Tenet ★★★½

Tenet is Christopher Nolan's newest movie and probably the most Nolany Nolan movie to date, which has both positive but also its negative effects. The good thing is that it really feels like Nolan doesn't care what anyone else thinks. He just makes what he wants to make and if the public enjoys it that's fine, otherwise it's also fine. I'm sure he does want the audience to enjoy it, but I'm just describing how the movie feels not what or how Nolan thinks. Because of this, this is probably the movie where Nolan has the most (i.e. complete) creative freedom. But like f.e. Lucas before him, too much creative freedom can also result in a messier product. I think we may have finally reached the point where Nolan made a movie as complex as possible, just for the sake of being complex.

The concept of forward/backward time is relatively easy, but Nolan just throws layer after layer after layer until it's difficult to near-impossible to figure out where everyone is and what everyone is doing in real time. It makes it a complex puzzle, but not because the actual mechanics are difficult, simply because he throws 20 puzzles at you at once. In that sense this movie is different from his previous puzzles like Interstellar, Inception, The Prestige and Memento and definitely less elegant. I think that's the movie's biggest flaw. In that sense it kinda feels like Game of Thrones season 7, which was still very fun to watch, but where it more felt like someone trying to imitate the previous Game of Thrones seasons by using spectacle instead of also adding the right dialogue. And in that sense Tenet feels like Nolan trying to make another Inception-esque puzzle, but without the intricate but graceful mechanics of that movie, instead relying on adding 10x as many layers until it feels similar.

And that might sound quite negative, especially for this rating, and I think that for some people that will be the end of the story. Most of the characters, while well-acted by Washington and Pattinson, are also not that fleshed out and Nolan's writing for female characters continues to be meh. However, as a director and choreographer of scenes, Nolan might be unmatched in the current movie landscape. So the question is: do you care about the movie? If you can't connect to the characters and the plot, then the answer will be no. But I personally strapped myself in, looked past the debatable physics explanation and was all for a cinema thrillride after not going there for over 6 months. I can't really pinpoint why, but despite the lack of connection between the characters and the audience and the puzzle being more convoluted than complex, I still loved watching everything unfold and trying to keep up with what was going on.

Just take the opening scene. Beyond the plot and characters, just the plain incredible directing is enough for me to just sit back and watch in awe. The editing is great and the soundtrack phenomenal. Since I'm watching this in the Netherlands there are always subtitles below movies in the cinema. I usually don't read them, but I guess when the sound is too loud to hear the dialogue my brain automatically instead reads the subtitles. It seems to be so automated over the years that I can't recall whether and/or how often the music was too loud for me to hear the dialogue, but because of those subtitles it never really bothered me. But I can imagine that without subtitles it could be an issue.

Anyways, in the end Tenet was an amazing experience back in the theater, even if after you arrive home it doesn't really stick with you as much as previous Nolan movies. Had Tenet dialed back a bit on the many time layers in the 3rd act and focused more on giving emotional weight to the characters, we could've had another Inception like success. As it stands, Tenet is not that and probably sits near the lower tier of Nolan movies, but for me it was a great experience and definitely something that you should see on the big screen.

KevinWriter liked this review