TENET (2020) – One long confusing brain f***

Rating: ⭐⭐ 1/2

Christopher Nolan’s latest epic TENET is the talk of town right now with many critics and fans hailing it as a masterpiece. I have to admit that this is a very tough movie for me to review and I was struggling to rate this. On one hand the mere scale of this production alone is something to marvel and appreciate. The epic dimension of the action set pieces, the excellent performances, the heart pounding music score and mind blowing visual and sound effects from its IMAX source all makes TENET a truly spectacular cinematic experience. In fact, Christopher Nolan apparently did not want to use computer graphics for many of his action set pieces preferring to film the explosions and in one case, the destruction of a plane, for real!! This gives the film a realistic look and feel unlike the graphic extremes often seen in super hero movies.

However, its fast paced, and mind boggling story that involves something called time inversion is quite frankly beyond my comprehension skills. The noisy soundtrack and sometimes muffled and/or heavily accent dialouge does not help and means much of the crucial information could not be heard properly making it even more difficult to understand what the hell was going on. In addition, some scenes had key characters unrecognisable as they are geared in heavy military uniform with masks on, which makes it very challenging for viewers to follow what’s going on and who is being shown. Ever since watching the movie, I had searched the internet for enlightenment on the plot and what I had missed. As it turns out I seem to have missed out a whole lot of plot and details!! This film is impossible to taken in completely over a single viewing and demands multiple viewings in order to be fully appreciated. Perhaps it is beyond me, or beyond its time, or perhaps its just how Nolan wants his films to be viewed. For me, I like to judge a movie based on my first impression and experience. If a film seem to be better the more I watch it then I may perhaps upgrade my rating but under normal circumstances I would only watch a movie more than once not because I could not understand it the first time around but because I enjoyed it enough to want to experience it all over again. In this context, I feel that TENET had done a disservice to its audience by making itself too complicated and almost impossible to be fully comprehended. All the bells and whistles does not take away the fact that the viewer could not understand what was going on.

So in conclusion, while TENET is undoubtedly a cinematic feat it is also a disappointment. I cannot honestly say I enjoyed this to the fullest when I am confused half the time. I feel that while it may be Christopher Nolan’s best film visually, it is definitely not his best film. I appreciated his last film the more coherent Dunkirk far more than this one. I refuse to judge a movie’s merit based on multiple viewings, or based on the realisation of crucial elements of the movie post watching and as a result of explanation given by others. I am afraid I have not earned the right to brag that I get it …yet … maybe one day after I rewatch this.

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