hayden’s review published on Letterboxd:
I could be wrong, but I think Christopher Nolan has certainly the reached that point in his career where, even if a newly released film of his is remotely underwhelming, he cops a ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous amount of slack for it. Mind you, this is based purely off of what I’ve heard from friends, read in newspapers and seen from you lot on LB in regard to Tenet.
So of course, I went into my session last night with relatively low expectations, still hoping to be entertained mind you, but to walk out with a curtailed sense of satisfaction in comparison to some of Nolan’s other films. Wellllll, this was not the case. I loved what I saw, and that contentment is most certainly still there.
I feel like at this point I don’t really need (or do I want to even attempt) to explain the plot of this movie; most of you have seen a trailer or two by now, unless you’re wanting to go in totally blind. But, if you’re wanting to go in blind, you wouldn’t be reading this, so let us assume that we’ve all watched at least a trailer. Great, because that’s all the knowledge, understanding and as concrete a foothold you will have on the premise of Tenet until about 100 minutes in, or so. JD Washington is an agent for the FBI I want to say, and he’s been given an assignment to prevent the annihilation of humanity as we have ever and will ever know it to be, assuming everything goes to plan.
Everyone is comparing Tenet so harshly to some of Nolan’s (objective, maybe?) masterpieces – of course it’s necessary to do so or else where would we be, but also, please stop, it’s already old. This movie survives brilliantly on its own ideas, critical elements and adrenaline fuelled action. As I stated before, you don’t really get a grasp on the plot device of Tenet until the majority of the movie has played out, however when you finally do understand, it makes the experience all the greater, to an extent.
That being said, I had a pretty sound idea of what was going on at any point, which comes down to both Nolan’s ability to wrap the action/espionage genre around his middle finger and stipulate to us, the viewer, that we are in fact always a few steps behind. In the case of Tenet however, I was never too far behind. I think this is a major factor when thinking about how much I enjoyed this movie. Yes, I’m writing this to kind of convince you that it is in fact a terrific movie as we’ve all said before, this is all subjective, and personally speaking, this is an excellent movie.
Time travel can get a little stale if overused and with the highest grossing film of all time (which only came out last year) relying on it as a primary plot device, Nolan knew he needed to write his own rules of such a fictitious element. This only added to Tenet’s charm. Once you get your head around it (which I still haven’t fully, mind you), you truly get a greater appreciation for this man’s ability to take complex ideas and mould them into accessible feats of cinema that bring great joy to watch. Nolan’s unique take on time travel is a contributing factor to Tenet’s success, in my eyes.
Ok, very quickly – every single performance in this movie was perfect. JDW is an absolute monster - that guy will break both your kneecaps, scream in your face, go back in time, do the very same in reverse, and still be charming as ever. Robert Pattinson was also very good in his role as the expository brains of the operation and is more likely to break your knees and then offer you a hand in standing up (probably insisting he pay for your rehabilitation while he’s there). Branagh with a beard was menacing as ever and didn’t fall too far into the Russian bad guy stereotype whilst Elizabeth Debicki surprised me in her competence as a vital representation of family and reality and in this convoluted film.
Unfortunately, and maybe it’s down to van Hoytema in the cinematography department, but there isn’t all that much that makes differentiating between the photography and shot composition of Dunkirk, what I’ve seen of Interstellar and then Tenet; Nolan certainly has a specific style he shoots in and that’s great, however everyone appreciates variety.
This movie needs a re-watch before I can even contemplate choosing an existential meta-narrative to write about, or one encapsulating notion that the plot device represents, but I’ll get there at some point. I’ve been dabbling in truth, reality and like, morality maybe? There’s an acute focus on JDW being the ‘Protagonist’, so there has to be something in that. Also, there was quite a lot of dialogue that I missed, purely down to the sound editing, which I know is widespread complaint people have of this movie – I am seriously considering spending my re-watch in closed captions, just so I can follow the intricate ins and outs.
Also, one the primary sources of exposition was a lady of Subcontinent origin. Now, I’m normally quite good with following with this, but a relatively strong Indian accent combined with an already confusing concept and poor sound design made for more than a few counts of hard to follow scenes that were really quite important.
I wasn’t really into the whole ‘film’ thing as deeply as I am now when I first watched Inception so I didn’t really own it like others did, you know? The same goes for The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight; Rises is my Nolan-Batman film, and even though I don’t like it more than its predecessor, I appreciate it a lot more than others seem to. Well, I think Tenet is my Nolan movie. Yes, I didn’t walk out with the same mind-bending, jaw-on-the-floor feeling that I did after Inception, but I have a lot of time for Tenet. Perhaps, it is almost a masterpiece.
(That car chase/fire engine fiasco was one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen to date, nailed it Nolan)