Tenet

Tenet ★★★½

Obviously a movie that has to be watched twice in order to be understood in a more complete capacity. Now that I’ve seen it twice (this time with subtitles which feel essential) I can actually gather my thoughts and form an opinion which is actually a very positive one. In fact I would even go to say it’s my favorite Nolan to date. I’ve tried to write a comprehensive review but instead I’ll offer you a list of my thoughts:

- For a movie that “demands to be seen on a big screen” it sure is so much easier to watch at home on a computer. Having subtitles and the freedom to pause and rewind makes this an actual comprehensible movie and proves to be more of an argument in favor of vod/streaming release than the pro-theater agenda Nolan so desperately pushed upon us all.

- The action here is really impressive. The staging, the set pieces, the choreography, the camerawork.... it seems like Nolan finally figured out how to make good action sequences. Where was that in The Dark Knight Trilogy?

- It’s 150-minute runtime flies by very fast. However, my biggest problem is that there is clearly (in my eyes) a good 10 minutes missing at the end. There’s so many full circle moments and yet that ending doesn’t feel very full circle. I would say “maybe that’s the point” but the rest of the movie indicates anything but. There’s a lot happening here that occurs in the future (makes sense if you’ve seen the movie) and unless Nolan wants a sequel — which would not be wise — that should all be in here, even if it’s just squeezed in at the end.

- Piggybacking off of that last point, it became clear to me this time around that this isn’t really the “epic event” it’s advertised to be. It’s more of an espionage spy thriller with an abstracted premise which is probably the main selling point for me. 

- “Don’t try to understand it, feel it” is a line said by Clemence Poesy’s character in the film’s most expository scene. This seems like the perfect thesis for Tenet although the action and the story very much relies on understanding what is happening. That’s why multiple viewings are required. Even if we don’t understand it all, it’s still pretty thrilling. 

- The dialogue is really terrible. Thank GOD the leads are as charismatic as they are otherwise it would be a disaster. Has Christopher Nolan ever conversed with a human being who isn’t either his nerd brother or Michael Caine? 

- There is an obvious twist that should be revealed (read about it here if you want to know what that is -- spoilers included obviously), and while I like that it adds a layer of mystique and something to look for within the movie, I can’t help but think how satisfying it would have been for it to be fully revealed. Is it too much to demand more storyline satisfaction from a studio blockbuster? I don’t know I’ve never done it before. Maybe that’s actually a good thing.

- Unlike just about all of Nolan’s other movies, I can actually see this getting better with age. It’s fitting since this is a movie quite literally about the future catching up with the present. Inception might be a culmination of Nolan’s body of work but the overarching exposition diminishes its impact over time. Tenet feels genuinely new and exciting, revitalizing what a blockbuster can be capable of with an original premise and a meticulously constructed production and story around it. It also helps that he finally manages to differentiate between complexity and actual intelligence in storytelling – this is a very complex film but also one that tells its story in a very smart way where his other films just get by on being hard to comprehend all at once. It may not be the most emotional film, but it’s a box of puzzles that allows for more and more to be put together with each viewing.

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