Ricky's Film Reviews

Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases

Tenet

Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

Cast

John David Washington – Protagonist / CIA agent

Elizabeth Debicki – Kat

Robert Pattinson – Neil

Fiona Dourif – Wheeler

Kenneth Branagh – Sator

Michael Caine – Crosby

Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Ives

Clemence Poésy – Barbara

Rewind-up

Even throughout first lockdown when cinemas were closed, there was a buzz about Tenet. This is probably the first ever Box Office hit where people were torn between going back to the cinema to see it – or just #StayAtHome.
Naturally, I went to see it. And the atmosphere was even more bizarre as I entered the cinema that day. Tenet had been raved about for weeks – yet there were no more than 15 of us in the foyer. Pandemic or no pandemic, maybe I should’ve taken this as a sign..

Tenet is one of the most tedious films I have ever seen at the cinema. It’s a pretentious piece of work where you can sense the director’s intention was to bring a feeling of amazement, but ultimately ends up cringeworthy and in some scenes, highly unnecessary. It’s one of those films you walk away from and immediately comment on how it took elements from other movies and tried to use them to be its own. Basically, if anyone is heard saying,

“I got Matrix vibes”

“that reminded me of Looper”

“that was basically Inception”

“..bit like Shutter Island, no?”they’d be forgiven. Because they’re right.

The beginning of Tenet is promising, with The Protagonist meeting a scientist (the girl from the other house in Harry potter) who shows him a handful of bullets which have ‘inverted entropy’ (they move backward in time). This opens up the possibility of a war raging somewhere in the future, and these things being sent back as a clue.
BRILLIANT. My kind of movie. I love things like this.

..no less than thirty minutes later and I’m still sat there waiting for something decent to happen.

You know those very brief moments in a dream where something wondrous happens (a pair of socks gives you the ability to fly, you can walk on water, you made it to another planet, etc.) – but it lasts only a few seconds before the dream bounces in a different direction. That’s the only way I can describe the beginning of Tenet. It presents a never-seen-before (or not-seen-in-ages at least) idea then snatches it away, replacing it with men in business suits. Armoured police storming around. People laying on boat decks working on their tan..

That’s right; you’re presented with a fascinating concept and then just left to sit there whilst nothing develops, and the director gets ‘creative’.

This film’s main drawback is the reverse time flow. In some films or TV shows fast-forwarding, rewinding or freezing time can be fascinating. Tenet goes way overboard, using too much of this concept. And some scenes are so long that the manipulation of time becomes extremely messy and baffling. A car chase is the main example here; your main main hurtling along a freeway in pursuit of someone (I genuinely wasn’t interested who it was or why), with time in reverse flow..

The scene goes on.. and on.. and on that little bit more to the point of you folding your arms in front of you. But by the time that little spark of wonder in the corner of your mind gets you wondering what other films are out at the moment… BANG. The scene is over. It may begin with a speedy excitement, but the sheer overkill of time travel stretches beyond the entertainment factor and it becomes ridiculous.

And the part where the main dude (Nolan thought it’d be gripping if he didn’t have a name) and Neil run up a towering building really isn’t as enthralling as the trailer makes it look either. Both spend a few seconds attaching themselves to a harness, and there’s a slight faff when they come back down too as they detach and dispose of the hooks, etc. I swear they had tried to portray this as a second Inception in the trailer, with people scaling buildings at a strange angle.
It couldn’t be further from it.

What on earth was the airplane scene about? And why the hell was there a private art gallery – in an airport terminal? Almost none of the film made sense, but let me guess: the director says “we’re not meant to understand, the misplaced elements are open to interpretation at the same time as questioning whether the time slip directly impacts….” blah, blah, blah..

..not for me. I watch a film to be intrigued, not irritated by purposely messed-up action where it literally feels as though the director wanted to get creative – and failed. Some films make it work; the place characters find themselves in begins to shift because of its unpredictable nature / natural state. Or the chain of events follow an elaborate trap laid for a victim, etc. This airplane bit was just stupid, and almost irrelevant. But of course, half the scene was played backwards so they got away with it.

The restaurant scene where the Protagonist meets Michael (they couldn’t be arsed to give Michael Caine a character name) is a bit strange. I can overlook the fact Caine is playing himself and not acting (a-hem, like he does in everything) but his speech caught my attention. Clearly the man had some bread stuck to his palate, because for the first 30-40 seconds he speaks like someone who just munched on a scone and got it stuck on the roof of their mouth. You might want to try salad next time, Michael.

I was quite surprised; the hype had been massive and this was the only mainstream cinema hit to break through the pandemic lockdown barrier and be screened. But as the complete opposite of my expectations, it was god damn ball-busting to sit through.
So most of it runs backwards – big whoop. Doesn’t make it a cinematic masterpiece. I honestly don’t see what all the fuss was about.

Would’ve been nice for time to run backwards about 3 hours as I left the cinema to be fair.

 

 

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2021 by .
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