Adam’s review published on Letterboxd:
No spoilers at all below.
I'm going to hold off on giving this a fixed score until I get to watch this a second time at home. Like many other people, I had such a difficult time with the sound mix for this film making it near impossible to hear much of the dialogue throughout. I've read and heard many other people cite the film's line "don't try to understand it, feel it" as a means to parse this difficulty, but I simply can't square that circle with Nolan's drive for clinical perfection. The world and rules of Inception are so well established in the beginning through its use of engaging exposition, and the presentation of Tenet feels strangely opposed to Nolan's previous approaches. It's like you're at a party and a really cool person is talking to you, and you have to keep saying "uh huh, yup" so you don't lose track of what's going on.
As for the visual presentation and score for Tenet, both delivered on what we've come to expect from Nolan. The numerous action sequences all feel engaging and bombastic to watch play out, and
Ludwig Göransson's score -- overwhelmingly loud as it was -- was suitably gripping. I'm a little bit sad that the score hasn't been released at the time of writing this review, because I always enjoy writing about films whilst having their sound in the background. This very clearly was the first Nolan film shot entirely in Imax. Though I couldn't see it in the format myself, every sequence of action, movement, and travel plays out with a sense of scale and space which only Nolan is delivering at the moment.
Where I'm still left puzzled is Tenet's sprawling, dense plot. Whilst the narrative for Inception could best be viewed as layered and cone-shaped in it's multi-level design, Tenet uses the technology of its premise at both a macro- and micro-narrative scale. Like all great films, there is always a feeling that there is so much more world outside of the frame we're seeing. Phrases and expressions are introduced quickly and with little fuss, which always excites me and plays at my imagination whilst watching. It's a hint to a larger world that creates a pure sense of movie magic for me. However, there is a slight sense with Tenet that there is maybe a little too much left to the imagination, and the exposition remains to do some heavy lifting. The technicalities of the film caused me to draw a mental map in my mind at all times, leaving a feeling of sprinting on quicksand to keep up pace.
Overall, I feel as though Tenet was the most technically complicated I've seen a blockbuster in many, many years. It thrills when it needs to, and the central performance by John David Washington was strong enough to keep me engaged throughout. It's likely to confound and isolate many of its viewers, whilst simultaneously begging to be watched numerous times through. As someone who holds Interstellar to be Nolan's absolute peak, I am always on board with his science fiction works. It doesn't have nearly the emotional punch that Interstellar boasts but Tenet is a clockwork, head-scratching beast nonetheless.