The long anticipated new film from Christopher Nolan has finally reached theaters after being delayed multiple times because of the COVID-19 virus. I know a lot of people who love Nolan and his oeuvre of acclaimed films. I have not found them to be nearly as engaging as most. I did not like Inception. The final act of Interstellar really wrecked a film that I had been enjoying, The Dark Knight Rises has so many problems that it simply cannot stand up to the previous Batman films. Dunkirk’s sound issues attacked by body and threatened to make me physically ill.
Let’s just say the track record has not been stellar for me when it comes to Nolan.
Because of all of this, I approached Tenet with apprehension. Unfortunately, that apprehension became reality after watching Tenet tonight. I will take its place among the other films I listed above.
In Tenet, a man known only as the Protagonist (John David Washington) is recruited by an agency to prevent a Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) from finding a certain MacGuffin. It turns out that some people are able to move backwards in time with a ability called inversion.
I’m not going into the plot any more for two reasons. One, because I do not want to spoil anything from the movie and two, because the plot is so needlessly complicated and convoluted that it would take me pages to explain it with any general success. Lets just leave it at Tenet is a spy movie with wonky time travel elements to it.
Much like all of those movies that I mentioned earlier, Tenet is a masterpiece of technical marvel. Some of the shots are amazing and the visuals are awe-inspiring. There is no doubt that Christopher Nolan is a master director when it comes to this. It is a shame that he does not seem to have the same precision of skill when it comes to characters.
The fact is that there are no characters in this story that I cared about at all. I knew nothing about John David Washington’s character and I found little reason to care. None of the other characters connected to me either. The film wants me to care about Elizabeth Debicki’s Kat and the connection between her and the Protagonist, but I did not see it. Robert Pattinson showed up as Neil and I liked him, but I knew nothing about him.
Don’t misunderstand. All of their performances were strong. There was just nothing to them.
I found the first hour or hour and a half of the film to be, at times, dull. It was difficult to follow and I was paying as close of attention as I could. The third, however, did really pick up and had some intriguing situations and the story seemed to tie together and it almost pulled it up for me. Unfortunately, it was just too late. However, the last half hour to 45 minutes was the strongest part of Tenet for me.
And what the heck was up with that soundtrack? It was loud and obtrusive, making it difficult many times to hear the dialogue. The sounds behind so many scenes were not even music. It was noise, literally. It was distracting me many times and even caused a throbbing in my head. After Dunkirk, I have to believe that Nolan intends to make audience members uncomfortable with the music and sound editing to keep them on edge. I was certainly bothered by it.
There was some tremendous action scenes and they were captured heavily using practical effects. There is a hallway fight scene that is just extremely well done and should be admired. Some of the backwards shots are expertly done. If I would have cared about anybody involved, I may have been even more impressed with them.
Time travel movies are, many times, already difficult to understand and this did not make the ideas any easier.
Perhaps this is a film that I would perceive better after a second or third time watching it, but I do not expect for that to happen.