allain’s review published on Letterboxd:
Disclaimer: I’ve only seen this three times, all of which are watched in the comfort of my own room, and I’ll probably judge it better if I’ve seen it in IMAX, but since theaters are closed in my country, this will do since I’ve seen the VOD version last night. I might change my rating once I’ve seen its theatrical version, but I highly doubt it.
Christopher Nolan’s obsession with time continues in Tenet–an action sci-fi about an unnamed CIA agent, who was enlisted to a secret organization, Tenet, with only mission at hand: to prevent an impending third world war, in any means necessary. Inversion of time is this film’s unique trope and lethal weapon, as everyone, including the Protagonist, fight and race against time.
The good side. The storyline actually made sense, and although it seemed to be immensely convoluted in the first watch, the minute details that you probably missed in that first watch will be visible and will help you tie the missing pieces out. I’ll admit that it’s brilliant that Nolan managed to write and execute a concept as complicated as this one, but being the director of Inception (2010) and The Prestige (2006), it’s really no wonder. Even though a lot of people hated it, the sound design and score actually helped in heightening the tension on certain scenes. The car chase and the cargo plane scenes were my absolute favorite and showed the brilliance showing the same scene twice, but one is in normal and one is in reverse. Multiple theories also popped in my mind after watching it and Neil lives in my mind rent-free since its VOD release.
The bad side. Sadly, I think Nolan focused more on the storyline that he neglected to make the characters a little bit more humane. The lead character, The Protagonist, felt restrained throughout the film’s runtime, and everybody else only have a one-dimensional personality, with one purpose to serve. The over-explaining also ruined the experience, and while some might argue that it helps the audience understand the underlying physics behind every single thing shown on screen, it’s better if the film explained it on its own. The lack of emotional attachment in The Protagonist’s relationship with other people, like Neil, Kat, and his supposed son, emanated vividly, and it’s this lack of fondness with the characters that made me care less about them in general.
The ensemble cast performed spectacular on this film, although I feel like they were not utilized to their full potential, especially John David Washington, but their performances were still great nonetheless. All in all, while the concept and storyline are amazing and all, the overall disappointment I felt after watching it for the third time, made me question if this is the same director who made Interstellar (2014) and Dunkirk (2017) and I feel like the characterization, the tension, the stakes, and the ending failed to live up to my expectations. Still a great watch though, if you love mind-boggling time-inversion films.