Tenet offers you not just an action fest, but a new universe to dig into and that alone is worth the jump into this crazy movie.
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I want to preface everything you are about to read below with some background. First, I have a Christopher Nolan bias. I can see the flaws of his movies, but generally speaking, they never overcome the things that I love about his movies. In my book, he is one of the best at creating something big and explosive while also trying to create something with substance. He’s the blockbuster auteur. Second, I watched this movie at home well after the theatrical release which meant even while avoiding full on reviews or spoilers, I did hear rumblings about problems that some viewers of the movie had. Third, along with watching it at home I watched 75% of the movie with subtitles on.
ALLLLRIGHT, with all of that out of the way let’s get to this. I watched Tenet last night. At the time my thoughts were, I liked this movie a good deal. After a night of sleep and a day to let this movie rattle in my brain more. I love this movie. It’s Nolan’s deep world building and unique concepts dialed up to 11. Which for a story and world building creative like myself it’s like a drug to my veins. I couldn’t get enough. It’s shot beautifully, with composition of scenes both capturing bold images and reality warping action. It’s score it’s loud booming Nolan but with a techno spy thriller vibe. Finally, it’s cast also hits a typical Nolan high of excellent high caliber actors getting to play in a crazy action heavy world.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot at all, but for the sake of discussion of other elements here’s a brief idea of what you are getting yourself into. Tenet is a cold war spy movie where instead of trying to stop some nuclear holocaust, it’s a cold war about the flow of time. You read that right, the flow of time. The normal flow we all know and an inverted version of time, where objects and people inverted are experiencing time backwards. Where everything, movement, flow of energy, life and death, it’s all playing in reverse. Why this is happening, who is fighting for what? I will leave that to you to find out.
Anyways this long explanation was all to let me say the action is this movie is insane. Have you ever seen a car chase where several cars are moving in reverse time reacting as if they are course correcting to things that have already happened to them but not to you? How about a fist fight where one person is fighting as if they are leaning into punches or stabs because this has already happened to them? It’s at times difficult to comprehend but it makes for something you just haven’t seen before. It makes the action interesting not just on the first watch but on several watches later. You have something new to focus on, a perspective shift. That is awesome and I love this movie for this mind twisting way of seeing these things.
A complaint that was in my head from the start of watching the movie was for many the movie didn’t make sense, where did some people come from at the end of the movie? Why was this event happening? So on and so forth. Basically the thought in my head was be prepared for this movie to not make sense. As I watching though, that was never a problem for me. I don’t know what was so difficult for some other viewers to follow but most of it contextually from the world the movie establishes answers most of the simple questions to me. The making sense of the action is what is more of a challenge. Where at the start of the movie there were moments where I had no idea what I was watching but as I watched the movie and learned more with the lead character called the Protagonist (played by the excellent John David Washington) it made sense to me just as much as it was making sense to him. Which shocker makes for a better viewing experience over knowing everything detail beforehand like some must have wanted.
The other major complaint of the movie I had noticed involved the audio of actor’s voices. Basically the audio mixing sucks. This, I agree with 150%. I don’t know why the mix of dialog is always such a pain point for Nolan movies but they tend to be his Achilles’ heel. This is still true hear. It was very inconsistent between scenes and more of an issue at the start of the movie. I tried watching the movie without subtitles but a quarter of the way flipped them on and kept it that way till the end of the movie when it was mostly action. So caution to those who watch this movie, you should flip those subtitles on because it will make taking in the plot of this movie a whole lot easier.
I could and would love to talk more about this movie, but to say too much would just spoil the fun. If you are like me and like Nolan’s body of work, Tenet hits all the Nolan highs and the pesky audio mixing lows. For movie watchers who have a low attention span, like several of Nolan’s other movies this may not be the one for you unless you willingly accept that you won’t get the movie and just want to watch the spectacle. Which make no mistake this movie brings it in that regard. It’s loud, and it’s unlike anything you have seen before. For those though interested in jumping into a unique time bending world, Tenet offers you not just an action fest, but a new universe to dig into and that alone is worth the jump into this crazy movie.