Tenet

Tenet ★★★½

Tenet almost brings Christopher Nolan to the point of self-parody. It's the most Nolan-y thing he's ever done, and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing will depend entirely on your taste. Personally, I had a pretty great time catching this at the cinema - but it definitely isn't without its flaws.

We follow John David Washington (in an almost sci-fi 007 role) as he attempts to save the world from futuristic, time-bending technology with the power to annihilate the human race. Please don't ask me to elaborate too much, because honestly, it seems like the mission of this film is to make the viewer scratch their head and question even the most basic narrative points. Can't say I'm necessarily a fan of this kind of storytelling, but after the first act I managed to get on board despite my limited understanding of it all.

The first act is actually my main issue with Tenet: a ridiculously fast-paced series of location-hopping character introductions and relentless exposition with no real regard for audience investment. Every scene is a new shot-reverse-shot conversation between the protagonist and a recognisable actor in which we have heaps and heaps of barely coherent information delivered to us through the vehicle of quip-heavy dialogue. It's pretty exhausting, especially when you factor in the awful sound mixing. No bones about it: this movie is too fucking loud for absolutely no reason, and some obviously important exchanges are drowned out completely by gunfire or engine noise or that blaringly obnoxious soundtrack.

Despite all these problems, I still enjoyed Tenet. After the initial exposition dump, the film finds an excellent groove and sticks to it. A lot of the finer details of the story definitely went over my head, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the script is cleverly written, and whenever there's a big twist or reveal it feels genuinely exciting. Every single action set piece is mindblowing without exception; from the reverse fist fight, to the car chase, to the outstanding climax. There are so many "holy shit" and "how in God's name did they do that?" moments that it's almost comedic by the end - say what you will about Nolan, but the man has an unparalleled eye (and the right budget) for spectacle.

With solid performances from all involved, impressive production design, and second-to-none visual effects, this has all the makings of both the biggest blockbuster of the year and a juicy piece of awards season bait (it'll probably take the Oscar for sound editing, knowing the Academy). I do find it funny that Christopher Nolan has been awarded more and more praise with each new massive project, and yet remains unable to make anything better than Memento, but still; Tenet is a great cinematic experience, and I really enjoyed catching it on the big screen after such a long wait. You should probably bring earplugs, though.

Jack liked these reviews

All