Even as a self-confessed Christopher Nolan fan the hubris related to how his new film Tenet was going to save the cinema exhibition industry from COVID-19 has been hard to stomach at times . Nevertheless, Tenet finally opened in the UK a few weeks ago and it was somewhat refreshing to see the first big studio blockbuster released since lockdown. After a very mysterious trailer campaign the film was still something of an unknown entity even when sitting down in front of an opening weekend screening. How is the film?
Honestly frustrating. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet had some awe-inspiring moments that are among some of the most impressive things he has done as a filmmaker. The set pieces make this a worthwhile big screen experience regardless of what else the film has to offer. That said (especially in the first act) it is also unbelievably pretentious, incredibly overwritten, and unbelievably pleased with itself in terms of just how complicated it can make some straightforward sci fi ideas. It progresses at this level for roughly the opening 40 minutes before things truly get going. Even with this taken into consideration no one can deliver a baseline of quality in the film making quite like Nolan as well as strong performances from John David Washington Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. It’s unlikely to be the saviour of the cinema exhibition industry as Covid 19 continues Warner Brothers want it to be purely because this opening section will likely alienate a huge number of potential audience members (not counting those who might have gone and seen this in cinemas if we were living in regular times.) The unbelievably aggressive bass heavy sound mix will also present problems for certain viewers, but this is one of the cases where viewers mileage may vary depending on presentation. Get past the stodgy opening act and the payoff is well worth it. The set pieces are unbelievably impressive and a textbook example of why the cinema experiences cannot be replicated anywhere else. The second half of this film will be talked about by action and spectacle fans for years to come.
Tenet was an incredibly frustrating watch. It works best as a slice of spectacle driven often awe-inspiring action from one of the best-known blockbuster film makers currently working. Conversely it’s also hugely pretentious overwritten mass that was clearly put together by a filmmaker and his team who have has made enough money for the studio with their previous efforts resenting in never have to take constructive feedback on work again. The latter sections are plentiful enough to make the film worthwhile on the big screen. It is easy to see why the film has been so divisive since it started rolling out worldwide. The only way for viewers to make up their own minds is to seek out a screening of the film (preferably on the largest screen possible.)