Chris Nolan‘s Tenet has been streaming and on 4k Bluray for eight days now. I’ve watched it with subtitles one and a half times so far, and there’s no question it plays much more coherently (and certainly less problematically) this way. But you know what? It tickles and taunts more than it adds up. It still doesn’t make a whole lot of basic sense. I’m sorry but that’s a fact.
I loved the audacious, ahead-of-the-curve, first-time-ever freshness of Tenet when I saw it on a big screen in Flagstaff on Friday, 9.4, but maybe I was extra-enthused because I was so happy to watch a film in a theatre again.
I still love the inverted/backwards shit (especially during that dazzling 747 airport sequence) but the charm of that gimmick has fallen away pretty sharply, you bet.
I only know that subtitles doesn’t really solve the basic Tenet problem, which is the arrogant Nolan himself. I loved Dunkirk but now I’m back to thinking he’s an infuriating filmmaker — a guy whose films will always tax my patience (unless he makes another based-on-history film). It’s a tragedy to know deep down that Nolan will never make a film as engaging as Memento again.
I didn’t realize how badly Tenet was flunking across the board until I read a 12.18 Facebook review by Nick “Action Man” Clement, who is easily the kindest, most obliging, most turn-the-other-cheek reviewer of mainstream commercial films on the planet earth, and certainly since the 2.25.20 death of the big-hearted F.X. Feeney.
Clement’s basic deal is to bend over backwards in order to give a generous coo-coo tongue bath to almost any popcorn flick out there, past or present. It’s not that Clement has no taste, but that he’s unable to suppress the primal love he has for “guy” movies.
In this sense Clement is a dependable brand, just as Hollywood Elsewhere is a dependable place for cranky drillbit truth-telling.
So when Clement panned Tenet a few days ago, I went “holy shit….this means something! Nolan has overplayed his ‘too tricky for school’ routine and wound up shoving a cold banana up his ass….if he’s lost Nick Clement, he’s definitely done something wrong.”
1. Overall I thought this was okay – certainly entertaining in the moment but in the end, not up to my expectations. And it makes me sad to report this fact, as I’ve pretty much loved all of Christopher Nolan’s output up until this point. Merely “okay” is not what I expect from this filmmaker. The Prestige and Interstellar remain my two favorites, Dunkirk was exceptional, and massive The Dark Knight Rises and Inception POWER. But this felt miscalculated.
2. The narrative, as presented, doesn’t make any sense. I’m no moron, I’m able to follow complex cinematic stories, except this time, there just didn’t seem to be a rational entry point, and the entire piece just felt convoluted for no good reason. Bottom line: I didn’t understand the rules this film was playing by and that was a little annoying.
3. The sound-mix on this film was tragic. I could barely understand the dialogue during many sequences, and I have a sophisticated surround sound system. This is not cool.
4. The “reversing-the-action” gimmick was fun and nifty at first, then it got kind of silly, before becoming unintentionally funny. Lots of folks swinging wilding in the air and looking drunk. Explosions-in-reverse are pretty sweet, though.
5. Robert Pattinson MEGA POWER – he was EASILY the best part of this film. Can’t wait to see him in The Batman.
6. John David Washington is an excellent actor – but miscast here.
7. Elizabeth Debicki REALLY NEEDS to eat some burgers. Good actress, but she looks unhealthily skinny.
8. As always – Hoyte van Hoytema POWER – but this movie needed way more traditional coverage. There were so many scenes that just seemed to start and end before they ever totally finished – everything felt oddly paced and edited and presented in many respects. Experimental? Maybe. Disorienting? You bet. But the QUALITY of the imagery is undeniable, and the various action set pieces (the MASSIVE climactic battle in particular) were stunning in their visual clarity and seamless CGI application and level of physical production design. The dedication to “doing it for real” was also very apparent – and this gets a huge amount of respect from me as a viewer.
9. The musical score was striking – but the mixing job was catastrophic – thus robbing Ludwig Goransson‘s work of some of its likely intended nuance.
10. Christopher Nolan is a TOTAL CLOWN for demanding that this film be opened on the big-screen last summer, during the middle of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, but one likely becomes blinded to this fact when they have “first dollar gross.” The release blew up in his face and Tenet will lose in excess of $100 million. His continued idiocy about the state of the industry is a turn-off. Just my two cents.