Tenet (2020)
August 27, 2020 3:20 PM - Subscribe

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

Rotten Tomatoes; Metacritic.

Warning: SPOILERS!
posted by adrianhon (54 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Welp, this is going to be an interesting thread given that people will be seeing the movie spread over a matter of months – but let’s keep this discussion here for posterity.

A few non-spoiler thoughts to begin with: it’s fine. It suffers from extreme Nolan cleverness which I think interferes with the overall enjoyment; he was probably rubbing his hands in glee at the thought that everyone would have to watch it twice to really understand what’s going on. But while it can be frustrating to follow in the moment, there are enough caper scenes and thrilling moments that you can usually forgive it, and it never drags too much.

As usual, women don’t get to do much in this movie. Boo for Nolan. Must do better! John David Washington is good. R Patz is good.

More spoiler thoughts later but hopefully others will chip in before then!
posted by adrianhon at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Did you feel safe in the theater? I'm dying to see it but I don't trust the theaters or other theater goers.
posted by octothorpe at 4:54 PM on August 27, 2020

> As usual, women don’t get to do much in this movie.

Sad to hear this. He has really made some strides with female characters in more recent works; both The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar feature strong female characters (two played by Anne Hathaway) but then women sat out of Dunkirk, which is understandable considering the subject matter. I had high hopes for Elizabeth Debicki. Still going to see it on Monday.
posted by guiseroom at 8:41 PM on August 27, 2020

Octothorpe: That's going to depend a lot on where you are! I'm in Edinburgh, where the case numbers are comparatively low, so that was a good starting point. I'd say the theatre was barely 20% full, so there was extremely good social distancing - we were 3m+ away from the closest other people - and most people kept their masks on all the time. We arrived after the adverts had started so there was basically no-one in the lobby. So I was able to lose myself in the movie, at least, which was an unusual and pleasant experience after everything this year.

guiseroom: Yeahhh... I would set your expectations low.
posted by adrianhon at 1:17 AM on August 28, 2020

Some more-developed thoughts with SPOILERS:

- A friend was spot on when she said “it shouldn’t be this much effort to follow and figure out what you’re supposed to understand.” There are parts of the movie that are deliberately confusing and only make sense later on, when you’ve learned more about the plot and mechanics – that’s fine.

But there are other parts that are flat-out poorly filmed and edited, that clearly aren’t meant to be mysteries, but instead are just badly conveyed, and it’s frustrating there are so many of these. It wasn’t until reading a full plot synopsis on Reddit that I understood some fairly important parts.

Case in point: when young Branagh discovers the capsule, the piece of paper inside it was addressed to him, and what was inside was not plutonium but gold bars. But I don’t know what plutonium looks like! All I could see was some silvery thing inside, not gold bars, so I figured he’d discovered the plutonium he was looking for. Shitty colour grading, shitty audio mixing, shitty editing.

- A lot of the dialogue is plain trash. I almost laughed out loud when someone said, “...and if they inverted time, all of humanity would die.” Debicki helpfully adds, “Including my son.” Yeah, we got it, your son is also alive, and you care about him. Apparently in some cinemas people did LOL.

- What the heck was that final battle about? It felt like the red and blue teams were just running around for half an hours shooting at... no-one? Yeah, they’re fighting Branagh’s men, but I didn’t ever seen any of them. Such a drag.

- Again, the caper bits were great; the inverted interrogation; the aesthetics of inversion; the hallway fight; the bungee jump. All very nice. But marred by an inexplicable lack of care in so many other areas.
posted by adrianhon at 8:53 AM on August 29, 2020 [12 favorites]

The pace of this was pretty phenomenal. There were some really polished scenes early on in terms of dialogue,set-up that were super sharp but the big Bond-esque battle scene at the end was a bit too convoluted and the film didn't make clear enough what had happened. I felt I was relying on having watched a lot of SF to know the Pattinson had suddenly popped up through inverting to open the gate. It also felt a bit like the gate was there just so this could happen and allow them to set up the explanation for what was basically a Dr Who/River Song style backwards bromance. Some of the other inverted stuff was very well done though, the airport fight between Washington was excellent for example.

