Jake’s review published on Letterboxd:
Does a half star rating seem hyperbolic? Sure. Do I care? Absolutely not.
If boring, emotionally dry, perfunctory exposition is your idea of fun, then boy do I have a film for you!
The only Nolan movie I disliked before this was Inception, and it feels like he took everything that made Inception drive me mad and amplified it by twenty billion to make a movie ENGINEERED to piss off those who dare enjoy film on any level beyond ‘vibes’ or whatever people who jizz themselves silly about movies like Miami Vice measure their enjoyment by. Tenet here is a frigidly cold, boringly directed, adequately acted, and spectacle-less spectacle ‘experience’ that does not provide me with even the slightest bit of what I look for in film or in art as a whole. A bunch of generic action scenes that I am SURE took time and love to craft and choreograph, but the problem is that they’re so badly filmed it really doesn’t matter. The hand to hand combat in this film looks like it’s right out of Batman Begins back when Nolan didn’t know how to do action scenes. It’s shaky, generic, bloodless, and devoid of impact. The time gimmick this time around is the true main character, an element the script EXPLICITLY TELLS you is something you, AND I QUOTE: ‘shouldn’t think about’ and just go with it. Nolan has abandoned any inherent advantage his gimmicks might bring him like they did so masterfully in films like Memento. I am still in awe that a man whose built his entire career on a overexplaining literally everything in his labyrinthine screenplays (a problem he creates for himself, more often than not!) had the audacity to look his audience dead in the eye and say ‘that thing I keep talking about endlessly in this? Yeah don’t think about it. Even as I keep telling you about it for the sake of context’- make up your fucking mind, man! If you wanna be a vibes movie STOP TALKING AND GIVE ME VIBES THAT DON’T REMIND ME OF THE VISUAL SPLENDOR OF A PARKING GARAGE.
The characters are flatter than bargain value post-it notes. The actors are given a wasteland of a script that contains no personality, no defining character moments, and no humanity. And I thought the characters in INCEPTION were flat! This movie says ‘hold my fucking beer’ and stretches out these nothing people in this nothing story for two and a half hours and I know nothing about them. No one WANTS anything. No one FEELS anything, and if they did, they sure as fuck didn’t communicate it to the audience! The story is devoid of meaning, devoid of theme, devoid of EMOTION to the extent where I have to wonder how the fuck anyone can enjoy it. I felt nothing, I am exasperated, and I am so glad I didn’t pay to see this fucking thing and risk my life to watch something I loathed from start to finish.
Then there’s Debicki, who, like the others, is devoid of character or life, but doesn’t even get the ‘Nolan fridge’ treatment, she is SOLELY defined by her trauma, just her suffering at the hands of a man. Used only to try and inject empathy by constantly making her suffer and be put in pain to drive the plot. Stiffly acted as though she were as lifeless as any other Nolan leading lady, though her turn here makes Katie Holmes in Batman Begins look like Meryl Streep. For God’s sake, EMOTE. PLEASE.
Nolan’s worst film by a wide margin. It contains nothing but artifice, but even that is empty and boring. I can’t even say it’s well made. It may be impressively put together, but NONE of this effort shows, and is only furthered by the same-y score and cinematography. It was painful and laborious in every way, and I cannot think of a single solitary compliment I can afford it. It is exhausting, baffling, soulless, bloated, vapid, and most important, devoid of any humanity. Guess I’m just a boring killjoy, but frankly, if I want something cool and ‘vibes’ oriented I would put on The Matrix Reloaded, but I forget, apparently we still think those movies are stupid and lame- this on the other hand gets a free pass for… what? I would be way more lenient here if this movie didn’t inexplicably have people left and right claiming that it’s sincerely powerful or moving or whatever, sure man, you do you.
Just to say my peace on this one particular aspect of the film: the ‘homoeroticism’ you all are on about is not here. This is no different than Taika Waititi claiming that his latest Thor excrement is ‘camp’ and ‘gay’ cause it’s got colors in it. Oh wow your two attractive leading men with zero chemistry talk a couple times? Fucking adorable. Stop with this silly bullshit already, please. Watch an actually gay film and stop jerking people around with this nonsense. ‘You can’t take a joke I guess’ I hear in my head. Well I guess the fuck not, because if this and that hot sauce line are the pinnacle of memetic comedy, I’m fine being a spoilsport. It’s fun to have silly jokes with movies but there comes a point where you sound like an idiot lawl randum teenager I would’ve tried to avoid in high school. I understand you think the hot sauce line is very funny. Thats very nice. I applaud Nolan for injecting a single moment of intentional levity into this movie with the color palate of a stainless steel refrigerator.
I deeply apologize for being so hard on Inception and even Dark Knight Rises, two vastly better films.
It sucks. It also sucks in reverse. So I guess it blows too.