Chuck Winters’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here is everything I knew about Tenet going in:
• It involves some sort of time travel.
• Nobody seems to think it makes sense.
• John David Washington's character is literally named "The Protagonist."
• He ordered his hot sauce an hour ago.
(Funny story: Diego Crespo ended up pushing me into renting this when he changed his Twitter name to "i ordered my hot sauce an hour ago" and started shitposting accordingly. Now I see this, having had tweet after tweet burned into my brain about how inscrutable this movie is, and I think: "Oh fuck. Is the hot sauce thing the new 'Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?' Is that quote linked to some ridiculous Nolan bullshit? And it's gonna be a meme? Well damn, guess now I gotta watch it before The Discourse watches it for me.")
So given all I heard, I decided to try and watch the movie twice. First time through I was just gonna feel it; I'd have my notebook out and the subtitles on for the second run. I'm gonna use my second watch to form the basis of a proper review, but for now, I wanted to get some initial thoughts down:
Sweet Jesus you guys were right, this movie is impossible to parse if you lose the thread for even a second. Nolan was smart to keep the characters and their conflicts simple in turn, but ultimately they're too basic by half; "feeling it" takes some effort. In fact, if I'm being honest, I'm not sure Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Brannagh have ever been less engaging. I love them both, but I'm not sure what changes if you swap them out for Rufus Sewell and some random Coronation Street actress; Debicki absolutely deserves better. At least J.D. comes out of it looking like a million bucks, though. (Turns out "I ordered my hot sauce an hour ago" is just him being nice.)
That said, I'm not sure the characters were the point. From a sensory perspective, the "inversion" conceit allows for some pretty baller set pieces. If you don't understand how they work at first, just wait; there's an odd satisfaction that comes from figuring it out. But don't be surprised if you don't have the particulars down after your first viewing. Hell, from what I understand, I don't know if it's possible after any viewing.
But we'll see! I don't know how I feel about this movie yet, but I think I respect what it was going for. Look for my review later this week on Not Quite Classics!