Washington was excellent I thought, carried the movie well. I am not generally a fan of Pattinson but thought he was pretty decent. I thought Debicki's character was fairly in sympathetic, but have a general aversion to characters whose only motivation is their children, though you could make an argument that she was only using that as a cover for her hatred of dear old Kenny Branagh (e.g. shooting him at the end out everyone at risk, including her son). Jenny's Sator was a meany, but basically a retread of his Russian baddie in the Chris Pine version of Tom Clancy.

My initial this on the trailer were that it had a kind of Iain M Banks vibe and I still got that from the full film, maybe somewhere between Banks and Bond? Someone pulling the strings from afar, super competent team, wealthy trappings, basically Banks without the sex and drugs. Or Bond without the sex I guess.

The offshore windfarm from the trailer made it into the final film, which is the first time any (non-documentary) movie has had a scene in that setting. They even had a scene inside a wind turbine, which is also extremely rare. The one scene that baffled me, after the first wind turbine scene Washington's character gets on a boat labelled Iceni services. That suggests Norfolk, since that's where the Iceni hailed from, and is also where a large fraction of the world's offshore wind is located. Then he gets in a left hand drive car and goes off to meet a character played by Clemence Poesy for a huge dose of exposition. So Poesy is French but seems to be speaking without a French accent. Now clearly Tenet are supposed to be post-nationalist but what was that all about?

I took a beer into the cinema and so was busting for at least the last hour of the film. You know how you wait for a quiet moment? It never felt like there was going to be one. In retrospect, I still think there wasn't a good moment either.

Safety wise, my local fleapit only opened Wednesday, starting with Tenet, so barely anyone seemed to have cottoned to it being an option, even though my town is rammed with holidaymakers. The cinema had set up their system to donut patrons with empty seats on booking and everyone had to wear a mask, so I felt pretty safe.

Anyway, I really liked it and will definitely be watching it again.
posted by biffa at 1:24 PM on August 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Might have just been the audio mixing at the cinema I was in but I found the score incredibly overbearing, to the point that large sections of dialogue were completely incomprehensible. This did not help. To steal a line from MST3K, I spent the last half of of the film feeling like the plot was none of my damn business. I’ll probably rewatch with subtitles on at some point to work out what was going on but I am frankly irritated this is necessary.

Small point but I did appreciate that Debicki was allowed to just be Really Tall. She towered over the rest of the cast and that is really unusual for a woman in film who is the romantic lead (kinda).
posted by arha at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2020 [8 favorites]

I'm another one who wouldn't mind watching again with subtitles, but I enjoyed it and didn't find the plot that hard to follow.

The vast majority of the acting was good, as was the action. I did find the red blue battle a bit too Bond villain megabase-y, with a few too many soldiers for the number of Chinooks etc..., but it had some great moments.

All that said, I'll never understand why people cast Branagh as Russian villains. He can obviously act (duh) and he's perfectly reasonable in this, but I just find the choice bizarre, as I did with him in the Jack Ryan movie mentioned above. And I agree, he could basically be the same person here. Weird.
posted by knapah at 10:34 AM on August 31, 2020

In terms of safety, I watched it in a cinema in London on a bank holiday, so it was a "full screening". This probably meant the room was 35-40% full? When you book, it automatically blocks out two seats to each side of you and the ones in front and behind.

Masks were "mandatory" in the lobby and corridors, but this wasn't enforced, and they were not compulsory in the auditorium - I'd say half of the people in the screen were wearing them, max? I guess the distancing is supposed to make up for it and they want people to buy and eat snacks.

