Dan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Video review - HERE. (Just a quick note: I’ve just ordered a ring light, a better microphone and some more stuff for the background, so my future videos should be considerably higher quality).
First let me say this: I have no idea why everyone is bagging on this movie, but maybe that’s what tempered my expectations and helped me to love it.
In my opinion Tenet is a flawed but highly ambitious and technologically innovative movie, and definitely the best film of the year so far (though admittedly that would mean more in literally almost any other year since film cameras were invented). If you can look past the lack of characterisation and enjoy it for its spectacle and premise, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed (though its current Letterboxd score of 3.7 begs to differ, so who knows).
Let’s get the flaws out of the way. The editing - and more specifically the pacing - was clunky at times and went from being jarringly fast-paced a la Rise of Skywalker to feeling like a pretty long movie, which it is but I can think of plenty of movies with the same runtime that feel shorter.
The sound mixing was also very heavy-handed and the dialogue was often drowned out by the admittedly mesmeric score. I’d heard that this was an issue with the film before I saw it and though I would agree, I didn’t find myself missing too much dialogue and it wasn’t as distracting as I’d imagined.
Branagh’s portrayal as the villain was very ham-fisted at times and had me yearning for a more nuanced portrayal, but by the end of the movie you realise why he plays it that way and it makes more sense. Despite this, he still adds an intimidating presence to the movie and in the end makes for a pretty good antagonist who raises the stakes like a goddamn cow farmer. He also poses a cosmic-level threat and at the same time a much more personal one, which I appreciated the duality of.
When it comes to the positives, I’m not even sure where to begin. Perhaps with the aforementioned score by Ludwig Goransson? It’s obnoxious at times yes but it’s also so consistently bombastic and anxiety-inducing that I didn’t mind one bit. It might not go down as one of Nolan’s best scores if only because he already has so many iconic ones, but in my eyes it really elevated the movie and added a lot of tension to proceedings.
Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is really striking here and he’s just one of the best in his field at this point. Sure it might mimic the aesthetic of Inception at times but it works for the tone of the film and helps tie Nolan’s movies together in a visual sense.
The performances were all solid, though I don’t think anyone is necessarily award-worthy. People will undoubtedly and rightfully praise Debicki but for me I thought Pattinson was endlessly charming and entertaining, to the point where every scene he wasn’t in just felt flatter somehow. Taylor-Johnson gives his best Christian Bale impersonation and Washington plays a compelling protagonist, but he isn’t given much characterisation by Nolan, whose focus was obviously on giant, practically-achieved spectacle and the insanely intriguing concept at the centre of this idea.
That brings me to the action set pieces. Not only were they well-shot and excitingly choreographed, but they also provided some moments of genuine innovation for cinema. Some of the things you see in this movie are honestly breathtaking and wholly original. The plane scene and the highway chase in particular are two of my favourite Nolan scenes ever.
I saw a review on YouTube where someone said that this wasn’t a film with layers which was a shame because Inception did that so well, but in my opinion the film clearly does have layers. Maybe not be as many or as literally as the 2010 blockbuster, but they’re in there for sure.
I’ll also say that the film wasn’t as hard to follow as I’d heard, though you do have to be fully switched on and repeat viewings would undoubtedly help.
I’m not 100% sure if all of the story logic makes sense, I’d have to really break it down and watch it multiple times to find out, so for now I’ll give Nolan the benefit of the doubt because for the most part it seemed to check out.
Tenet is an ambitious, original, exciting movie with a unique, mind-bending concept. The script might not be perfect and the pacing might be inconsistent, but man did I have an awesome time seeing this. It’s gonna take some time for me to really figure out my rating for this, and it partially depends on how it plays the next few times I see it, but right now, having just watched it in IMAX, I think this movie - while flawed - is pretty brilliant.
While I’ve got you, I’ll be doing a video review on Tenet soon, but until then feel free to check out a video I did on my 10 most anticipated movies (of which this was one) - HERE.
Also if anyone is/knows anyone who’s in charge of a publication site I’d love to review films for a living, so hit me up on here or Twitter for my CV/portfolio - thanks!