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Forward or backward, ‘Tenet’ spells disappointment

Written and directed by legendary director Christopher Nolan, “Tenet” was released to theaters on Sept. 3 after a number of delays due to COVID-19. The plot follows an elite special agent only known as “the protagonist” and his time bending mission in an attempt to stop a threat that will destroy the world.

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about this movie is “messy.” Everything from the dialogue, to the music, even the performances are just lackluster. While it has its moments, they don’t save this movie from being a disappointing example of lost potential.

Nolan has always had complicated plots. In past movies like “Inception,” “Interstellar” and “The Prestige,” the complicated storylines are so interesting because, at a basic level, they are well-explained and coherent. In “Tenet,” everything is jumbled together that, even with a second viewing, audiences are left scratching their heads and wondering what just happened. One concept after another is thrown at the audience, and it’s impossible to keep track of it all.

In his past movies, Nolan handled the plot carefully and kept it the main focus. However, in his latest release, the plot just feels like an excuse for action scenes where Nolan can go on set and have fun blowing stuff up.

Dialogue has never been Nolan’s strong suit, but here it’s at a whole new level of boring. The number of scenes where two characters spew exposition while walking around in a city is astounding. Even worse, the sound mixing is so bad, it’s hard to even understand what the characters are saying over the blaring music and background noise.

Characters are bland and uninteresting. I don’t understand why you would hire such talented actors, like John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, if you’re just going to have them perform as dull exposition machines. Let’s not even mention the antagonist, Sator, portrayed by Kenneth Branagh. He has a motivation so laughable that it feels like it came straight out of a children’s comic book.

But if there are two production aspects Nolan is good at, it’s action and spectacle. “Tenet” does have a nice blend of the two. Action scenes perfectly make use of the reversal gimmick, starting off by only using a little action and amping it up as the story goes on. Meanwhile, the movie is shot excellently and looks amazing.

I felt mostly frustrated while watching this movie because I know it had the potential to be great. Nolan has made more complicated ideas interesting and gripping in the past, but Tenet feels like he either didn’t care or was carried away. Anyone who is a fan of Nolan’s previous work may find a reason to like this, but, overall, this movie is a jumbled mess and is the biggest disappointment of the year.

Rating: Hard 2 out of 5.


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