Tenet

Tenet ★★½

I'm not sure I can really wrap my head around how overwrought, shallow and on-the-nose Tenet was, or that's how I experienced it at least. I really liked it conceptionally, as a LeCarré-adjacent espionage thriller with the expected Nolan twist of inverting entropy and a cold war that isn't nuclear, but temporal.
However, the first two thirds of the film were filled with constant, contrived exposition marked by more often than not wooden, even ludicrous dialogue and painful attempts at witty one-liners that, somehow, Nolan's own over-the-top Bond villain, in my opinion comically overplayed by Kenneth Branagh, didn't even feel out of place. The rhythm felt completely off, which surprised me as I usually like Jennifer Lame's editing, and it sadly became tedious to watch. Alas, I was scoffing my way through the film, which my seat neighbor probably can attest to. Comprehending the convoluted, but formulaic and dull plot of Tenet wasn't the problem, enduring the film became the task.

And it's a shame, really.
Tenet is brimming with the most Nolan tendencies you can imagine; tendencies I did admittedly dislike in the past. However, here it's employed so unapologetically in constructing this high end spectacle of a film that I was trying to look past the flaws and claim it as an action extravaganza that highlights the sheer scale and ambition of Nolan's work. Tenet is almost overpowering the audience with an excess of visually and technically impressive set pieces as well as its pervasive soundscape, creating an at times overwhelming sensory experience not unlike Dunkirk - but, for me, was lacking beyond its undeniable technical merits.

Tenet kind of condescendingly brushes over any explanation for an unnecessarily complicated plot, but apparently still had to invest so much time in forced exposition to set up a plot device that ultimately does pay off in these impressive, ingenious sequences. I have to give Nolan credit here though, because the way Tenet was constructed it wasn't hard to comprehend what was happening and keep up with the events as they occur. But unfortunately, due to the on-the-nose and even predictable nature of the film's narrative and the simplistic philosophical underpinnings it ended up being a disappointment.


EDIT: I gave Tenet another shot a day later. I don't think I'll come around on this one; particularly can't get over Branagh's performance. However, I didn't have the same problems with the rhythm/flow and even had some fun with it on my rewatch. I also like how well-constructed it is. Nolan uses very different locations and specific events as time stamps to keep the story as straightforward as possible. If anything it's a glorious mess of a film and something one should experience in a theater setting (if it's safe for you to go, of course).

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