It’s fair to say that Tenet has had one hell of a build up in the most unexpected of ways. Christopher Nolan’s latest big budget ‘intelligent blockbuster’ will welcome back many a cinema goer around the globe as life begins to try and get back to some form of normality after a hellish past few months. I would never claim to be a Nolan mega fan, but I admire a lot of his work. The Prestige is one of my all time favourites, whilst Dunkirk is a near-masterpiece (I can forgive the woolly dialogue, just… ) and the Batman trilogy will always have a special place in my heart. Tenet looked like another brain-teaser in the mould of an Inception or Interstellar and I think I can speak on behalf of the rest of humanity that it’s good to have something else to think about.
Walking out of the screening this afternoon, my brain had – as expected – been given a thorough workout by Team Nolan and to be frank, I don’t think I still fully understand it all. Tenet is about playing with time and the cataclysmic effects that could have, with whopping set pieces and lots of exposition with men looking worried and a booming Ludwig Goransson soundtrack. Yet, other than my head fuzzled, I also left feeling empty and a little disappointed.
Nolan’s latest is a movie where I appreciate the craft of it over actually enjoying the actual end product. Some of the set pieces – from bungee jumping of buildings to high-speed, time-twisting car chases – are legitimately world class and very Bond, particularly with Goransson’s score pounding in your ear. John David Washington has swagger as the unknown CIA agent ‘The Protagonist’, while Robertson Pattinson’s tie wearing is an eyesore and Kennneth Branagh – whose physicality freaked me out, in a good way – did Russian baddy well. So aesthetically it looks the part: sleek, big and bold and the performances are solid, yet there’s little behind Tenet’s cold, soulless eyes.
Nolan’s best bring both intellect and heart. Inception has Leo and his kids, likewise with Interstellar (but replace Leo with McConaughey), whilst The Prestige shows the cost of obsession. Tenet just doesn’t carry such a backbone and with such head-throbbing stakes, you need an emotional catch to pull you in if you’re struggling and this is Tenet’s biggest failure.
Go watch it, soak it in and try and understand it. It looks very Nolan and that’s a good thing, but I for one can’t say I enjoyed his latest outing.