Raphael Georg Klopper’s review published on Letterboxd:
But as usual taking the current times, anything or probably everything said here will immediately get dated by the time I’ll have a proper re-watch and maybe (JUST MAYBE) adore the movie even more than I did, but yes, all but enjoyment that I took out of this one, scored high yet again mister Christopher Nolan sir! Though definitely not his best (at least at first watch), but definitely Nolan’s most mature state as a filmmaker and arguably his best directorial work next to Dunkirk, and arguably his most thematically (and even dramatic) insurmountable film ever since The Prestige with its narrative bending structure. But trust me, not on the level as Tenet achieves.
That all just goes to sound as another pretentious overload fest coming from Nolan’s mind, which can be fairly seen as such, sure. And instantly becomes another full range target for criticism coming from his usual nitpicking haters, at least for those who managed to see it yet. But nothing that takes away the amount of fun and meaning that Tenet does pack within its blurry confusing lines of reasoning. If his previous Dunkirk was to Nolan an experimental epic, completely different from everything he’d done by then, Tenet is old-school Nolan-fest extravaganza at its most mindboggling, is him going back to his blockbuster roots that made his name in the early 2010s and on. But really, Inception and Interstellar feel like Barney the Dinosaur next to this one.
From the blockbuster standpoint alone and before anything, Tenet is a blast marvel, that much serves to join together, yet again, Nolan usual passions: Heist movies and James Bond spy-films. With every single set-piece of action here, since the car-chases to building invasions and full-out war zone by the end, all carries a heist-mission goal and planning behind it, impressively all works for how quick tensely performed and creatively well designed they all feel from an almost dying saturated sort of film, and Nolan really is a creative bastard that still manages to make this sort of cinema works in such a great high entertainment factor. To exploding real planes, to reverse-close-quarter fighting, all in a world-scale event, every minute out of this is pure pleasurable, and definitely the best action-direction of his entire career.
Not only that but on a serious technical factor, this movie looks and feels consistently engrossing. From Hoyte Van Hoytema delivering another eye-candy treatment that defies conventionality in immersing saturation, ever-changing tonalities like a walking dream (yeah not an Inception hidden sequel like some tought or root for - myself included). Along with the great Ludwig Göransson in a complete Hans Zimmer mode with its almost endless chords that dictate the time in constant formulation behind each action. All that goes on to create Nolan's own little huge scale action/thriller espionage wet-fantasy.
Speaking of it, when it comes to the old-British iconic name of espionage-action cinema, this is Bond to an almost too literal degree. If even in his Dark Knight trilogy and Inception the influences were all over the place, Tenet is definitely Nolan’s most Bond-ish film. From the main protagonist (literally named the protagonist - John David Washington) starting way behind his league over the mission; a “cold-war” being the main threat at hand; finding out the main villains name after half-hour way into the film and with him and the audience only meeting him face to face after one hour of movie; infiltrating the main baddy’s lair by blending in, gaining loyalty and flirting with the captive wife or lover on the side.
Having an ominous peculiar villain Sator played by an all-inspired Kenneth Branagh in caricature beast mode, shouting F words, killing people with gold bars like a modern Goldfinger and threatening to stick balls in people’s throats while planning the end of the world in the most creative way imaginable like a proper Blofeld. The only thing missing was a scar on his face then BUM, another iconic James Bond villain delivered on a plate for ya, and thank god for Nolan for being giving jobs to Branagh exercise his great acting chops in real memorable results (and having the best Russian accent since Gary Oldman).
Heck this all could’ve been easily be another modern James Bond adventure plus some sci-fi shenanigans, where the main gadgets at play, introduced by an Q-alike scene and persona in a short but sweet Clémence Poésy, are the time entropy itself. The other and Nolan’s main passion of all: time itself. To the point I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t be called Tenet as it refers to the organization that deals with the time threats, and rather should’ve just be named Time and finally this would be Nolan’s testament film. Where once again he applies a complex concept theme and explores it into a maximum effect of gargantuan blockbuster level and dramatically sets a intellectual exploration of time variability in humankind’s existence.
