phinsjake’s review published on Letterboxd:
“See you in the beginning.”
Christopher Nolan’s reputation for tackling hugely original sci-fi projects precedes itself, but with Tenet he raises the bar even higher. I personally believe this is easily his most ambitious project yet, rounding up a new technical team to make everything look and sound like a Nolan film should. Differently from his other films, a lot of character background and concept exposition isn’t just spoon-fed to the viewer; information is relayed between the characters in a very implied way that allowed for smoother conversation than usual. In doing this, Nolan maintains the slick, sophisticated, and even stylish atmosphere of communication that I’ve not seen from him before. It’s unique and makes everything feel both very high stakes and high class.
There isn’t a ton of room to breathe. New characters begin to drop new names and history, and it feels like an endless, incessant intake of new information throughout the first act. Everything does begin to loop together as the film goes on, but it makes me wish I was understanding everything prior to an awesome action piece more clearly. It’s not as if it feels like Nolan’s digging an endless hole of explanatory reasoning. It truly feels like there’s an underlying intention the whole time, but there’s a ton of loose ends by the film’s end, which I hope a second viewing might patch up.
I’d be remiss not to say that the film’s one true downfall is how it gets muddled in the very logic the film is based around. We hear of paradoxes and one’s own potential entropy, but it doesn’t necessarily explain away exactly what happens. Tenet is unmistakably cool, but it’s the feeling that Nolan didn’t etch out the logic to fully represent the specific story before us. It’s not as precise or comprehensive as Inception or Interstellar (maybe because it lacks a certain level of humanity that both strongly produce), and the enormously ambitious concept presented here isn’t quite at the meticulous standard of his past films.
I don’t want to sound like I was disappointed with the resulting film or that I plainly didn’t even like it, but I can’t help to think that Nolan’s absolutely colossal ambition for this film ended up being the very thing holding it back from achieving something legitimately phenomenal. Needless to say, I’m extremely excited for my next viewing.