Tenet

Tenet ★★★½

When it comes to Christopher Nolan, I'm not one of those filmgoers who sees him as the Messiah (in this house, we worship at the altar of Denis Villeneuve). However, I always appreciate his willingness, nay, his insistence on trying to elevate casual blockbuster moviegoing to a more involved level for the audience, as well as his love for practical effects. In Tenet, Nolan continues this streak.

The film's hook comes from Nolan's desire to play around with the concept of time more explicitly than he's done with his past endeavours like Inception and Interstellar. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that the incorporation of different points of time within an action scene is more direct and visceral than in those films. The spectacle on display incites heart-pumping thrills for sure, but the complex form of the film is handicapped by some shortcomings both in characterization and technicalities.

Every actor in Tenet is well-placed. John David Washington oozes almost the same level of charisma as his legendary father, while continuing to make a case for why he's worthy of his own legacy. Kenneth Branagh's scenery-chewing almost harkens back to the one-off Bond villains of yesteryear (in spite of this character coming from some really dark places), and Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki offer a strong central gravitas for the story. That's all well and good, but as far as the characters themselves and their relationships between one another... I've got nothing. Your guess is as good as mine.

People have been accusing the story of Tenet of being too convoluted to follow, so I accepted this challenge going in. And I am 80% certain I would've had no problem comprehending this film perfectly well if I could actually hear most of the dialogue! They don't give Razzies for sound mixing, but if they did, Nolan's sound mixers would deserve them for everything he's done since Interstellar. Ok, that's not actually fair to Dunkirk, because the loud mix works well for a war film where characters barely speak anyway. But in a film so reliant on exposition, Nolan sure as hell didn't make it very possible to actually hear it!

Is Tenet worth risking your health to experience on the big screen? Maybe, but only if you're sure the risk is minimal for you (I was lucky enough to have the whole theatre to myself. Checkmate, bitches!). The film as a whole gets the blood pumping, and the grandiosity truly warrants the best image and sound system you could find. From a deeper perspective though, the craft on display here isn't quite enough to save cinema as we know it.


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