Some call him a genius visionary or full out bullshit that thinks its smarter than it really is for all of that, and Tenet’s definitely isn’t much different from Inception or Interstellar in the inherent cohesion of the themes it addresses in a directly explanatory and complex manner. Even if is definitely the most downright confusing and complicated he ever tackled by a very far mile in one of his movies, to the point where I still don’t get even half of it really, and tune in for the ride for how well Nolan actually applies the concept to the entire action itself. All I know is that reverse-firing bullets and wreckage rebuilding in midair looks dope as f#ck, now for how all that works…
All that I really got was the ability to decrease the entropy that flows the thermodynamics of our reality and time, and therefore, reverses immovable objects, or peoples, in each of their timeline of action, for having their entropy reversed. So basically their current chronology travels backwards in time instead of forwards. But after they start applying that into revert into different realities and timelines converging in unexplainable paradoxes…and the non-time-travel becomes a messy sort of time travel inside one current line of present. Alright forget it, I’m not going to explain this, leave it to Nolan and the thousands ending explained videos you’re going to find out there.
As it is what most of his detractors call his films as manufactured pictures only to sell out explained analysis videos on YouTube and nothing other than that, basing his product on an empty spectacle following a complex concept alone and having little to none essence or real cinematic form. However one may see Nolan, for bad or good for those reasons, I can most assure that this isn’t the same as he ever was on how he deals with certain subject. Tenet for once doesn’t feel as much as self-explanatory as his previous films over-explaining everything that happens, and it shows to be completely self-aware of its confusing head-scratching nature to an almost metalinguistic degree by addressing to the audience constantly about it “don’t think too hard on it” or “does your head hurts already?”.
Rather here it throws all the pieces of its concept and leaves us to built the labyrinthtic pyramid that shapes its plot and time-reverse-not-really-time-travel-but-time-travel-anyway; and constructs that through the pieces of its espionage world, ambiguously cryptic characters, high blazing action, and again in its majority, time itself! If Time in Interstellar was part of life and the universe own creation, and if in Dunkirk it was death and survival dancing in confrontation in its brilliantly set timelines; in Tenet, is everything. Time as high speed ceaseless moving action; time as character definer of ambiguous and never defined, but strangely gripping personalities of an expertly charismatic cast, with Washington jr. proving to have a real star on the rise inside of him, not having much of a character per say and much more a real mechanism to lead the story and the time-reverse entropy itself in motion as later reveals showcase, but he carries it with real swag and likeability.
But sort of looses real interesting factor when he stands next to the character of Kat from a seriously great Elizabeth Debicki, whose character’s arch shows a profoundly real portrait of marital abuse and its effects on women, and how she achieves freedom from it not with blazing feminist revenge as many films of today would like to portray, and rather does it with blazing love for her child and the trust she deposits not only in herself but in those willing to strengthen her. Some woke are going to get pissed out of this… And of course, the scene-stealing Robert Pattinson that desperately needs more of this big-budget films roles because he spares talent for it, and becomes the surprising heart of the film in its later phase becoming way more than just the expositive explainer voice of the film.
Though also, and most importantly, time as faith, which surprisingly have being showing to be Nolan’s real heartfelt goal in his later films, from Interstellar to know, he seems to being beg, through sheer storytelling, the resonance of our ability to embrace hope in dark times and the forever existing fears and marks we carry in our lives. And now time as the main protagonist of such task, in the form of faith. But not just maybe religious, but faith in our own existing reality and the way things are. As a key to believe in the knowledge and events of our present, get in peace with our past, and hope in our never certain future as the only thing we can ever do is keep going into that small glimpse of light in the middle of darkness even if not knowing all the answers to how to get there and trust destiny, faith, or time, to lead us there.
Like I said, I might just be talking all a bunch of bullshit for first-watch standards, but as it is by now, Tenet is striking on its making, is a successfully big loud entertainment that manages to be extremely confuse and surprisingly poignant in the multiple layers one can spend a lifetime excavating out of the concept he applied here, and not find just the sheer answer for how it works but rather what it hides underneath. And you can always count on Nolan to pull that sort of spectacle off with never clear and might flawed making, but made with real sweeping passion.