Tenet

Tenet ★★★½

So apparently I'm the last person in the world to have seen this because exams and school decided to be the reason we can't have nice things, and as such I probably don't have anything original, meaningful or relevant to add to the conversation. You bet that's not gonna stop me from running my mouth about Tenet though!

I'd been tipped off beforehand to not try too hard to follow the plot and just enjoy the experience, and that’s exactly what I did. And I mean look, yes, it barely has a grasp on its characters, the third act is honestly pretty weak, and it doesn't make a lick of sense, but as the first film I've seen in 70mm IMAX and the first Nolan I've seen projected, it was an all round pretty cool experience. You get such a strong sense of how much love the guy has for cinema and for how transportative it can be, fully leaning into that and not taking his privileged position in the filmmaking world for granted, but taking total advantage of it to showcase a wealth of beautiful locations and incredible setpieces (and for real). One sequence in particular feels pretty close to being on the same level as the hallway fight in Inception.

Nolan picks up two of his most well trod themes, time and duality, and proceeds to play around with them in what is his most literal and overt yet simultaneously elusive and enigmatic way yet. It's basically him shouting "Look at my brain!" for two and a half hours, and there’s certainly entertainment to be had from that. But unfortunately, for all it’s revelling in ensuring the audience are in a state of perpetual muddlement and the fun that comes with that, it also pretty much completely abandons the exploration of humanity and character depth some of his earlier works possessed in favour of big, loud setpieces. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some big, loud setpieces, but Inception managed both, so why can’t this? That was ten years ago, after all.

Characters and talented actors are reduced to thin, exposition-delivering ‘types’. Washington is clearly competent, but is really given nothing substantial to work with. Ironically, he's exactly what it says on the tin - the protagonist, nothing more, nothing less. An occasionally quippy, flat, audience surrogate. Pattinson is having a lot of fun and I'm here for it. Sadly however, Debicki is reduced to the level of a damsel in distress cliché, and it has to be said, if that’s the treatment you’re giving your only supposed emotional anchor to the story, then you're doing it wrong. Branagh too, is nothing more than a stereotypically evil Russian villain with a very tired God Complex.

I saw this several days ago and am still going back and forth on the question of rewatches. On the one hand, I’m frustrated by the idea that your average audience member has to go see your film multiple times just to get any sort of decent grasp on what on earth was happening. It feels like a cheap move. But then again, I’ve also fallen for it hook, line and sinker, as I’m compelled to go back and attempt to piece together all the disparate elements myself. I can't tell yet whether subsequent viewings will enhance the meaning behind it or just confirm to me that the stuff I thought was wrong with this actually was bad. Most likely, it'll be both, but I'm willing to somewhat give Nolan the benefit of the doubt that the former will be worthwhile and head back on in.

So despite all of the above stated flaws I had with this, I still had a really good time with it. A conflicting experience for sure. The fact that people are giving this one star feels unfair, the fact others are giving it five seems as incomprehensible as the dialogue. I love that Nolan is getting the big bucks to make films like this, but I also wonder if he’s pushed the boat out too far with this one and is getting a bit too big for his britches. Time will tell.

Oh, and it has to be said - I miss Zimmer.

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