Tenet

Tenet ★★★½

This is the most NOLAN movie Nolan has ever made. Not in the way you’d expect though. It’s not the crowd pleasing summer blockbuster with light brain teasing and straight forward genre action. It’s much stranger than that.

It’s more of an art piece, a deconstruction, something that Godard would play with than an average audience friendly film, which may explain the tepid reception (Yes, the pandemic is also to blame. You’re not getting off the hook that easily COVID!). But what makes this most NOLAN of all his films is that he takes all his quirks and criticism he’s received in the past 20 years and turns them (which includes the volume knob) up to freaking ELEVEN.

He makes puzzle box movies and this is more complicated than any Nolan film before it to the point where none of it even makes sense. He has a nasty penchant for exposition flat characters. This entire movie is exposition being said by archetypes, one literally named “Protagonist.” He really likes James Bond and Sci-fi and this is essentially just a James Bond parody with time-travel BS remixed into it. 

What emerges isn’t bad (as it may sound) and it’s not Nolan’s masterpiece, but it is, without a doubt, mind-bogglingly fascinating. With Nolan going full Nolan, his film making becomes more abstract, more plastic, more rhythmic. I would describe the results as an impressionist post-modern genre piece. It’s like Soderbergh making a kaleidoscopic, maximalist version of The Limey or Nolan’s version of Inherent Vice, where the genre beats are all familiar, but how we get there is elliptical and hazy. 

I liked this better than The Limey, but it’s no Inherent Vice. That film has much more depth than Nolan’s offhanded climate change commentary. But as Nolan blatantly tells the audience in one of his expository dialogues and many reviewers have already pointed out ad nauseum) this isn’t a movie think about, it’s a movie you feel. Not in an emotional sense because there are no real emotions here. You feel it like you feel the rhythm of the music or a roller coaster, which is what I think I missed most about movies in 2020. And, no matter how much of it is dumb and doesn’t cohere, it feels exhilarating.

added to: Nolan Ranked, 2020

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