- 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”-
- a great 360-degree shot of Washington, Patttinson, and Himesh Patel at the 37-minute mark
- 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 Kiev 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.
- Speaking of Hitchcock- the reliance on simply explaining things (he’s better than this) and jargon – inversion and brokers- (Hitchcock got lost in the psychiatry a little), and the sort of mid-career stumble (for an all-time great auteur) makes me think of this as Nolan’s Spellbound
- 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 overdo it here). Tenet will still be better than all but a few of the very best films of 2020
- Recommend/ Highly-Recommend border
I’m going to choose not to overreact to this… recalling that I would not have wanted to be held accountable for my initial reactions after a single viewing, and therefore extending you that same courtesy. Just put a pin in your comments regarding the editing and what does or does not “translate to great cinema”, and if repeat viewings do not clarify things we may need to revisit this less tactfully further down the road. For now, I think I’ll hop over to the Ran page and comment there instead!
Well on the bright side at least we can be certain there will be a top 10 of 2020 now, haha.
I’m really looking forward to you getting to Small Axe, I’m halfway through and it’s inspiring me to revisit McQueen’s earlier filmography – it’s been much too long. I think Nomadland and Minari are also looking promising.
@Declan– haha yeah I’m up to 10 now. It’s strange, I’m reading a ton of 2020 recaps and top 10’s from critics and they all seem to think that 2020 was a really solid year. I hope I feel the same way in a month or two when I get to more of these. Now that I’ve hit the Nolan and Fincher films– certainly McQueen’s Small Axe is the film I’m most excited for.
What did you think about Kenneth Branagh’s performance here?
@Harry- You know I’ve seen it twice and don’t really have a strong opinion on Branagh’s performance. Do you? What did you think of his work here?
I really have no opinion on it either, only seen Tenet once though. Dunkirk remains my favorite of his 2 collaborations with Nolan.
I think he’s serviceable. There’s a great reading of how Tenet uses science as its own form of divinity. The Tenet organisation are its believers while Sator is trying to dominate and manipulate the laws of the universe for his own purposes. Brannagh is certainly intimidating in that role and fulfils it well, but I don’t think he especially stands out. If I were to highlight a performance from anyone in the film it would probably be Robert Pattinson, but even that isn’t really “best of the year” quality.
I’ve watched it three times now which makes it my most watched movie of 2020, and it’s gone from an R to a low HR for me. The exposition is still an issue, but I am more blown away by the reverse photography sequences and some cinematography than Drake seems to be.
There’s a shot early on with JDW tied up on train tracks, and on either side of him there are trains moving in opposite directions. It’s a great visual motif that comes up a couple more times, and could have strengthened the film even more if it was used more consistently.
[…] Tenet – Nolan […]