- Category: Movies
- Created: November 30, 2020, 10:31 pm
- Written by Ryan Speck
I wasn't sure if Tenet was being overhyped back in the summer, when people stupidly thought watching movies in theaters was something that might happen again soon. People are a bit overabundant in their love for Christopher Nolan, who is a great director, though people tend to love him more for his flawed Batman films than his better works, like Memento, The Prestige, and Inception. I suppose, for its part, Inception (and, similarly, Interstellar) can be over-praised or ignorantly derided, depending on personal biases, to the point that it taints the movie with people's bickering. Nolan isn't a stranger to creating controversy by aiming a bit over his audience's head with no apologies or explanations. That's not to say there isn't goofy, nonsensical parts to Inception or Interstellar or The Prestige, but at least they don't even come close to his packed-to-the-brim-with-illogical-horseshit Batman films.
Tenet, in concept and tone, definitely falls into the category with somewhat difficult masterpieces like Inception and Interstellar, though it feels vastly refined, stays away from any of the stupid pitfalls those movies fall into, and delivers a sci-fi Bond movie better than most sci-fi films and pretty much all Bond films ever have been. As opposed to dealing with the nebulous inner-workings of dream logic and people's subconscious minds or abstracting the vast possibilities and unknowns of space and astral physics, Tenet confines itself to time travel, in much more of a Slaughterhouse-Five sense than a The Time Machine sense. Creating a somewhat-realistic time travel mind-bender isn't that difficult; just go watch Primer and then confusedly look up timelines that chart what was actually happening in the movie. But, in Tenet, Nolan somehow manages to make it both high-concept and understandable. Well, at least mostly. I'm sure the movie bears a few repeat viewings, much more than any of his other films except Memento. Unlike that film's confusing and broken narrative structure, this movie is mostly chronological, yet echoes those moments of Memento by tampering with the very idea of time itself. Instead of people moving forward or backward in time using some device, like you'd expect out of most movies, Tenet gives us a world where the future is at war with the past and objects (and people) can be altered so that they move through time in reverse. Even putting it as simply as that, it's hard to really explain or comprehend and, even within the movie, it doesn't ever feel like your mind totally wraps around the concept so much as you just accept it and come to feel that it's normal by the film's end.
Now, I don't think that I can in any way explain anything about the movie without ruining it in some capacity, not that I'm sure it's even possible to explain meaningfully in a brief synopsis. It has layers to it that need to be seen to really be understood. That said, there are a few moments that feel rushed or are cut in such a way that the movie becomes harder to follow. This is particularly apparent in the movie's conclusion, where the cutting is so fast and the pace is so high that it's hard to follow some of the important details between the cuts. At least three characters are being followed in different locations, time not always moving in the same direction, and it's a lot to take in at the rate Nolan cuts the scenes. Honestly, I would have gladly accepted a longer movie that had a bit more deliberate pacing in that final 15 or 20 minutes. It's around two and a half hours but the film doesn't feel like it has an ounce of fat on it, not leaving you much time to dwell on the details while the movie is in progress.
That said, it's a movie you'll keep thinking about and the actors do a great job with it. I still haven't watched Blackkklansman, but John David Washington is an excellent actor. I've never been overly fond of his father, Denzel Washington, though I've enjoyed many of his movies; Denzel always has a cold aloofness, a lack of inherent personality. Not realizing he's Denzel's son, I decided early on in the film that he is basically Denzel Washington with a genuine personality. It's reductive (but true) to say that John David Washington is Denzel 2.0, vastly improved, streamlined, and much more user-friendly. As someone who's seen too much of Robert Pattinson's not-good, phoned-in acting, it was nice to see what he can really do in this movie and he may have one of the best roles of the film. Also worthy of mention is Kenneth Branaugh, who often gets pegged for unsubtle acting or odd choices, but shows off how great he is in one of the largest roles of the film. It's left to him to make a large amount of the plot believable and I feel like he was completely successful.
I'm not sure if this is a movie you need to be sold on, one way or the other. If you've seen Christopher Nolan's movies, you probably have a good idea of your interest level, particularly in regard to how much you did or didn't enjoy Inception. But, while Inception played at having Bond movie flourishes, particularly in its mind heist, this movie reminds us of the promise of a Bourne Identity era where the possibility of doing Bond (or espionage in general) as a serious, grounded idea seemed possible. Somehow, a time travel mindfuck is more realistic than any Bond film, as much as I love Casino Royale. Tenet is beautiful, it's polished, it's seamless; it maybe just needed another 15 minutes to pace out the end, at least for me.
You'll either see it or you won't. Or maybe you already have in some immutable future you're quickly approaching. I guess we'll find out.