Impressively, nobody coughed or sneezed for the entire 2.5 hours!
posted by knapah at 10:44 AM on August 31, 2020

The only other thing that seems weird in retrospect is that i could not tell you the names of most of the main characters. Sator and then Ives at the end, but that's only because i was trying to work out who the actor was.
posted by biffa at 10:45 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also spent far too long trying to figure out where The Protagonist met Priya in Oslo to discuss what has happened. I know Oslo reasonably well and couldn't figure it out. It turns out it's a memorial in Tallinn...
posted by knapah at 1:19 PM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was the first Christopher Nolan movie I didn't enjoy. I found it way too loud and incredibly boring. The sound mixing was awful. There were so many scenes where the dialogue was almost impossible to hear because the sound effects and music were so loud. During the big finale where the red and blue teams are fighting seemingly invisible soldiers (seriously, who were they fighting?) and the movie was cutting from the battle to Kenneth Branagh and Elizabeth Debicki on the yacht, the audio cut out and we missed what I imagine was a very important conversation explaining why Branagh would trust his supposed to be dead wife. When that happened, it took a second to realize the audio was out, and once we did, someone shouted "It's not like we could hear them before!" and then for the few minutes where the audio was out, the audience was just shitting on the movie. People were shouting things like, "This movie makes no sense!" "What did she say!?" "Does anyone know what's going on?" and my personal favorite "The audience is now deaf."

I usually try to be positive in Fanfare, and anyone who knows me knows that I love Nolan's movies, flaws and all, but this was the first time I was generally not riveted by one of his movies. I was plum bored. I checked my phone so many times. Whenever certain sound effects would get so loud that I had to cover my ears (I've never had to do that at a movie before!) I would look around to see who else was covering their ears. I wasn't alone. That being said, there were some good things in here. I thought John David Washington and Robert Pattinson were both great, and I'm even more psyched for Pattinson's take on Bruce Wayne/Batman. Kenneth Branagh was generally terrifying, and would make a great Bond villain. Dimple Kapadia was the most interesting character who I would like to have been fleshed out. Give me a movie about her! I loved that Nolan allowed Elizabeth Debicki to tower over her costars (she's 6'3''!) and while she was good in this movie, her character was defined only by her relationship with her abusive husband and child. She also has the worst line in the movie. Nolan's direction was fine and he has certainly gotten better at directing action—there are seriously some memorable set pieces in this movie—but his writing leaves a lot to be desired. His best movies have involved other writers and I feel like he needed that in this movie.

I had been looking forward to Tenet for over a year now, and as my return to the theater since December and Covid, I came away feeling so disappointed. Maybe I set my expectations too high. I've seen a lot of people online saying that you have to see it twice to really understand it, but my god I don't ever want to sit through this movie again.
posted by guiseroom at 8:59 AM on September 1, 2020 [10 favorites]

her character was defined only by her relationship with her abusive husband and child

The more I think about it, the more I'm thinking that Debicki's character motivation is hate for Sator, not love for her child, and that dropping in clumsy lines about her child were a way to deny this to herself or make the right noises rather than as an actual affirmation of her love. I will see it again and will keep this in mind to see if its justified, it makes her more interesting I think.
posted by biffa at 9:13 AM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I got to see this film tonight in a drive-in theater session run by Alamo. I was definitely touching the volume button a lot.

I could have done without the on screen spousal abuse though.
posted by tedious at 9:21 PM on September 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Did you feel safe in the theater? I'm dying to see it but I don't trust the theaters or other theater goers.

The_Potate and I went to a weekday matinee showing after we saw how few seats had been booked at our local dine-in theater. I think in total there were two? other groups with us in total, but we had the entire row to ourselves, and we were at least 10 feet away and some height from the next nearest party. Once you had booked pair of loveseats, the two loveseats in both directions would be blocked off from anyone else to book. Mask wearing in public spaces was as compliant as I've seen in town (high, it's been a mandate for about three months now). We both felt safe. I don't think I would dare to go out on a weekend or post 5pm.

It was very loud. And I don't think I've eaten such a high sodium meal in such time, my hands got puffy.
posted by lizjohn at 6:01 PM on September 9, 2020

I thoroughly enjoyed this incredibly silly movie, issues with entropy aside (maybe I’ll have them later).

