Tenet ★★★½

Well, even if I understood the movie on first watch I'd have to see it again in its IMAX glory. But it was pretty damn confusing, so I want to see it again anyway!

It's easy to see why this is Christopher Nolan's most polarizing film. Everything that people have taken issue with in past films return with a vengeance -- disproportionately loud bass booms that shake every seat; blink-and-you'll-miss-it editing that drops breadcrumbs for later reveals in every frame; confusing temporal and spatial chronology (or lack thereof) thanks to an obsession with time manipulation; and huge chunks of exposition being dropped in dialogue. Nolan's vision for Tenet is tell, then show, then tell in more detail, then show in more detail, and repeat. While that may bother some critics and viewers, it's also completely necessary in order to orient viewers given how the very nature of the story violates continuity editing and how audiences are used to watching linear "non-linear" stories.

There's a lot of dialogue I didn't quite catch on the first watch. There are a lot of visual cues I didn't recognize the first few times they appeared on screen. I know for a fact the final act lost me in its more-than-extremely ambitious approach to inversion. And yet Tenet is a marvel to behold for all its (supposed) flaws. (I will argue already that this, like many of Nolan's films, is one that will get better with age and rewatch and analysis, designed to spark pop culture conversation and parody but also inspire the next generation of filmmakers and creatives, destined to be a case study in English classes and film schools alike.)

I don't know what I can discuss without delving into spoilers, and given how awestruck and discombobulated I still am two hours after leaving the theatre, I should avoid spoilers anyway. What I can say is to ignore the claims that this is Nolan at his most derivative. The total package is wholly original even if specific plot threads or visual cues are inspired from previous literature and film. The familiar elements help ground the high-concept ones.

I'm left slightly underwhelmed from my own lofty expectations, but mostly because I so expected to be part of the population that got everything right away as I think I did with Inception and Interstellar and Dunkirk. (The other part is that the final setpiece is visually drab if realistic and accurate.) Instead, I am shooketh and confused. Even if this isn't Nolan's best I do expect my rating to increase on rewatch now that I can appreciate the cinematic elements more having a general outline of the twisting, looping narrative. I *will* say Travis Scott's "The Plan" makes 1000% more sense once you've seen the film. It's the perfect kind of tie-in song that enhances the film rather than being unrelated and just thrown onto the print.

A character says early on not to try to understand it -- rather, just to feel it (regarding the experience of time inversion). This is good advice on how to take in the film on initial watch. Watch the stellar acting and actual stuntwork and listen to the overwhelming sound mixing that pulls you into the characters' own overwhelming diegesis. If nothing else, one of the main actors *has* to be your type -- John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh -- so just feast your eyes on that actor totally fucking with time and your notion of reality.

It may sound like I hated Tenet or didn't understand any of it. That's not the case. Instead I'm rambling and still processing with what's left of my melted mind. Any paradoxes aside, the amount of plot resolution we do get is emotionally satisfying while still being open-ended enough to create new theories to postulate over for the next decade. Inception's ending was a cakewalk.

Seen using my Regal Unlimited membership.

Film screened in RPX with recliner seating on Monday, August 31st, 2020 at 8:45pm at Regal Celebration Pointe & RPX in Gainesville, Florida. Seen by myself.

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