Mark Costello’s review published on Letterboxd:
The cinematic equivalent of your average West Wing episode - you only understand about 60% of what's going on, but its enough to know that what you're watching is pretty fucking good.
Nolan's most plot-centric film, the opening act suffers from the sacrifice of character for narrative beat after beat, the manoeuvring of Washington into the organisation and the introduction of the film's key storytelling conceit - the ability of certain items to travel backwards in time.
Its dizzying at times, not helped by the rush of the film to get us to it's key characters - Branagh's Russian oligarch and Debicki as his wife - and the subsequent videogame structure of the start of the second act as Washington has to get some random item to help character A who will then help him meet character B who will then lead them to plot maguffin C.
Luckily for the film, its at this time the clouds start to clear around the narrative and it slowly starts to draw you in - you feel like you start to grasp its tricksy structure, beginning to read the rules of the film and starting to second guess it....sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But it all helps draw us into that time bending notion because when we hit the third act, all bets are off: its here that the film starts to throw so much at you, its often difficult to keep up - there is simply so much going on, it becomes so dense with not just action but that small issue of the rather fluid nature of time that you really do need to just sit back and let it wash over you.
The action is full on Bond, slowly building from reverse bungee jumping to a Matrix Reloaded-esque freeway chase to an epic bunker takedown that wouldn't be out of place in a modern war movie. And its this sense of scale that helps you keep anchored as the narrative starts to bend all around us - during the final act, I didn't even try and keep up with the exact nature of every plot point as it just became too much and like my favourite US Presidential TV show, I just sat back and enjoyed getting just 'the gist' of what's going on. No doubt subsequent watches will help me piece it all together and spot every clever little call back and flashback/forward, but it was enough for this watch to just about grasp what was kinda going on and enjoying the scale and audacity of where the film takes us at its finale.
The cast all do well with very little to go on, Washington especially excels as smooth super operative one moment, violent cheese grater bearing hard ass the next. But this is Nolan flexing his narrative muscles, the likes of Inception and Memento being the opening acts for this, his magnum opus. And while its not as good as either of those for me, just like I did with those, subsequent watches will no doubt reward.
Get past the barely minimum opening act and get your brain ready for a workout, because now there's no need to imagine what the bastard love child of Primer and Skyfall would look like........