Thomas @ Tribeca 🤟🏽’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tenet is more ambitious than Inception. It’s cooler than Inception. But it is also so much harder to follow, which is shocking considering there are still people who barely understand Inception.
Nolan has dreamt up another fantastic and epic time bending story for sure. It’s a work of art. Unfortunately the plot is so convoluted that the majority of it has to be explained in long conversations filled with exposition and not much else. And because these conversations are just spewing information at the viewer, it’s hard to retain much of it. And on top of that, the score often overpowers much of the dialogue. Ludwig’s score is beautiful and perfectly captures the immensity of the story and the tension of the action sequences, but it was a bit much during conversations. It almost seemed like that was intentional? Or maybe the IMAX theater just had bad mixing or something?
The film really picks up after the first thirty or so minutes, which literally consisted of just several long conversations. Though the acting, direction and score make these conversations feel cool and exciting, they’re still just a bunch of words. Eventually things actually start happening, making it possible to put together whatever pieces of information the viewer has retained. It’s Kenneth Branagh and Elizabeth Debicki’s characters that ground the narrative. Even if you don’t understand what was happening before they were introduced, you’ll definitely understand the dynamic between them and why The Protagonist’s mission led him to them. Kenneth Branagh is horrifying in his role, which is probably the highest compliment you could give to his performance. If you didn’t think the bending of time was enough, then Branagh’s character really raises the stakes of the narrative and adds to the epic-ness of the story.
If you can follow what’s happening during them, then the action sequences are incredible. Nolan brings the ideas from his twisted mind to life by crafting engaging actions sequences that excite and also leave you deep in thought. Though the latter part might be due to confusion. The fight choreography, or perhaps the deconstruction of it, was phenomenal and the visual effects were top notch and surprisingly not overused in a film whose premise is so out of this world. It was really worth it to return to theaters to see these action sequences on the big screen.
I read a review that said John David Washington was dull in his role. While I can admit that there isn’t much room in the narrative for him to have a personality, I can also see why that may be. As ‘The Protagonist‘, Washington’s character is solely focused on his mission and literally doesn’t have time to slow down and show us who he could be when he’s not trying to save the world. I think that for the story Nolan is trying to tell, his characterization of The Protagonist works. The character literally doesn’t have a name so its easy to consider that serving as the film’s protagonist is all he needs to be. That being said, I think Washington played the role well under Nolan’s direction. However, he is certainly outshined by the likes of Pattinson, Branagh and Debicki. Pattinson played my favorite character in the film.
There’s not much else to say without actually talking about the plot, which I don’t wanna do in case anyone actually reads this. Though I’ve criticized this film quite a bit I still very much enjoyed it, and I’m excited to watch it again. I will say, however, that I was playing catch up throughout the whole movie and struggling to understand most scenes. While the story Nolan has crafted is beautiful, it should never be this hard to follow a film. And a majority of the plot really does happen through exposition, which goes against the “show, don’t tell” rule of filmmaking. I thought it was awesome, but I can also acknowledge its flaws.