Tenet ★★★★

In some ways, I still stand by my response to this the first two times I watched this. No amount of return viewings will make this any deeper than it already is. The characters remain nothing more than pieces on an intricate chessboard of temporal fuckery and globetrotting espionage. Coming back to this a third and fourth time in just over a day, I was able to re-orient myself a bit and resist engaging with it on a purely narrative level. I believe the key to Tenet (which I wrote in my previous entry), lies in a lyric from the Travis Scott song that booms over the end credits:

"Not a vibe, but a wave."

With films like Inception and Interstellar, the pleasures of their complex ambitions and narratives are fairly immediate at first glance, thus allowing the viewer to sit back and "vibe" with their trippy thrills. This is also because Nolan devotes a good portion of both films to priming the audience for what's to come with lengthy, often contrived exposition sequences that are nevertheless sold with enough emotionality to feel plausible. Tenet is different, to say the least. After realizing he could sell quite a bit without much dialogue in Dunkirk, Nolan finally figured out how to weave exposition in a way that fuels the momentum of both the action and the anticipation leading up to it.

I stated in my initial review how the film's uncanny technical precision is both beneficial and harmful to its resolve, but what I missed is how the confusion of breezing through information, character, and action - sometimes all at once - is its own thrill. It's like being in the water on the beach; fully expecting the big waves to come, yet still being caught off-guard by how much force they exert on your body. The first time you experience those waves, it's almost frustrating to know just how easily they can bring you down and nearly drown you. But as with any other experience like it, you can't help but want to go back.

I didn't think it would happen after my first time, but Tenet wormed its way into my brain in a way few sci-fi thrillers of its magnitude have done before. I found myself unable to peel away from solving its puzzles, listening to Ludwig Göransson's score, and re-watching scenes over and over again for nothing but the thrill of watching them. Anything that can do that, regardless of first impressions, is always a winner in my book.

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