroy the narrative form as commentary on how the ongoing holocaust unleashed on mankind by the military industrial complex is the logical endpoint of western civilization
nolan: what if i reddit explained entropy and took out the disorder
fun first hour where it’s just nolan tethering his tedious expositional dialogue to amiably sub-mann time heist sequences, helped by the tangerine dream-lite synth arpeggios. I was even entertained by things like the Freeport being named Freeport, as if nolan was reflexively commenting on his cardboard characters and plot via repo man where beer was called beer. Was also happy to watch this at home given the pre-pandemic theater experience of 1) unassuming audiences being bombarded with a recreation of the moscow theater hostage crisis on expanded imax screens as a “fun” preview of tenet; 2) a stranger positioning themselves at the back of the theater during the screening I caught it at (either gemini man or birds of prey before switching back to dolby, can’t remember).
Unfortunately, once the film reveals its stakes are less about the after effects of post-soviet collapse on black market weapons trades, oligarchs run wild (which ignores the US role in shock therapy that created them) or even the late mention of climate change but instead a riff on notorious/mission impossible 2’s wife as bartering chip plot minus any discernible characters, it takes a nose dive. nolan and wife backstories are not a fruitful collab even when the wife is still very alive, and the neat tricks with plotting, time, etc can only distract from the vast emptiness of it for so long, by the time it turned into a commercial for call of duty i’d completely checked out.
The only “Cold War” politics one can read into this aren’t far from Nolan’s generally conservative vision of empire and order. Casting john david washington, whose big break was in a movie about the police infiltrating both the klan and the panthers, only to make him nearly mess up the fate of the world to protect the sanctity of white British motherhood from the russians™️ for 2 1/2 hrs, whether intentional or not, ends up recalling the Cold War containment strategy that the US and europe implemented to contain the genuinely revolutionary efforts towards self-determination in the colonies (worth listening to this interview with dr. charisse burden-stelly that touches on that millennialsarekillingcapitalism.libsyn.com/black-communists-against-us-racial-capitalism-with-dr-charisse-burden-stelly).
Colorblind casting is worth pursuing in many cases but given this does, on a surface level, use historical signifiers along with the tropes from any number of spy thrillers, you’d hope for at least some engagement with the contradictions other than an aesthetic remix. Not expecting Nolan to even register something like the Spook who Sat by the Door but given the current Biden strategy of diversifying imperialism, and the ongoing relationship between Hollywood and the state department, it’s hard not read any sort of real world implications given how uncomplicated the central character’s moral line is on who and what he’s working for.
Anyways mctiernan’s rollerball > tenet for dumb dystopian action movies set in the oligarch-run ruins of post soviet collapse, at least mctiernan has some sort of vision other than “bond riff plus that temporal thing from star trek minus any political insight”
While I don’t get the ongoing reclamation I’m happy it met the mark as a film maudit to earn that given Nolan’s fetishization of format was so strong he wanted Boris Johnson’s herd immunity to work so he could force an early mid-pandemic rollout.