Tenet

Tenet ★★½

We live in a twilight world.

Look, I’ve been a Nolan shill ever since I first saw Inception ten years ago. I’ve given dude multiple passes across each film because I know what he’s trying to do and I almost always fuck with it, but this is the first one I just can’t put blinders on for. Even if I take all the pandering ass marketing out of the equation here (the desperate Fortnite trailer-debut, the grossly-miscalculated Travis Scott tie-in song and Chris blatantly pressuring theaters to reopen here in the states like a rich schoolyard bully and risk public safety), this is still the most underwhelmed I’ve been with any of his films.
Starting with the good, the simple fact is that no one of his caliber knows how to frame and execute an action-driven setpiece like this man. That can never be overstated, sequences like the one at the airport & the one on the highway are testaments to it, and the interesting thing about the time inversion gimmick is that we get to see scenes like this multiple times from an array of different perspectives. The spectacle in Tenet is cranked allllll the way up and that’s ultimately what makes it worth watching (when it’s safe). 
And just when you’re enjoying one of the handful of these sequences, the laughable dialogue comes right in to take you out. This has got to be Nolan’s worst script in who knows how long? When JDW said some shit like “I thought I ordered my hot sauce an hour ago” right before getting into a fight within the first thirty minutes I knew something was up. This is the kind of writing that can completely shift a great performance into a mid one and boy does it suck that Tenet boasts one of the most talented ensembles out of anything in Chris’ filmography. John and Rpats are as charismatic as the script allows them to be, and it was nice to see people like Aaron Taylor & Himesh Patel get some screentime, but how are you gonna cast someone with as much range as Elizabeth Debicki only to use her as a literal punching bag for the dudes in this? I know using characters solely as plot devices is sort of a specialty for Nolan but goddamn it’s just written on the wall here, shame on him for doing this shit in 2020. Kenneth Branagh’s cartoonishly-Russian accent was enough for me to tell he’s a bad guy, didn’t need to see him go the extra mile and dehumanize the only chick in the movie (that has substantial screentime) in nearly every scene he has in order to get the point. Combine these issues with an ending that just comes across as inconsequential to me, and yeah. Not good. 
This review’s gone on long enough, but I just can’t stress enough how deeply disappointed I am in this and Nolan himself for acting like this is a movie good enough to warrant breaking quarantine for. If the final product was even a little better, I wouldn’t even have to address that shit. 
Will I see this again when it’s not a risk? Yeah, for sure. But the problems I have with it are so specific that I know my thoughts on them won’t change.

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