• Nolan’s Tenet starts in medias res like a Bond film with the vast crowd in the opera house (Nolan has declared his love for the 1977 Roger Moore Bond The Spy Who Loved Me)

Tenet starts in medias res like a Bond film with the vast crowd in the opera house

  • Nolan delivers on his now trademark colossal set pieces, editing precision and MacGuffins- worthy of comparisons to Michael Mann and Hitchcock
  • The story is complex to say the least—at one point the character played by Clémence Poésy says “don’t try to understand it—feel it”- and for viewing number one, I largely took that advice. It is a film that I plan to get to again soon.
  • It is assuredly auteur cinema, confident filmmaking—beautiful large format (65mm) establishing shots, some parallel editing (though not like his best work), crisp suits, posh locales, BMW’s and luxury (this is leaning into the Bond-comparison more than most Nolan even)

Nolan delivers on his now trademark colossal set pieces, editing precision and MacGuffins- worthy of comparisons to Michael Mann and Hitchcock

  • Hard to watch the impressive highway stunt sequence and not think of The Matrix Reloaded (2003) from the Wachowskis
  • Bogged down by seemingly never-ending dialogue-laden exposition after the opening opera sequence—there are more words in the first 25 minutes of Tenet than the entirety of Dunkirk– and this just isn’t where Nolan is at his best
  • What is a great strength of Nolan’s is the use of a driving music score to push the editing along— this is the first time since 2006’s The Prestige Nolan is not working with the great Hans Zimmer. This Tenet score is from Ludwig Göransson (Coogler’s collaborator- doing scores for Creed and Black Panther) and this work here is magnificent. There are hours of music covering this film from nearly end to end—even the pages of explanation delivered by the actors are accompanied by the score. It is a driving-jig mixture of Inception and Contagion a little bit. I’m not trying to take away from Göransson (or Zimmer) but Nolan has a specific type of score he’s looking for. I noted this during the most recent rewatch of Memento (there’s a pulsating score during the action sequences). Like Hitchcock, Nolan knows exactly what he wants.
  • Like most of the rest of his work (going all the way back to Memento)- the real subject here is time—time reversal, manipulation (think of the three strands of Dunkirk) inversion—featuring protagonist (literally David Washington’s name here)— Nolan is carefully constructing the film around doubling, palindromes. Branagh’s “Sator” is a five-line palindrome in Latin followed by “tenet” and “opera”. I’m positive repeat viewings will help.
  • The actors all equip themselves well enough- John David Washington, Pattinson continues his work with talented auteurs, Elizabeth Debicki is very good—but none will rank among the best performances of the year

The actors all equip themselves well enough- John David Washington, Pattinson continues his work with talented auteurs, Elizabeth Debicki is very good

  • High-minded (especially for a 200 million dollar budget movie—maybe people are more used to seeing this in like a Shane Carruth movie), ambitious and yes- a bit convoluted
  • At some point I had to just resign myself to the fact that a big part of Nolan’s focus in Tenet is the complex reverse photography sequences- and this just doesn’t translate to great cinema
  • It is difficult following up a film like Dunkirk—even if this lands with a bit of a thud—it is relative to his prodigious talents and grand vision (it isn’t fair to talk about what this or any movie does not do well- so I won’t do it here). Tenet will still be better than all but a few of the very best films of 2020
  • Recommend/ Highly-Recommend border