The dialogue is mixed so atrociously you will possibly miss serious plot points. Turns out you don’t need them. This movie does not get a spot on the debate team.


I thought Elizabeth Debicki was fantastic, even though we might have all just watched The Night Manager. Like other posters have echoed, the film just let her be tall as shit, and who cares. Loved it.

This was my favorite Branagh role in quite some time. Pattinson was excellent. Himesh Patel was perfectly droll; so was Aaron Taylor Johnson. Martin Donovan is a delightful touch as always.

The dinner/kitchen scene early on was so satisfying I fist-bumped the air. John David Washington is perfect.

Do I understand this movie? Yes.

Is there that much to understand? Once again, no, but gosh it was a lot of fun.
(I’ve only got half a phone screen, apologies for any name goofs!)
posted by hototogisu at 5:17 AM on September 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I deliberately went and saw this in a nearly empty room late last night so I felt pretty safe.

This film felt very Nolany in a way that's almost a shame. I think his better films don't have guns and shooting at all, but this had a strong inception vibe to it, only the combat was often deliberately incomprehensible. A fist fight where one person is inverted does look cool, but is really hard to follow. In fact the best action beats were usually the heists which went forwards in time.

I agree that the final fight scene was really badly staged. It strongly reminded me of the Inception ice level, it was just impossible to follow the action above ground, to the point where I wasn't clear on why they bothered. There's a reason films tend to make sure their protagonists wear clear distinct clothing: I appreciate it doesn't really make sense for a millitary unit to not all wear uniform but I found it hard to follow. They also kept cutting to watches going forwards and back which I think was meant to orient you but actually confused me more; I became convinced that the red team were going backwards for a while.

Also I think they could have made it a little clearer that the main villain had access to multiple inverters, to be clear that the version you were meeting earlier could be a later version of himself; at the end I got myself a little tied in knots because I thought he couldn't die because he wouldn't then be able to do the rest of the film, but I worked out that he must have time travelled to this point to die.

That said, I did enjoy a lot of it. I think the characters were all good, and most of the action was really fun.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:47 AM on September 21, 2020

I enjoyed it. Basically James Bond with time... stuff, what's not to like?

It was my first movie at the movies since covid. It's been months since we've had a case out in the community here so I felt safe at the cinema. There were only 3 groups of us there anyway.

I thought for a moment when Sator brought out the cyanide or whatever capsule and said he was copying the CIA, that the twist would be that the capsule was fake. Anyone else think that?
posted by pianissimo at 7:48 AM on September 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

that the twist would be that the capsule was fake. Anyone else think that?

Absolutely, Chekov's cyanide capsule was fully in play.

I had been trying to find someone to go with my to this for months, but with no luck. The idea of sitting in a movie theatre squicked out everyone who even had time/ interest.

So I went by myself, damnit. Also, the theater I saw it in (just up the street from us and one of my all-time favourites (oldish, chill and a good program of films that are subtitled but not dubbed) and I kinda wanna support them), was maybe a quarter full. No-one around me and the ceiling is very high, so that I ... still felt a little anxious, honestly, but not overwhelmingly so.

The movie itself? OK, I am a fan of the last season of WestWorld and though I know that's Nolan's sister-in-law's project (yeah yeah, the brother did something there too but have you seen the two speak? She's way obviously the brains of the operation) but I think it has cross pollinated enough. And there is a certain generic future cosmopolis feeling to the two which I found satisfying ... but

Holy shit were the loud parts were loud. Like, jarringly, like the sound guy fucked this up. And if the movie hadn't been with German sub-titles (because of where I saw it) I would have never heard or understood a big fat third of the dialogue. Then there was Washington's envy-worthy beard: I am not a beard envier ... but his, yet the saturation was such that you couldn't seen any detail and at times even his expressions were muted by the lame colour syncing. These two points were shocking because they were so shoddy. Nolan's movies were always super competently produced - they always looked tight as hell - yet here it all fell apart. I'm curious what they will do (if anything) when the film comes to streaming services.

