Tenet ★★½

Alright, time to talk about it. Tenet is by far my least favorite Nolan film that I have seen, which really sucks because there are so many elements that I think Nolan absolutely nailed.

This is some of Nolan’s best action...ever. I have zero clue as to how he pulled off the fights with the inverted soldiers and the masterful wide shots truly blew my mind. However, there were some issues that I will get into. 

I also thought that John David Washington and Robert Pattinson had great on-screen chemistry together and played off of one another very well. Even though they spend most of the movie as work partners, you can tangibly feel a friendship blossoming because of their performances.

I also thought that the cinematography was pretty stellar. Some of the prettiest shots are ingrained into my head. I was completely blown away. The spectacle is all there to be admired and as a fanboy for practical effects and stunt work, I was blown away that all of it was caught on camera. 

However, I was not a big fan of Tenet. In fact, I think this film dethrones the Dark Knight Rises for being the sloppiest I’ve seen from Nolan in a good while. I’ve heard a lot of arguments against Nolan that his films are distant from emotion and while I’ve never necessarily felt that from his previous work, my gosh was that apparent here. This film is devoid of any emotional attachment which heavily detracts from the overall experience.

I’ll use the example of a spy or espionage movie because that is the genre that Tenet most closely resembles. In every great spy and action film, I’ve cared for the main lead and his story. In M:I Fallout, I cared for Ethan Hunt and his wife, as well as his morals and how they closely related to the themes of the movie. In Casino Royale, Bond was larger than life but Vesper brought him back down to humanity and made Bond feel like a real person. Here, we don’t actually learn anything about our main character, not even his name!

The reason this is a major issue is because Tenet is a plot heavy film. Asking us to follow it is asking us to care, and I honestly didn’t. For as easily as inversion is explained, everything else takes a lecture to figure out. The exposition takes up nearly 80% of this movie and at a point it just becomes tiresome and, I’ll explain what I mean here in a second, pretentious.

Tenet doesn’t feel as accessible as Nolan’s other works because of how convoluted everything is. The worst part is that it doesn’t have to be, because on paper the story is actually quite simple. This was a deliberate choice on Nolan’s part and it feels like the film is preaching above you rather than speaking to you. That’s not a smart way to tell your story.

It also does not help when you cannot hear a damn word that’s spoken because the sound design is awful. I never lost where I was because I was able to guess from context where the story was headed, but my gosh was it a strain to pay attention to what they were saying. Like I said, 80% of the movie is like this!

Another thing that got on my nerves was the score. There was absolutely no consistency here and it showed from the swaying focus on particular instruments. I think it was heavily the fault of temp music, because one theme in this movie is identical to my favorite bit of music from M:I Fallout. Bet you thought I wouldn’t notice that, huh?!

However, the issue with the movie that bugged me the most and I’m so sad to say this; I thought one of the my favorite talents working today Kenneth Branagh was pretty laughable in this movie. I never found him menacing or scary, especially since the entire movie shoots him from high angles. He just never feels like he poses any apparent physical danger. It’s hard to get behind a story where your villain adds absolutely nothing, and I honestly have to point the finger at Nolan here.

So yes, this is the first time I’ve walked out of a Nolan movie pretty bothered by the result. Tenet is sadly the bottom of the barrel for Nolan for me personally despite the incredible respect I have for him as a filmmaker. As much as I admire what he has given to filmmaking, I felt his ego seeping through this movie and it was definitely not something I wanted to see from him. See the movie for yourself and form your own opinions, but Tenet was not for me.

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