kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
An utterly exhausting first draft film that seems like impressive filmmaking on the surface until you realize it's all just performative. Nolan has rightfully gotten flack for his dialogue, characters, and exposition throughout his career, but at least he's had a defined world and stakes to fall back on - and it's still worked pretty well. In Tenet, even that goes out the window. By making the stakes something as frustratingly nebulous as "save the world," and by rendering the plot itself so indecipherable that you can't even tell what they need to do to save the world, this becomes a film that has a concept in name only. It's not the rigorous fucking Nolan gives time that's the actual issue here, it's the simple clarity of the story moving from scene to scene and location to location. You just don't understand where they are, what they're doing, or why they're doing what they're doing - and when the same scenes play out multiple times over in contained locations, it's hard to get a sense of the scope of this supposed mission. The pacing and editing (sadly, given how much I like Jennifer Lame's work) are just awkward and abysmal.
The action scenes are reasonably enjoyable, though certainly less impactful and exciting without a coherent plot around them. There are impressive set pieces, but nothing quite rises to the genuine emotional thrill of his earlier work, and the much hurrahed about airplane sequence is a waste of an airplane. The dialogue, characters, and exposition that Nolan's known for are dialed up to the extreme in the worst way, so much so that the final scene itself is a literal exposition dump. And he can't write women, but we all knew that. I was genuinely looking forward to seeing Nolan get back to doing sci fi, so this is disappointing. Maybe he should've used the time he's had recently to focus on making a good movie rather than tell people to go to the theaters during a pandemic.