I'll totally watch it again. Washington is great, as are his supporting cast, he carries the film easily and charmingly. Not as charmingly as Neil/Pattinson maybe but they were good together.

The time slip business was interesting - in as much as it made for a crazy puzzle you had to follow half the time. I kind of read it also as a meta-narrative about narrative that wasn't as successful as "Pulp Fiction" but pushed in that direction. Though it also wasn't quite as satisfying - questions that arise as the film unspools are later answered by someone going back through the time of the first half... yet at the same time some of the emotional impact was missing. And the great big donnybrook at the end is just a sloppy fucking mess.

A weird movie, ultimately. In a good way. But maybe not a good movie.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:08 AM on September 26, 2020

Also, the dialog "I'm the protagonist!" was at times bad enough that I thought someone should have their pay docked for letting it through.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:10 AM on September 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

last thing: I stumbles over this Wikipedia link: Sator Square which illuminates much less than you might want, but isn't totally without interest.

And lastly - the Mcguffin in the end is not quite all it might have been. Leave it a bright light in a suitcase or a black enamel covered lead figure of a bird. You can never outdo the audiences imagination
posted by From Bklyn at 8:21 AM on September 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

This deserves a squeal, well a prequel, no actually a presequeal ;-)

Just saw it in the afternoon with about 3 other people, saw less than 10 in the entire multiplex including staff. Omg catch a film soon, it may be the last time ever.

Quite serious, there is potential for an amazing second half, Pattersons character explicitly says Washingtons was only half way through his journey and would meet for the first time in the past. There can be an emotional journey, where the protagonist learns why he's so concerned about one tall woman and quite happy to shoot another in the back. And maybe discover he's not the protagonist. Also needs a Bill&Ted cameo.

No really, not a heist explosionee flic but an intricately plotted mystery with all kinds of twists within twists where the hero and villain are switched around many times and the time travel logic makes for many quiet gasps.

The sound in the theater seemed reasonably balanced, loud at times but not unpleasant, perhaps theaters got the message. Gold bars the size in the film would be upwards of 50 pounds, but it's a heist film with all the movie logic for emotional payoff. I did like the scenes with a humvee driving through the battlefield with front explosion inverted and one behind exverted (that's not a word:) but they also used that gimmick to much.

A fun summer flic that had a bit too much buildup and over anticipation due to the covid.
posted by sammyo at 5:53 PM on October 9, 2020

i pirated this from the future tonight and the future said "you're welcome i wasted your time with cringeworthy pseudo-expository dialog and nonsensical diversions"

it sure was pretty tho
posted by lalochezia at 7:49 PM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

A Beat-by-Beat Explanation of What Happens in Tenet

(spoilers: the entire fff*** plot explained)
posted by lalochezia at 8:09 PM on November 27, 2020

the more i think about it the more it fits with westworld s4. shiny surface, rotten underneath.

just fundamentally shit, shit writing. like I'm actually angry. like i'm 2.5 hours closer to my death.

DONT RISK COVID for this one kids.
posted by lalochezia at 9:06 PM on November 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

This was worse than Cats. I truly mean that. At least Cats gave me some joy in hate-watching it.
posted by cazoo at 9:29 PM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

This movie just reinforced for me that Christopher Nolan doesn't know how to mix sound or what an algorithm actually is.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:50 AM on December 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

It’s fine: A few non-spoiler thoughts to begin with -- but let’s keep this discussion here for posterity.

Given that people will be seeing the movie spread over a matter of months, this is going to be an interesting thread. Welp.
posted by joeyh at 6:40 PM on December 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine has the Blu-ray on pre-order so I'll finally be able to see it in a week or two when he puts it up on his Plex.
posted by octothorpe at 10:33 AM on December 6, 2020

I gave my coworker an unexpected holiday gift of talking her out of watching this at the weekend.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:15 PM on December 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I’m bored to tears reading the Vulture piece, let alone while watching this. My partner has been eager to watch it for so many months and this seems an enormous disappointment.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:52 PM on December 15, 2020

I think it’s great. Halfway through my consecutive viewing as I’m typing this, actually. Probably my fav of 2020.
posted by sideshow at 10:04 PM on December 15, 2020

this was super fun. I think i was prepped by interstellar and inception for Nolan's cleverisms. If you just enjoy it, they are a lot of fun, puzzling through it. but it's all always revealed. if you just remember that it's not as convoluted as it thinks it is, you can have fun with it.

