The whole of Tenet feels to be the statement: “You’ll never understand me. So just feel my production.”
An unnamed agent blotches a Ukrainian rescue mission and wakes up to find himself in the hands of Tenet, a secret organization working to prevent the end of the world. For his first mission, the agent heads to India and discovers that Russian oligarch Andrei Sator has found a way to invert time i.e. to force time to flow backwards for affected objects or humans. Together with his handler Neil, the agent then works with and against time to prevent the crazed engame of Sator.
This is embarrassing, even mortifying, for me to say. I barely understood Tenet.
Repeat: I barely understood Nolan’s latest blockbuster.
Since Thursday, I’ve seen write-ups and reviews with headlines to the likes of … don’t bother with understanding, just feel the show … In utter arrogance, I assumed I’d would at least get the gist of the story. After all, I had no issue with Interstellar or Inception, or even Memento.
Failing which, there’s still the action, yes? This is a Nolan production, after all. Being bored would be the last thing to happen.
Well, the action was as high-energy as it gets. Frenetically dished to you with an intensity Time itself would find breathless to stay in pace with.
Gunfights and explosions happening with and against time were also spectacular. On these, let me just say that the underlying grandeur is not just a case of playing footage backwards and merging them together. The beauty is succinct and emphatic.
But the story … the story! Was there even any effort to help the audience understand? Or was that never an objective, with the movie explicitly repeating several times, don’t try to understand it …
I’m sorry, but I’m disappointed. This is without doubt, one of those shows that one needs to watch at least twice to properly understand. The problem though, the first viewing is so tiring, I’m very uninclined for a second one.
On a Serious Note …
I exaggerate. While I didn’t grasp every thread of the story, I had an inkling of what was happening, and why it was happening, by the middle of the show.
On the other hand, what I seriously didn’t understand was, why make it so inaccessible?
The confusing dialogue and gunfire-like delivery. The thunderous soundtrack, which occasionally masks important declarations.
Or the lack of any breather for the audience to chew on the concepts discussed.
Did Nolan truly just wanted us to feel his story, not comprehend it? Or was it a case, he didn’t expect us to, thus the reminders to forget about thinking?
Now, I know there are many cinematic masterpieces that value style and execution over story. Still, I wonder whether it’s actually a case of that sort of artistic plateau. When a thespian no longer cares about sharing his craft but is more intended on flaunting his awesomeness.
Scathing remarks, I know. And perhaps it’s a case of me being too dumb to understand a high-brow story. But that’s the point too. Tenet made me feel dumb and slow. I dislike that feeling.