Tenet (2020)

Synopsis from Wikipedia: The film follows a CIA agent who learns how to manipulate the flow of time to prevent an attack from the future that threatens to annihilate the present world.

Overall opinion: Interesting concept but somewhat lacking in the execution.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Pros

  • The most interesting character was Neil, the Protagonist’s handler (Robert Pattinson). He was in most of the movie, but not enough of it to save it for me. Neil was calm, capable, and (irritatingly, for the Protagonist) rather close-lipped about certain things which kept the mystique going. I’d forgotten how normal Robert Pattinson could look and act too. I never watched the Twilight movies and before The Batman, the last thing I saw him in was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was way back in 2005!
    (Hmmm. It just occurred to me that character of Neil is somewhat similar to Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt) in Inception. Arthur was easily my favourite character in Inception and he too was calm and capable. And both Arthur and Neil looked very dapper in suits. hahaha)
  • The base concept is quite intriguing. The idea that the events of the second half of the movie are happening almost concurrently with the events of the first half but in the opposite direction is very confusing at first, but (if you’re at all accustomed to time travel or sci-fi narratives) it makes sense after a bit of thinking. I have to admire the originality of thought from Nolan here.

Cons

  • At two and a half hours, the movie felt long and the story dragged. I was very glad that I did not see it in the cinema because I don’t think I would have enjoyed it at all. It took me about four viewings to finish Tenet – I watched the first half hour or so, then got bored and stopped. Resumed it the next day for another 30, maybe 40 minutes. Watched another chunk of the movie a day or two later, and then finally finished off the remainder on a fourth watch.
  • I didn’t find the story that difficult to follow on the whole, and so watching it in pieces didn’t bother me much. But the final battle did get very confusing. I understood the concept of how it was supposed to work but I don’t think I understood anything else. Who were they even fighting?? They weren’t fighting each other but I don’t remember seeing more than one or maybe two enemies… I was confused but intrigued enough (because the most confusing part centred around Neil) to look for explainer articles and videos after I finished the movie. The one that did help was a video where someone made the effort to edit the battle sequence in reverse and add some simple 3D models where necessary to demonstrate what actually happened. It is not, however, generally considered a good thing to have your audience so confused that they require so much help from other people to understand what the heck happened.
  • The sound mixing. It was abysmal for dialogue. It’s one of the rare instances where, even when I had turned up my computer volume to the maximum, I struggled to hear dialogue in many scenes. It was bad enough that after the first viewing, I had to go hunt down English subtitles for the movie because I simply couldn’t hear half the dialogue. While searching for the subtitles, I remembered that this had been a problem many people criticised the movie for when it first came out, and it appears to be something of a Nolan problem. I find it especially exasperating when you have a high-concept story that would be best understood if viewers can hear what characters are saying when they are delivering important points or exposition. I understand English perfectly well and am fairly accustomed to sci-fi narratives; I should not be requiring subtitles to understand a sci-fi movie in the English language.
  • The Protagonist (John David Washington) wasn’t interesting enough. He is never named (every article I’ve seen on this movie just calls him “the Protagonist”) and I never quite grasped his motivations throughout the story. He was chosen for this mission, but I’m not clear on why he bothered to go through with it… Apart from the suggestion that his future self wanted to recruit his past self. And I’m not even sure if I picked that up from explainer articles/videos or if I inferred it from the movie because I can’t remember where I got the idea from…
    Anyhow, I didn’t find him interesting and it was frustrating that his handler/sidekick who got only half as much screentime was the far more intriguing character.

Other

  • Elizabeth Debicki’s Kat was distracting because her character was too similar to her character in The Night Manager series. In both Night Manager and Tenet, she plays a beautiful woman trapped in a relationship with a creepy, violent villain who is holding her son hostage in some form. This isn’t her fault or Nolan’s fault. It’s just me. haha
  • Kenneth Branagh was very good in his villain role here. Too good, perhaps. He creeped me out enough that there were scenes that I had to fast-forward through – not just the scenes where he was violent, but also scenes where he was speaking threateningly to other characters. So, it was a good villainous performance. But it was too effective and I didn’t enjoy it. Another reason to be glad I didn’t watch it in the cinema because I wouldn’t have been able to skip ahead.
  • I appreciate that Nolan does like the male characters in his movies to be well-dressed. Well-fitting suits always look great~
  • It has occurred to me that I might not have been as baffled by the overall story concept because before Tenet, there was River Song of Doctor Who fame. River and the Doctor’s relationship was a bit like that of Neil and the Protagonist. In Doctor Who, River’s experiencing incidents out of order. The first time the Doctor meets her is the last time she sees him. Subsequent meetings from the Doctor’s POV are not in the same chronological order for her because of how she jumps through time with the TARDIS. Similarly here, the first time the Protagonist meets Neil is not the first time Neil has met him and then somehow or other the events they experience together flow synchronously until they don’t? I shouldn’t think too hard about this. Lol.

Got anything to add or say? :D