Tenet ★★★★½

This is cowboy shit.

CW/TW: Suicidal Ideation/Behavior

Before falling asleep last night, for a reason that I can't really explain, I thought back on the time in my life when I was the most depressed. It was sophomore year of high school, my acne was terrible, hormones were going wild, and I had next to no drive to give classes my best effort. For a good several months around this time, not a day would go by where I wouldn't at least think about killing myself. Later in that academic year, it was looking like I would flunk my geometry class. I couldn't be told directly that an F in an essential class, that mark on my permanent record, wouldn't noticeably affect my chances of getting into a decent college. What I am about to say next is something I'm stating publicly for the first time, something only very close people would know. I had made an internal promise to myself that if I did flunk that class, I was going to kill myself. I knew how I was going to do it too. I was going to stab myself directly in the heart with one of those big kitchen knives. I had hoped it would be quick, that the pain would only be an initial feeling. As you can guess, I passed that class, actually doing better on the final than any other test in the class. In retrospect, it's absolutely stupid, and I want to smack my younger self upside the head for being so willing to take his own life over something that ended up being so trivial. So, you're probably asking yourself, what the hell does this have to do with Tenet? I think a lot, honestly. I am uncertain of my future. I was once so scared of that uncertainty, so clouded in my head with the possibility of shame, that I would have once rather taken my own life than lead one that I thought was a disappointment. I am not afraid of death so much as I am afraid that I'm going to die too soon, before I think I've reached my full potential. Despite being twenty-one years old, already feeling like I've done a lot and met a lot of great people, there's another part of me that feels like my life hasn't even started yet. Especially in recent years of my life, films overtook video games as my main source of media entertainment. Since joining Letterboxd, I've recently taken it upon myself to watch at the very least a movie a day, and I can say with full confidence that it has really helped me keep my head on my shoulders and my gaze forward. Tenet, through its exploration of time in sometimes confusing but mostly very exciting and engaging ways, isn't perfect, but I think it's especially the kind of movie that I watch movies for. Nolan's direction and most certainly the score from Ludwig Göransson are integral pieces to my enjoyment of the film, but on this viewing especially, it dawned on me how integral John David Washington is to my enchantment with this movie. His performance, and the character of The Protagonist himself, might be the unsung hero from cinema this year. He has enough personality thrown into him by John to make him interesting to watch, but he's also vacant enough in motivation and even in name where he can be applicable to nearly anyone. His mission and his journey is one that I connect with. He's uncertain of where he's going, what he's doing, but whatever he does, he's a cowboy with it. He's going to give it what he can, and you can see the worry in his eyes, but he'll try whatever it takes in some cases anyway. In a world where things can seem predetermined, that things had to work out somehow for him to even being doing what he does, he can still be the master of his own fate. So, I thank Christopher Nolan and John David Washington for offering me a film that twice has been both great escapism and a vessel for pure, unadulterated, transformative feeling.


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