Tenet

Tenet

Only someone as vapid as Chris Nolan could come up with an idea as ripe with meaning and potential as this movie’s central concept and reduce it to a save-the-world action gimmick. 

It could’ve been so cool if the plot was less wacko nonsense. A film utilizing this premise could’ve been profound even, if put in the hands of someone more concerned with the inherent existentialism of it all. The mere existence of this concept raises so many basic questions that the film seems wholly uninterested in answering. How does this change our perception of time? What does this mean about death and it’s inevitability? Fate? And as the film clumsily questions near its beginning before dropping forever, what about free will? The film says “who cares?” instead electing to focus on covert art deals or secret government plots that just happen to go backwards instead of forwards. And the mere spectacle of a bullet shooting backwards.


The film seems to want to argue that if we know what the future holds then we can work to change it. But not only is this absurdly obvious, its own gimmick contradicts its argument. Our characters see the aftermath of a brawl that has yet to occur and yet that does not stop it from occurring exactly as they foresee. It’s clear in the first hour that nothing can actually be changed or altered and that anything that happens in the future has somehow already happened. Anything you do to change the outcome is actually just you playing into the exact series of events that is pre-ordained to occur. The quest is a pointless one made futile by its own premise.

Nolan thinks he’s such a genius when at best he’s good at spectacle and weak at most other things, and all of that oozes through every frame of this convoluted dreck. It’s so self-absorbed it’s insane. It thinks it’s more thoughtful than it is. It thinks it’s more clever and snappy than it is. It’s obnoxious, outdated, and out-of-touch. It feels like a decades-old Bond flick except way more boring.

It’s structured like a video game. Go here, talk to a guy who gives you a mission. Fight. Go there, talk to another guy who gives you a mission. Fight. That kind of storytelling works in video games because the purpose of a video game is to give you fun things to do and maximize the adventure. In a movie, this kind of storytelling is plodding, bloated, opaque.

This movie also really showcases how much Nolan has been relying on Hans Zimmer for his films’ emotional beats. Without Zimmer, everything lacks the potent oomph his movies often feature. Not to say the music here is bad, I actually kind of like it (in a vacuum). Beating synths and electric drones etc, all things I tend to like. But it’s mostly ineffectual and often clashes with what’s on screen.

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