Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Emotionally inept" would be a good way to describe it. I was honestly pretty excited to see this film and while I definitely did still like quite a lot about it, I couldn't help but feel very cold as soon as it cut to black at the end. Personally I am not of the opinion that Nolan is a cold filmmaker, in fact, I think he's the opposite. While yes his style is very maximalist and calculated at the same time, the emotional core of his films always play a big role. Characters struggle with loneliness, moral dillemas, grief, time, intense emotional as well as physical turmoil; the list goes on. Many of his films are flawed, but I can't deny just how strong the emotional impact of a film like Interstellar, Inception, Memento and even Dunkirk can be.
The characters in Tenet don't struggle with anything. Well, one of them does, but that character isn't given nearly enough screentime, so the emotional arc ends up being completely unsatisfying. Most everyone in the film is a prop for the bigger story, which is admittedly conceptually awesome, but I'm left wondering how much I should care for the stakes of this story when I don't know how those stakes personally affect the characters. Again, there is a sliiiiiight attempt at that, but the film just rushes through it instead of making it its main theme to hold on to.
Films like Inception and Interstellar can almost convince one to become a better person, they're films that have the ability to change a person. I'd honestly be surprised if anyone felt changed by Tenet by the end. I'm not asking for every film to be a life-affirming masterwork, but I don't feel like making films big math tests is exactly a good approach to storytelling either. Somewhere between all the exposition there is a potentially moving story to be found here and I honestly was hoping they'd be getting there at the third act, but it just ends. It's honestly a pretty confusing narrative in the sense that I'm not sure what it's really going for. Is the entire film just an excuse for a storytelling experiment? Is the whole idea that we're supposed to view Nolan's other films as the emotional expansion of the themes in this film? I don't know. It kind of just seems like incredibly underdeveloped writing.
I wish this film was 3 hours and something long, because its fast pacing would've made that runtime more than bareable while also allowing it to flesh out its characters more along with its convoluted plot. Its concept and technical aspects make it a very entertaining and fascinating experience that's hard for me not to like, but a film has to linger for me in at least some profound way for me to call it great. With this film I imagine I'd watch it again on netflix, check out some analysis videos on youtube, but still be left emotionally cold by this conceptually awe-inspring storytelling mess.