Tenet ★★★★

Nolan reminds me of Howard Hawks in that for both directors each movie is just another opportunity to further refine the same few themes that they've been obsessed with over their careers. For Nolan, it's all about the notion of time and how we as people are swept up in its momentum, and "Tenet" fits the bill as only the latest in his ever increasingly sophisticated—or at least complicated—explorations of these same ideas. It's "Following" and "Memento" and "Inception" and even "The Dark Knight," just the latest version that results when an auteur has more money, more confidence and more ambition than ever before.

"Tenet" is also terrific, that is IF you are willing to give yourself over to its backgrounding of voices into the chaotic mix of sounds and orchestrated chaos, and the near total deprecation of plot in favor of a wash of incomprehensible exposition. It's a very strange and disorienting proposition that Nolan makes: he invites us to experience the mechanics of film, the things that we tend to cling to tightly like narrative details, as ambient texture instead. And yet at the same time Nolan gives us texture that is not impressionistic or moody or painterly, modes that other directors who are disinterested in cinematic conventions tend to work in. Here the texture is in high relief, detailed and tangible, yet quite disjointed. The movie looks, feels, moves and sounds like it SHOULD make sense, and yet it's very hard to actually to find the same, comfort-giving narrative contours that conventional films prioritize. And thus if you're trying to derive the same satisfaction that conventional films give you, it can be very frustrating.

Really, "Tenet" is practically Godard-ian in its willful flouting of blockbuster norms, and its insight into the language of film, too. It fulfills the dream of having a James Bond film made by a true auteur—and backed by a major Hollywood studio. This is basically the most expensive art film ever made.