eliza’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.”
Some feelings about Tenet:
• Nolan has distilled his style to archetypal workings, as to award himself critical immunity (more on that in a bit); Tenet is by far his simplest work, masquerading as a 16x16 Rubik’s cube.
• Rather than assembling itself from the outside in - as you would a puzzle - to eventually narrow its focus to a singular point, it begins at this point and expands outwards. Like the many structures that crumble throughout, Tenet is constantly collapsing and reforming, assembling an image that becomes harder to decipher as you see more of it.
• Rivaling only Inception, it is his most fascinating exercise in temporal obfuscation. Unlike Inception, however, it thrashes against definition; to wrap your head around the specifics would be to castrate its boldest, broadest strokes. In so vehemently resisting clarity, Nolan has successfully re-mystified the blockbuster, a landscape dominated by This Is What’s Happening And This Is How It Will Happen dynamics. It’s the only action film where shattered glass is more exciting than the bullet that made it.
• The actors do not play people, rather caricatures of tropes. The Guy who knows where this other guy is, and disappears for the rest of the film. The Damsel who liberates herself from distress. The Suspicious Third Party that knows a bit too much. The Villain hellbent on global annihilation, and The Protagonist, highly skilled yet consistently one step behind — a blank slate of characterization for the audience to exist vicariously through.
• Göransson’s score is booming, and certainly worth its weight in IMAX; at times, I thought its ravenous synths and towering horns may shake the tiles free from the ceiling. For the first time since Once Upon a Time ...In Hollywood, I listened to it on the way home (it made the drive a lot more fun).
• It all coalesces to create perhaps the largest, most blazingly arrogant middle finger to critics I’ve seen on a mainstream scale... and it’s awesome. Nolan’s been criticized for being confusing, so he made a film that’s intentionally impregnable. He’s been criticized for fetishizing large-format filmmaking, so it’s only right that Tenet is the biggest, loudest film he’s put out to date. He’s been criticized for writing characters as emotionally inaccessible, so he wrote one called The Protagonist, and etched decades of traumatic subtext in the wearied faces of its cast, as to negate the need for backstory altogether.
• My girlfriend fell asleep halfway through, but was awake long enough to tell me that Robert Pattinson is hot, and Elizabeth Debicki is “one big bitch.” She also made me promise to never again make her watch a 150-minute action movie at 11 PM.
• I understood very little of Tenet, but again, that doesn’t matter.