The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
It’s a hard feat for any film to ‘save’ cinema, but Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has been touted as this film. For this reviewer, it didn’t succeed in its final objective, but for true Nolan fans it will be another classic for the canon.
No matter where you stand with Nolan, you can’t deny his eye for direction is almost unparalleled, and Tenet is no different. Considering the film's complicated premise, he is able to hold many strings together, and it is the large heist style scenes that truly wow the audience through their use of camera movement and stunt choreography.
The plot of Tenet feels like one of the most convoluted storylines you’ll have followed since… well, Inception. But when truly boiled down, it’s actually disappointingly simple. At its core, a bad guy is going to do a bad thing just because he is bad and a good guy is going to stop him because he’s good. And yes, whilst that is incredibly simplified, that is also the amount of care and detail given to the plot. It is then just smothered in faux science and time travel stunts. The 2 hour 30 runtime was excruciating and those next to me in the cinema were checking their phones towards the end to see how much more we really had to sit through. I will mention here that I have rarely found myself enjoying any of Nolan’s original source material. He’s a powerful director, but in my mind his screenwriting needs a lot of support, and no film has summed that up more to me than Tenet.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
It’s a star studded cast, and performers have brought their A game with the standouts being Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. If there was any doubt that Pattinson has become one of the most dependable and versatile actors in the 21st century, Tenet will prove the doubters wrong. His character receives the most growth within the film, and he is able to charm and surprise in equal measure. Debicki once again shows what a stunning performer she is and fills a flat 2D character with some air. Unfortunately the writing lets everyone down here, none more so than Debicki and Kenneth Branagh's villain. His only motivation is to watch the world burn because he can, he’s mean to women, and even has a cheesy 80s Russian accent to match. Their characters looked as if they had been pulled from a character stock book, and whilst dressed in stunning clothing or creepy masks, little was done to embody them with anything more than good actors.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
'Tenet' Is Convoluted Yet Disappointingly Simple
Whilst it does jump from genre styles at quite an uneasy pace, the visuals never disappoint, and the large set pieces are choreographed to perfection. Many of these set pieces are later revisited within the film and actually become more impressive on second viewing. Many elements will likely be down to CGI, however once watching you will understand why Nolan and his team chose to use so many real effects in Tenet, as nothing can be left up to chance.
Tenet (2020) | IN CINEMAS
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Tenet is loud. So, so incredibly loud. There were moments when I questioned if it was indeed meant to feel like an assault on my senses. But in reflection, it was indeed a tactical assault scene and so perhaps it was an attempt to fully immerse me in the world on the screen. Dialogue was often muffled, sometimes due to loud music, sometimes due to the time reverse angle, and sometimes due to poor accents. I was never sure if it was fully intended or not.
Tenet was not for me. Whilst the visuals are impressive, the lazy character writing and over the top set pieces to distract from a limited plot left me bored and waiting for it to be over. I still live in quiet hope that one day Nolan will direct a script not by himself, but until then, I’ll be avoiding more of his work.