The pace is non stop, and pieces like the interrogation scene are amazing. the hallway fight scene was super cool, and i'll have to watch it again to see where they reversed the film.

you could slight this movie and say, it's memento crossed with inception. you wouldn't be wrong but that doesn't convey how fun it is to watch.
posted by eustatic at 11:44 PM on December 15, 2020

I loved it after finally seeing it tonight but I so wish that I could have seen it in the theater. Nolan has been good at big action but he's really gotten better at filming fighting which used to be a weak spot for him. Go back and try to watch the god awful fight scened in Batman Begins and compare them to the ones in this.

The sound is weirdly mixed but that's his thing and you just have to accept that you're not going to catch all the dialogue in a Nolan film. The plot probably doesn't make much sense but what action movie plot does?

The pacing was just amazing; it was the same length as Wonder Woman 84 which I saw last night and this one just flew by in comparison. van Hoytema's cinematography (on Kodak film of course) looked amazing.

Again, I just wish that I could have seen it on a huge screen.
posted by octothorpe at 8:13 PM on December 26, 2020

Honestly I sort of expected my wife to be more annoyed with the "efficient" first half hour where the protagonist is jumping from clue to clue to clue until he finally meets up with Sad Elizabeth Debicki and things start to cruise along. No, the inverted world doesn't strictly make a ton of sense and the final red & blue fight was awfully bland despite the spectacle, and some of the reverse motion looked janky as frig like ... what, couldn't you do some really complicated masking and run some sections backwards and other sections forwards? Or maybe people running backwards really do look like that and not like people miming backwards runners, I dunno.

Still, aside from some clunky writing (the protagonist is named "protagonist"? really? And yes, SED, your child is also a part of the world, yes yes), it's a competent enough action thriller. On the other hand, I don't have a ton of interest in watching it again to catch everything I missed the first time, either.

I haven't gone looking, did the Sator square actually amount to much more than a convenient puzzle for word nerds? I mean ok Branagh was Sator, and there was a big fight at an Opera, and Tenet is obvious, but Rotas security and Arepo the art forger? Not exactly *inception noise* here, izzit.
posted by Kyol at 9:53 AM on December 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

This was worse than Cats. I truly mean that. At least Cats gave me some joy in hate-watching it.

Could you imagine an inverted Cats movie ? That would be the greatest movie of all time.
posted by Pendragon at 1:54 PM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed it! Interesting to see a lot of people here had issues with the sound. We watched it at home, and at first we had a really hard time understanding the dialog. We paused the movie to try to sort it out - turns out my setup has an "enhance" feature which normally doesn't seem to do much, but in the case of this film made the sound effects and score much louder. If some theaters are using a similar feature, that would really ruin it for a lot of audiences.
We did watch it a second time with subtitles on, turns out we did get most of the dialog and plot. It was fun to see again just because then some of the details that are mysterious upon first watch are clearer, like you are more aware of how the protagonist pops up in different situations in order to save his own life. Loved the score.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:18 AM on January 2, 2021

Enjoying it even more on rewatch. I like most Nolan films but two big things that have often bothered my about his style are the somewhat pedestrian camerawork and the incoherent editing in action scenes and this (and Dunkirk before it) has much more dynamic cinematography and terrific editing from Jennifer Lame who worked with Noah Baumbach and Ari Aster before. Again the pacing of this film is so well done; I normally bitch about movies all being too long but this moved so quickly that it doesn't feel long at all.
posted by octothorpe at 8:40 AM on January 2, 2021

Watched this last night, and maybe this is because I read a fair amount of sci-fi, but I didn't think that it was that difficult to follow. Some of the dialogue was hard to understand because of the sound, but that's pretty much par for the course for Nolan these days.

