Tenet

Tenet ★½

Usually, I’d approach a review for a film like Tenet by analysing different aspects of the film to reach a conclusion. Usually, Nolan’s films whether good or bad would warrant such an approach.
Tenet, however, is such an empty piece of work, there unfortunately isn’t that much left to analyse.

I’ll start with the bits I enjoyed. There are a couple of action sequences that are really cleverly done. The ‘inversion’ visualization really works, making for an interesting and sometimes pleasantly disorienting experience. This is especially well done in a corridor fight sequence where movements feel off, disjointed somehow, but in a rather subtle manner.

Even though I have many problems with the dialogue, the cast (especially Washington) is excellent. They are clearly invested and really try their best to transcend their simplistic archetypical characters.

And that’s about it.

Nolan’s weakness as a writer once again shows in full effect here. Yes, he is a great concept thinker, but structuring a story, building it with depth and characters that feel alive is just something he isn’t good at. And the concept clearly is the driving force here. It almost feels as if he started with thinking about as many situations as possible in which he could use the rewind button cleverly and meanwhile forgetting about a coherent and interesting narrative. One could say he just uses the Bond/Mission Impossible template for a mission to save the world and one would be right. But in a film of this scope we need a bit more than that. Like characters who are more than just (literally) The Protagonist, more than just Woman Who Needs To Be Saved, more than just Villain With Silly Accent. Every single character feels hollow, so whenever something was at stake I felt like an outsider which makes for a rather alienating experience.

So, if the heart isn’t appealed, I’m sure the intellect is. Well, no. This is not a complex film. It’s convoluted. It’s the Nolan shtick of bombarding you with dense, fragmentary and often superfluous exposition that you get confused by the way the story is told instead of the actual content. And that, to me, is just weak writing. You could summarize what actually goes on in Tenet in a couple of sentences. Again, the concept is great, the execution isn’t. I had no problems following what was going on. I was confused at the start but knew Nolan would start explaining every single thing through dialogue at some point, so I knew I’d catch up. What I didn’t expect was that he would do this more than once. The need for that was probably caused by the ridiculously loud and pompous soundtrack. And all that exposition only leads to, as so often does in his films, to a ridiculously drawn out action sequence which has nothing at stake as there is no one on screen to care about. There are also enough inconsistencies for the nit pickers to fume over, but I’ll leave that to them. I just wanted to find something to connect to, be it emotionally or intellectually, but found neither.

If you’re confused by Tenet it has nothing to do with how smart you are or how smart Nolan is and has everything to do with how poorly it is written.

Oh and people running backwards totally look like characters from the Lego Movie.