Tenet

Tenet

I don't usually have deep thoughts or hot takes about Nolan films, partially because the internet is already littered with them as Nolan acts as a hot-take lightning rod. It's also partially because I don't care to draw too much attention to any one movie opinion of mine for better or worse (yeah, that basically means I don't like taking criticism myself, what of it???).

Tenet was not as bad as I was lead to believe, but that certainly doesn't mean it was good, either. I love time travel stories, and I'll admit that I enjoy them even with my brain turned off, which is coincidentally also the mode in which I prefer to watch Chris Nolan movies. That is, save for back in 2013, when I got so obsessed with Bioshock Infinite that I drew an elaborate diagram explaining the intersecting timelines...

My point is, Tenet is not enjoyable in this dumb-viewer mode, or probably not any other mode for that matter. It requires you to pay attention to all the boring, minute mechanics of its time-bullshit and intentionally obscure dialogue which Nolan clearly loves so much, everyone else less so. The thing is, the movie isn't entertaining or even interesting enough to justify wasting the energy to watch it again or delve deeper into figuring out just what's going on, because it'd be a fruitless endeavor of fact-collecting.

Part of the problem with the way this story is told is that it's done so in a way which focuses on minute-to-minute happenings much more than the big picture of what all these flashy action setpieces are actually building towards. It's almost an achievement in itself to have a movie so obviously in love with its own action scenes and yet so boring.

I'd likely be more charitable towards Tenet if I hadn't also been reading Philip K. Dick's "Now Wait For Last Year" recently, which, while it has few things in common with Tenet, still acts as an infinitely more enthralling and sound time travel story about the fate of the world.

Normally with Nolan there's a way I can enjoy the incessant nudging and winking he does to the audience because there's at least a supposedly "mind bending" story that can be enjoyed from a stoner guy mindset. One problem Tenet shares with his other movies though, is length. This thing needs half an hour cut off of it.

On a technical level, too, there are problems. Like, why does the movie switch aspect ratios so much - sometimes jarringly? It's also wrapped in a depressing gun-metal grey and leather brown color grading. Look dude, if you're going to be so audacious as to switch aspect ratios every 5 minutes, It'd actually be a point in your favor to switch color schemes too. It's avant garde, bro!

Also, this goes into the whole mechanics part of the movie again, but still - in the big military operation at the end of the movie, somehow I don't think even with the extraordinary circumstance of time travel that you'd have what appears to be dozens of soldiers kitted out the same way, with the same ARs, running together in...huge crowds? It didn't even look like tactics were being employed. It was just, soldiers running toward their destination. very odd. Nolan would be a lot more watchable if he could actually make action cinema, but instead he simply dances in the halls! sad!

Finally, there's a narrative point near the end where it's revealed that some characters will meet again in the future...but the way it's presented is so odd. Any other movie would take out that dialogue and simply show it happening with a little time-skip to neatly close out the movie in a bittersweet moment. I'm not usually one to demand that a filmmaker spoon feed me things, but this is different. A piece of dialogue where you're supposed to just imagine what happens in a movie so obsessed with showing off every detail of its dumbass time-magic. I think the reason this being relegated to dialogue instead of a future scene bothers me so much is because it's exactly the kind of "show, don't tell" moment that this movie sorely misses all the way throughout. Including a scene like this with genuine meaning and emotion behind it would be decidedly out of step with the rest of the movie, which is as unemotional and nihilistic as they come.

Ultimately Tenet is like a wind-up toy that ironically demonstrates a similar effect to the dubious time-travel mechanism it depicts. Beforehand, you exhibit little interest in a movie you don't know anything about, but are optimistic. the movie happens. afterward, you exhibit little interest in the movie you just saw, and are a little worse off.

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