Tenet ★★★½

Soak up that big “Trying to be really smart to mask that it’s really dumb” Nolan energy. Smells like fresh mahogany.

Overall, I had fun with the TENET. The action scenes are neat, I’m all for a big heist movie, and the performances of the super-charismatic John David Washington and the weirdo Robert Pattinson kept me going. Nolan has also learned how to shoot a fistfight after the insanely chaotic BATMAN BEGINS and the boring long takes of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

But like the rest of the world, I had my brow furrowed for most of TENET’s running time.

TENET’s big failure is that its time travel mechanics are never properly explained in a coherent fashion. It’s visually dense in that pompous Nolan way, but it’s also dense in its presentation of storytelling stakes, so it plays out as a bunch of neat moments that the viewer can only vaguely grasp. If I don’t know why any of the characters are doing what they’re doing, then the dramatic backbone of the story, especially if it’s an action film, does not work. It doesn’t help that an ungodly amount of the time is spent having characters deliver exposition that obfuscates instead of illuminates. You can do a time-travel movie where the complications live on the margins, but the centre needs to be clear, and that’s simply not the case with TENET.

No, I’m not going to watch an hour-long Youtube video explaining how it all fits together.

From what I can tell, it’s the same closed-loop time travel idea that fiction and have tackled a hundred times (TIME CRIMES, SUMMERTIME MACHINE BLUES, PREDESTINATION), but it’s presented in an insanely complicated fashion in an attempt to trick the audience into thinking “Well, maybe it’s NOT that.” The bootstrap paradox is an interesting time travel idea that can be solved very simply: If you are in a closed-loop, then there was a previous timeline (a parallel stream of reality) that existed before the time machine was used. That's it. And the film never makes that clear even though it’s probably the most important story mechanic.

(Why yes, I have written have a dozen time travel scripts)

Justin liked this review