Tenet

Tenet ★★

Wildly ambitious and admirable, but ultimately frustrating and exhausting. This is very much the director of THE DARK KNIGHT and INTERSTELLAR doing his own version of PRIMER. Take that however you'd like.

Like INCEPTION, it's a film of mechanics and logistics, and like MEMENTO, there's a vague structural resemblance to an ouroboros, but it lacks the energy and mystery of either of them -- especially the way that INCEPTION piecemeals out the various machinations of dreamsharing without losing the forward momentum of the plot -- rendering the whole thing convoluted and plodding. It feels sacrilegious to say about one of Nolan's films, but I was honestly bored an hour in. Plus, the one-two punch of a soundtrack that BOOMS, BWAMS, and screeches so constantly, and the fact that a good 30-40% of the dialogue is practically inaudible just makes the whole thing feel far more oppressive than any of Nolan's recent ventures into gigantism.

It may be one of those movies that really benefits from a second and/or third viewing, however those further viewings may only serve to clear up the mechanics of the plot. I find it hard to believe that a second viewing will solve the fact that John David Washington's Protagonist is pretty much a non-character with seemingly no motivation whatsoever, that the overall story has almost no emotional center*, that its setpieces are disposable and forgettable, that its images really lack any of the poetry we saw in INTERSTELLAR and DUNKIRK, and that Nolan, for all his talent, can't write a one-liner to save his life.

As always though, I'd so much rather have a director - and one of Nolan's caliber at that - really go for broke with material they're so obviously passionate about. The fact that Warner Bros. bankrolled a movie this bizarre -- and one that I can only imagine will completely baffle mainstream audiences -- is so gratifying, despite my reservations about it.


*Yes, there are traces of an emotional undercurrent, but I don't think that any of the potential threads - be it Elizabeth Debicki's family squabbles, or the almost buddy-cop vibe between Washington and Robert Pattinson (who gives the best performance in the film) are as well-conceived as they could be.