Tenet ★★★

I went into Tenet with my expectations toned down. For one, I am definitely not among the biggest fans of Christopher Nolan. Two, the reception for Tenet had been rather mixed, so I never felt that compelled to check it out during its release. Now that the hype has seemingly died down and I've finally watched it, I can say that I am not the biggest fan of Tenet, and I am probably not going to rewatch it immediately, even if some people claim that it gets better on a second watch.

For starters, this is a film that looks stunning. Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography and Christopher Nolan's direction make sure that this film is always pleasing to watch and that no moment feels boring whatsoever. The action scenes are wonderfully composed, and the film always moves at a high pace, ensuring that there's always a sense of urgency to the film's plot. The acting is mostly solid all around, with Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki being the standouts for me, as they were the ones I could get the most invested in, as they're both caught in the chaotic conflict between the Protagonist (John David Washington) and Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), but are both trying to guide our hero and villain through this massive spectacle and keep their feet on the ground emotionally as well. There are some great ideas thrown in here about inversion of time, which makes for some great action scenes and an absolutely ludicrous climax. In that sense, this felt more like Christopher Nolan just trying to do pure action with some mindbending ideas thrown in, but letting the action take the front row seat instead of the big ideas, and thankfully, the film didn't feel as exposition-heavy to me as Inception, but that's probably more because Nolan seemed less interested in hammering his audience over the head with his high-concept ideas and instead just create a straightforward spy thriller disguised as something more complex (or that's just me bullshitting because there might still be some things I haven't fully understood on this first viewing), which takes place in "a Twilight world" (apparently Nolan couldn't resist referencing that franchise, now that he had Robert Pattinson in his film).

I do have some big issues with the film. For one, the score is abysmal and is extremely intrusive and it tends to be highly distracting in some scenes. The sound mixing, as many have already pointed out, drowns out the dialogue in the worst way possible. I mean, I could follow the film for the most part, but Nolan should not drown out his dialogue (nor should anyone defend the bad sound mixing by saying that we should just "focus" more on what is being said; bad sound mixing is bad sound mixing no matter what bullshit excuse you make for it!), especially in a film that uses a lot of high-concept ideas that kind of need to be exposited properly. The Protagonist and Andrei Sator are the least interesting characters in the grand scheme of things. Kenneth Branagh is extremely underwhelming for a guy whose goal is to destroy the past in order to create a better future; he should be far more compelling than just being a Northern Irishman speaking in a Russian accent, which is not even as gloriously over-the-top as such a performance should have been. John David Washington, on the other hand, is not bad, but he's let down by bad character writing that leaves the Protagonist as an extremely flat character who I found it extremely difficult to stay fully invested in. Not even the big "twist" about his role in the entire film didn't save his characterization. For a film that is two and a half hours long, I want to stay invested in what's going on, and this film almost does everything in its power to make sure that there was nothing to fully latch onto, neither on a cerebral or emotional level.

In conclusion, Tenet is equally parts pleasing and frustrating. It probably gets better on a second viewing somewhere down the line, but for me, I just wish I had more of a reason to stay invested in what it had in store.

Patrick liked these reviews