Have to say I felt it didn't really work for me as it was all about pushing the technical and mechanical aspects of film and story-telling rather that what is important to me, which is the heart. I can forgive plot-holes if they serve character and meaning much more than I can forgive a well planned film that lacks character/meaning.
posted by Fence at 10:02 AM on January 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just watched this and heading to bed, but thought it was a lot of fun! On the other hand, well, we watched it with the luxury of closed captioning. Otherwise I am confident I’d have had no idea what was going on, just on a fundamental basic level.

It’s not perfect, but it was a heck of a tricky ride overall.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:05 AM on January 16, 2021

Okay, awake now the following morning. Still think this was a pretty cool movie. The non-instantaneous temporal teleportation nature of the time travel gave it almost a feel that I might describe as “like Primer, but enjoyable to watch as a movie.” The idea of hiding things in certain specific places and sending information one way in time also reminder me of Looper in a good way.

I appreciated a lot of clever little touches designed to hide in plain sight, too, like the efficient use of gas masks as a way to hide faces with a great excuse, and especially how in the opening scene, there was a shot of the protagonist and three others planning the raid, and all the gas masks had fogged windows except the protagonist’s, so your attention would be drawn to him.

I see now as well why I saw a few people say that the plot itself was essentially spoiler-proof — the first time through you need so much context to understand anything that it’s almost hard to imagine even talking about specific plot points, much less in a way that would be meaningful outside the moment.

Overall, though, well. We did a rental on iTunes on Saturday night, and we’re sorely tempted to watch it again Sunday now that we know all the puzzle solutions, heh.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:37 PM on January 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hated it, but I hate all time travel stories. The only exception is Primer, and that because it's just so dedicated to its premise. The action movie parts were okay, the airplane attack in Oslo was amazing. At least until the timey wimey part started.

Interstellar had an unintelligible audio mix as well. I guess that's a Nolan signature. Covers up the terrible writing and direction of human beings.
posted by Nelson at 11:11 PM on January 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

This pitch meeting says it all.
posted by Pendragon at 7:19 AM on January 19, 2021

Cibo Matto - Sugar Water demonstrates the time-inversion concept in a much more succinct and comprehensible way than this movie. (hat tip jwz.)
posted by Nelson at 4:38 PM on January 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I just got around to renting this to stream, and I enjoyed it. Most of the action scenes were terrific. I especially enjoyed the kitchen fight. I felt like I was reliving the snow fortress scene from inception during the red/blue battle, and i guess these are not Nolan's forte -- it was a mess that could have been cleared up a bit if one of the reverse soldiers, for instance, had been at the briefing, since they did mention that they were working on info gained by the first attack (i think).

I spent some time thinking afterwards, about the ramifications of this kind of time travel. It seems that anyone who gets inverted would begin to Benjamin Button the moment they go through the device, so the furthest anyone could travel in reverse (given enough air to breath) would be to the earliest point i their own life that they could function. I would presume then that time soldiers would be put into stasis in a vault somewhere and allowed to go back as far as they were needed, but they would then have to relive all of that time in real time. An advantage to this would be absolute preknowledge of events, and the ability for the time soldiers to get rich as a reward (by gambling or any of the other tropes about time travel pre-knowledge).

For the CIA stuff to work the loops would have to be much tighter, but with the right resources and infrastructure to provide O2 and transport from the inverters, pretty much any op could be organized within hours.

The book "the First 15 lives of Harry August" does a neat job of explaining how the future communicates backward through time, and with the stasis idea it would simply mean finding old travelers to stasis backward many decades with knowledge to build another inverter and then rinse and repeat for as many lifetimes as it takes to get the info back to where you want it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2021

This movie is so strange. Previous Nolan movies could be criticized as being kind of rudimentary on character and all about the gimmick, but Tenet is about fifty times more like that than anything else. It's not even trying to be a real movie. I feel like I have been privy to a great becoming.

