Jake Rosenberg’s review published on Letterboxd:
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Maybe Nolan’s most colorful movie yet, I feel like Dunkirk’s the only real time he’s expanded beyond his usual aesthetic/palette of grey/beige for blocky/concrete urban environments, so that was a nice change of pace. Didn’t really have an issue with any of the actors, & some of the action sequences in here were really visually inventive & well coordinated/choreographed; in particular, many of the hand to hand combat beats mark major improvement for Christopher as an action director. This movie is at its best when it’s fast paced & on the move, a scene where characters race to escape a building filling with gas by picking the locks to electronically locked doors was riveting. I’ve been avoiding discussing story stuff, & as far as positives go, I do admire the no-context approach to the narrative in theory; in a world of spies, espionage, & world ending threats, it makes sense to have the film unfold as such, our characters just as confused as we are though gradually catching on. For better or worse, Tenet often feels like flipping open to the middle of a choose your own adventure novel, & I did like how the protagonist (😐) made contact & advanced his mission by choosing when to say tenet. Some fucking phenomenal stunts too, & lastly, my favorite part of this movie was the score. God, I’ve been seeing people shit on Ludwig for months now, & I’m here to call all of you fucking braindead. The music here is pulse pounding in the best way, & imo would not have worked with a typical Zimmer score, as Hans’s operatic bombast is less suited to this material about the race to save the world than Görranson’s score that literally sounds like it’s racing. At points, a bass drum will dominate the soundtrack, thumping along as our characters sprint to their objectives, & I was loving it.
Tenet is, in a word, cold. Cant think of a more classic case of sound & fury signifying nothing. While I admire the attempt at a contextless narrative to enhance the spy element’s secrecy, up to a certain point, it just rings hollow. I am attached to no one, care about no one, & since I frequently can’t understand what’s happening, I have no stakes in the action. And to add insult to injury, the only comprehensive character threads are as cliche as, “I’m gorl & I want son,” & “I’m dying so world comes with.” It’s bad enough that the story is trying its darndest to be opaque beyond belief, so to give us actual characters & then have them be so cheap feels like trolling. In Dunkirk, the lack of characterization was essential, as we see these young men we know next to nothing about try to survive real life circumstances that are semi-relatable even if only through history. The horrors of war molded these boys, their survival was a character arc in & of itself. Here, we similarly know nothing about anyone for the sake of feeling like espionage, & with the fantastical premise eliminating any semblance of real world stakes, it’s all just so weightless. I too love James Bond but giving the villain a backstory worthy of one of 007’s rogues gallery felt so out of place amidst the deliberateness of everything else. Beyond the lifeless characters, I really take issue with the plot’s central conceit of, “don’t try to understand it, just feel it.” Such logic is typically suited to dream logic movies, where the literal is less essential than the metaphorical or subconscious. You don’t have to understand all of Twin Peaks to feel its heart, laughter, fear, & pain that make up its ruminations on the passage of time (among other things). Sadly, Nolan applies this philosophy to something well beyond its britches: a multimillion dollar action blockbuster. Not to say these can’t experiment & deny the audience what they expect, but if I’m going to sit through two & a half hours of jargon that is wordy, complex, hard to understand, & ultimately pointless because you aren’t supposed to understand it but feel it, why include it at all? Why bog the movie down in details that it self proclaims aren’t worth getting invested in? It’s that dichotomy that frustrated me most, such that by the finale, which is a barrage of nonsense, I was struggling to keep watching, let alone comprehend. All these details, & yet no rules for anything. Oh yeah, plus the sound mixing really is as bad as you’ve heard; watched with subtitles & could literally hear how poorly mixed the dialogue was in relation to the music. Bane’s voice in TDKR was one thing, because it was literally one thing: one person, one voice, absurd mixing yes but it still worked. When every conversation has you straining to hear it, even with subtitles...woof. Cant believe this was a multimillion dollar movie that went to theaters & that was allowed to slide. Even if I were to understand this movie more by rewatching it, I don’t really care too. I will say I’m pumped to have watched Nolan’s latest on his least favorite streaming service, because while I support the theatrical experience & artists, I was so annoyed by Chris’s whining about seeing his movies in theaters when we are in a pandemic, & shitting on streaming for trying to ease the misery. Sorry Christopher Nolan, but Tenet was not worth the probable real life deaths it caused in being a literal super-spreader event.
No cognitive dissonance like Travis Scott saying SKRRT SKRRT over the credits of a Nolan movie