Matthew Yeung’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tenet is as Christopher Nolan-y as it gets. The question is whether or not it's TOO Christopher Nolan-y.
Tenet is incredible. But, here's my biggest issue with the film. Instead of mind-blown, I was left more mind-numb if anything. The storytelling was largely ineffective because it makes little effort to keep the viewer on its ridiculous pace.
Let me explain. Tenet is very ambitious on two fronts. First, technically and second, narratively.
Nolan tackles the first with absolute confidence and mastery. The visual and auditory experience of Tenet is one of a kind. Every scene is thrilling in its own way. The time inversion action doesn't get stale at any point because of the sheer spectacle as well as Nolan's commitment to practical effects and fantastic choreography. It's super interactive in that you're constantly trying to piece together the mechanics of every action sequence. There are countless moments where you just hold your breath and allow the film to wash you over in all of its glory. Tenet is an extraordinary technical achievement and one that's unapologetic about being so.
How does Nolan handle telling an effective story? He doesn't. Now, the story itself is not the issue. In fact, I actually quite like it. It is surprisingly compact, intense, and manages to be (sort of) personal as well. Tenet's greatest drawback is in how it tells this story. I was largely confused for the majority of the film. I don't mean dumb-founded in a good way. Firstly, I was confused about the grander world-ending plot as it doesn't weave itself within each scene effectively. Most of the time, it just sort of sits above the plot and, out of nowhere, it'll swing down and go, "oh yeah, the world might end by the way". Secondly, I was even confused about the simple objective-driven nature of individual scenes. Where are we? What are we doing? Wait why? These are questions I found myself asking. The film is unforgiving if you miss a single line of expository dialogue. Furthermore, the storytelling lacks clarity, balance, and direction. From the very beginning, Tenet stomps on the gas pedal and often forgets that slowing down is what makes speeding up fun. I tried my best to keep up but Tenet's storytelling leaves little time to reflect or to absorb.
Albeit, after the movie, I was able to piece everything together but that doesn't take away from my struggles during the initial viewing. Tenet spends a lot of time explaining concepts and then launches these concepts into action without much notice or time to breath. I think the film could have helped the audience in a more graceful manner (although I understand that Nolan really has no obligation to do such a thing). The story, in itself, is fairly direct but the storytelling made it fell extremely dense and inaccessible. It moves too quickly for its own good and detracted from my overall first impression.
I still believe Tenet is definitely worth watching. It's extremely entertaining and certainly deserves (needs) to be seen again. There are set pieces and moments that are truly memorable and purely awesome. Ludwig's score is insanely unique, pounds into your soul, and really makes up much of the identity of the film. John David Washington and Elizabeth Debicki give solid performances and Christopher Nolan does deliver on the big-scale, satisfaction, and intensity of an innovative action thriller. Tenet is, at times, flawed in its lack of care about the viewer's mental sanity and logical clarity. Yet, it is still a fantastic film and, surely, an unforgettable cinematic ride.
You should watch it (when it is safe to do so).