I felt a little bad for the actors. Not just because the dialogue was bad, but because of how flat they were told to act. Incredibly lifeless line delivery -- but fast! It was fast enough though that it worked a little bit, and gave the film some momentum. And that momentum made it kind of watchable, it almost counted as style. And the gimmick is extremely silly but does lead to some cool action sequences.

It kinda felt like somebody's first movie, some promising new director who had one excellent skill and we'd think maybe they'll grow into a good well-rounded director later.

One specific gripe: Not actually showing Branagh acquire the last algorithm piece in the highway chase is a really glaring omission.. They don't strictly need to show it, because then they tell it anyway, but that really ends the whole sequence on a confused raspberry.
posted by fleacircus at 8:30 AM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh also there is one shot on the catamaran that I swear is like some "Land of the Lost" level green screen.
posted by fleacircus at 8:51 AM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think it is not unfair to describe Tenet as "all plot and no story." There is virtually no character growth or development or change — it's almost exclusively just a series of events that happen in a specific order. And, like… it still works somehow, but as more of a theme park ride than as a story. About halfway through, I understood exactly what was meant when I saw someone describe the movie as having a "spoiler-proof plot."
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:06 PM on February 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

This was one of the films at this weekend’s Boston SciFi Film Marathon, so I got to watch it at home with subtitles. It is certainly the most Nolan film that ever Nolan’d, and, yeah, it gets pretty far up its own ass. But I enjoyed it - I had very little clue about the plot going in to it, but was able to figure out a lot of what was happening while it was going on - the description of the diver, who the masked fighter was, etc. (I was expecting Neil to turn out to be a grown up Max, though.)
posted by rmd1023 at 11:44 PM on February 14, 2021

Yeah, this felt like a B-level Bond film (capers, token woman in distress, sadistic billionaire villain with a bad accent delivering bad lines badly, embarrassing greenscreen scene) with a too-clever puzzle plot underneath.

I wish someone could look over Nolan's shoulder when he's writing and let him get to the point when he does something clever (opening to Dark Knight bank robbery) and then take away his laptop before he can write "Get the other sections of the horcrux algorithm to the hypercenter"

And I guess filming a big, boring battle scene between a bunch of NPCs towards the end of his films is just a thing now?

If you want to see a smart, engaging, emotional, well acted scifi film, watch Arrival.
posted by gwint at 8:20 PM on May 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

Finally got around to watching this and boy oh boy, Christoper really is an instricate thinker, isn't he? Too bad he can't make me care about the characters, even though they are very likable.

I really loved Inception and feel it had enough heart to it to cover up any plot holes. Tenet is all West Wing style snappy patter, which is something I love, but here it just falls so very flat. I turned the film off right before the final big battle, because what was the point of watching the rest? You know how its going to go. Washington is somehow behind it all, Kat gets her freedom, other important stuff get done, hero saves the day, while various cool looking inverse things happen in fights.

The breathing mask bit was incredibly silly and kept pulling me out of the film. Shouldn't they need special glasses to deal with the inverted light?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 PM on June 19, 2021

It was like Christopher Nolan got his brother to write all of the dialogue, and it was just as bad as the dialogue in Person of Interest...
posted by mabelstreet at 5:15 PM on June 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Spoilers in FanFare are fine from the moment a post is created, comment from above decoded:

The twist where it turns out that Washington's character was actually fighting an inverted version of himself in the airport was pretty cool, up until we get to the part of the fight where he puts the bullet holes in the glass to "explain" the backwards-bullet gags from earlier. But I can't think of any coherent plot or character reason for inverted-Washington to try to shoot his "earlier" self, it seems pretty extreme and not at all motivated by what he and Pattinson were trying to do. It's like Nolan thought it would be a cool thing to have happen but forgot to come up with the "why" of the scene.
posted by ellieBOA at 8:06 AM on June 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

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