jaywill’s review published on Letterboxd:
SPOILER-FREE!! I know many of my American LB friends aren’t able to see this yet, so don’t worry about me ruining it for ya.
Here’s the deal, it’s an ambitious concept. While I have confidence every scene makes logical sense in the timeline when you write it out, I doubt anyone can keep up on their first watch. I applaud anyone that does, even on a second watch, because I needed a pen and paper with me. The science-y stuff isn’t the hard part, it’s simply keeping track of the characters. In that regard, inversion is a cool concept, certainly facilitated some awesome action, *probably* doesn’t break it’s own rules due to Nolan’s own meticulousness, but just isn’t effective.
For these reasons, the stakes were also slightly unquantifiable. Yes, people are killed left and right, and the dialogue throws consequences in your face, but not grasping the concept will create a negative for some. I was uninvested emotionally as well, often Nolan’s downfall. JDW & Rob’s characters were very much soldiers in a war I didn’t comprehend on the first watch, so it was hard to become attached. Debicki’s plot-line was the emotional core, but not fully developed (in my opinion for a spoilery reasons, so I won’t mention).
From hereon out, the positives. The cast is terrific. I think the big draw here is Rob, who steals his scenes imo. John David Washington shines from the opening scene until the credits as the protagonist. Kenneth Branagh puts a convincing spin on a menacing Russian villain. Elisabeth Debicki slays, despite being underwritten. Aaron Taylor-Johnson‘s growing fanbase should enjoy his contribution here as well. The quintessential piece of a Chris Nolan ensemble cast, Michael Caine, unfortunately makes only a type-casted cameo.
Sound mixing notwithstanding (the music overpowered dialogue distractingly at some points), the film is a technical masterpiece. Visual effects? Not needed. No green screens, the whole thing is practical. They crashed a real plane! A mf-ing 747 people!! The stunt work was jaw dropping. Behind the Scenes revealed that John David Washington performed his action sequences forwards and backwards to accommodate the concept, and it shows.
This is Hoyte van Hoytema’s third collaboration with Christopher Nolan, and my personal favourite. While the trailers seem grand, they show just a taste of the crisp cinematography he puts on display in Tenet. I was mesmerized with the look of the floor-to-ceiling lab drawers. Scenes shot on the water were especially gorgeous. Maybe more impressive was framing the actors in enclosed spaces with the big IMAX camera, facilitating the action sequences as much as Nolan’s patented insert shots.
The score is sensational. Ludwig Goransson is best known for is work on Black Panther (or rather his R&B music), but this is the most I’ve felt his presence on the big screen. His booming score is responsible for much of the effectiveness of the film’s suspense.
Ultimately, Tenet should be considered the front-runner for nominations across the board, which, given 2020’s lack of releases, is not surprising. However, I think some of the phenomenal technical elements would hold in any year’s award ceremonies. As for Nolan’s filmography, I’d put it on the lower tier, though I think it’s one of his most impressive and subject to change on a rewatch.