I am not reviewing Tenet. Not for any ethical issues I have with them releasing a movie during a pandemic where people can still get sick and die, and if they don’t die catch the same virus again. No, that’s a larger problem with our society that one movie can’t be held responsible for. Maybe the director pushing for it to be the first blockbuster out, maybe him. I’m off track. I’m not reviewing it because co-king Shane is a massive Nolan fan. He even liked Interatellar (poor guy) and this was probably his most hyped movie, and he can’t see it cause there is no theater close to him. So, I will not steal that honor away from him. Instead I’ll give some scattered thoughts on the film.
Tenet is a film that should be experienced for a second time. More specifically it’s a film that you should have already seen and watched for a second time. It’s means it is strangely compelling to see Nolan simultaneously weave a fine enough story that is just barely more clever than it thibks it is with the ability to emmerse yourself into it that you see the twists coming but still feel the impact of them.
The film is also oddly complicated. Not complicated in the way most Nolan things are. Instead it’s complicated in the way Sucker Punch is complicated. It feels like the long way around in order to just get to fun set pieces and cool ideas. For Nolan, instead of a strange multi-dream trip, he opts for the second worse option, a spy film. This means that the actual plot of the story is exceedingly simple, save the world by finding out who is doing the bad. It’s the details that get overly complicated for no reason and turns makes most exchanges purely transactional.
Movies with mostly transactional exchanges works for Nolan considering he manages to get great actors to basically give vague exposition. It’s a good thing then that the great actors are great and make you care about their characters with very little. The downside is how much one climax centers around a character’s emotional resolve and other than generally empathizing with their plight there isn’t much to them or make people care.
It, too, is thankful most people do not go to Nolan for deep complex emotions. They go for the strong action set pieces. And, man, are they really strong this time round. Many so impressive and massive they make him flipping a real truck in Dark Knight looks tame, and is a new bar that Mission Impossible needs to climb, and those aren’t even the ones that deal with the temporal shenanigans the film gets up to. With those additons, even if they make no sense no matter how much or little is explained about them, some scenes and ideas are so fun it’s hard not to like.
It is easy, however, not to like the mind bending science this time around. It feels somehow too loose and under explained while hand holding through the simple explanations people could reasonably know. An example would be explain the grandfather paradox while not explaining how the time is perceived to work in the way it does other than simply, atomic radiation. It makes for an interesting idea of if choices are made because they already happened or choosing them causes them to happen, but doesn’t take it far enough.
By the end the film was finally picking up and making good on its promise of time bending action. It’s just unfortunate it takes so long to get there, no matter the obvious payoffs that still work. Hence why it feels important to see have seen the movie for a second time without having seen it a first time. The slower beginning and payoffs will feel tighter and more of the dialogue and ideas might sink in, but for a first watch it is a good movie that works by being so different in all the right ways.
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