Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
This was my first cinema visit since the beginning of March, so for that reason alone, it was a memorable event for me.
“Tenet” itself is Christopher Nolan being more Nolan than ever, for better or worse. You just have to admire his originality, ambition, and desire to push the limits of the medium as well as the uncompromising way with which he executes his vision. “Tenet” is a challenging and cerebral high concept sci fi film with an interesting premise, complicated plot, and fascinating scientific as well as philosophical themes. It requires your full attention and leaves room for many different interpretations. It´s basically a cinematic thought experiment in blockbuster form. That´s another thing you have to admire about Nolan. He clearly makes movies that are meant for the big screen. “Tenet” has spectacular visuals, breathtaking set pieces, and a booming score. It features the most amazing action sequences of Nolan´s filmography and especially the reliance on practical effects is awe-inspiring. From a technical perspective, the film is definitely a new cinematic benchmark.
Still, I think in this case, Nolan was a bit overambitious and too self-indulgent. I rarely felt so lost during a film. The overly convoluted plot, weird editing, and often too loud sound design all contributed to my confusion. After a while, I just gave up and enjoyed each scene on its own, without thinking too much about their bigger implications. After thinking about the film for a few days, I guess that I get the gist of it, though I´m still not sure, if I found some plot holes or if I still just don´t understand some details. Anyways, even bigger flaws than the confusing nature of the movie are the characters, dialogue, and, in general, the emotional emptiness of the film. If you already thought that “Inception” and “Interstellar” suffered from too much exposition, be prepared, because “Tenet” is so much worse in that regard. Almost every line of dialogue is there to explain or progress the plot and the way the characters talk feels completely unnatural. I mean, I don´t expect Tarantino-like dialogue from Nolan, but this is really tedious. The characters themselves are bland and empty and don´t feel like real people. I could neither tell you their names nor describe their personality. Robert Pattinson has a lot of charisma, but that´s about it. Especially how the protagonist reacts to worldview-shattering revelations is laughable. Yeah, he is a professional soldier/spy, but come on. The characters feel more like stand-ins for the director to explain his thoughts and ideas to the audience.
In “Tenet”, the concept stands above everything else. The same could be said about films like “Memento” or “Inception”, but in those movies, Nolan still managed to make me feel invested in the characters. That´s not the case with “Tenet”. I enjoyed the spectacle, but I didn´t feel anything.
To conclude, my eyes and ears were very pleased, my brain was overwhelmed, and my heart was left cold. This makes the film hard to rate. I respect the originality, ambition, and technical achievements, and seeing it in the cinema added a lot to the experience (especially during this strange times), but “Tenet” is also clearly not among my favorite Nolan movies. I wonder how I will rate it after rewatching it at home. For now, the positive impressions outweigh the complaints and I highly recommend watching it on the big screen.