Just came back from my 1st advanced screening of Tenet. Here are some of my thoughts about the movie.
1) Score (7/10): Ludwig Göransson has done a pretty good job assuming working for the 1st time with Nolan. But it didn’t connect with me as it did for Inception, Interstellar, or maybe even for Dunkirk. It lacked that emotional touch. It’s all electronic that goes along pretty well with the amazing action sequences, but not that outstanding if you think about it later.
2) Sound (5/10): I agree with all the complaints about sound mixing and design stuff. You can’t hear the dialogues, not even during the climactic moments. Important information was being given to the audiences during loud action sequences. So, you miss a dialogue, you miss an important plot point. And there are a lot of such instances.
3) Cinematography (9/10): Kudos to Hoyte Van Hoytema for delivering another beautifully shot movie. Considering the complexity of the action scenes, he did an excellent job. Especially the cinematography of the 3rd act was unworldly.
4) Editing (6/10): For me, Jennifer Lame did an ok job for a first timer in a big scale movie. Some of the scenes were oddly cut. But the movie did have the Nolanesque editing indicating that Nolan does have control over his editors. My issue with the film was that it was too fast-paced and maybe a bit short for a movie like this. I know 2.5 hours for a blockbuster is pretty standard. But there was less room for emotional scenes. You don’t have any time to think, to feel, or to digest any information. There were very minimal build-ups to the events happening around you. It’s more like Dunkirk in terms of audience experience. 150 minutes get passed in a blink of an eye. But the length of the movie is not sufficient for the amount of information the audiences have to digest. Long movies are usually considered poorly edited, but this is not the case here. The movie felt very rushed and hyper-paced. it worked for Dunkirk, but not in this case IMO.
5) Screenplay (6/10): I was very confused about the critics’ responses regarding the complexity of the movie. Some said it was a pretty straight-forward movie, while for others it was as confusing as hell. Well, I think now I understand why critics are so divisive about the movie. The structure of the story is pretty straight-forward, to be honest. There were lesser expositions compared to Inception. And that, I think, is the problem here. Tenet is a very high concept movie that required more expositions for general audiences and critics to understand. I think Nolan trusted his audiences too much this time. On top of that, you couldn’t hear important expositions due to the sound issue. That’s why some of the critics are saying that the movie is confusing. I think the structure of Tenet is simpler than Inception but the concept and the mechanisms of inversion are much more complex to understand in the case of Tenet. It will require multiple viewings with subtitles to truly appreciate the movie. It’s no wonder that the actors couldn’t understand the script the first time they read it. I cannot comment on the dialogues because most of the time I couldn’t hear or understand anything. But the story did lack an emotional heart. I mean, there were obviously some emotional aspects to it. But compared to Inception or Interstellar, the story is pretty forgettable.
6) Acting (7/10) & Characters (5/10): Well, as with most of the movies of Nolan, there was not much room for the actors to act here. Because most of his stories are plot-driven, not character-driven. John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia all did pretty good acting considering the limitations of the screenplay. But the characters have none to very minimal character arc here. I now understand, why RP said that the length of the movie is like 3 movies combined. Because there was no room for any character development whatsoever. I’m really disappointed with the character of Kenneth Branagh as the main antagonist. More was expected from Nolan. Without going into the details of the story, I didn’t feel anything particular for the main characters. But the standout highlight was the chemistry between JDW and RP. Maybe it will change after multiple viewings.
7) Direction (9/10): Maybe in terms of direction only, this is one of the best, if not the best movie of the last decade. I mean, the scale of the movie is huge. The action sequences were just WOW, there’s no denying it. After seeing this movie, no one can argue that Nolan can’t do great action. It has never been done before and maybe no one will dare to do it in the future as RP said in an interview. The audacity of the action scenes is pure class. I don’t want to spoil anything, but maybe only Nolan could have pulled it off. And he did it in terms of direction.
8) The Movie (7/10): I must say, I was overall disappointed with the movie from my first viewing. But I would give the movie 10/10 for it’s unique and not-seen-before action sequences. Maybe some of this disappointment comes from the hype of the movie. I mean, no one expected Inception from Nolan in 2009. But the stakes are higher now. The mixed reviews from the critics are justified IMO. Although they should not mean anything to an audience, maybe audiences are not going to love this movie as they did Interstellar or Inception. As with the movie getting better after repeated viewings, some things don’t change even after multiple viewings. You may understand the concept or the dialogues better after 2nd or 3rd viewing but the movie lacked the emotional core that was present in Inception and Interstellar. It was an audacious, admirably original and unique action movie, but for me, it wasn’t the masterpiece from Nolan that some are saying. Nolan admirers are surely going to like if not love it, it’s purely Nolanesque.
My Ranking of Nolan Movies (Descending order):Inception > Memento > Interstellar > The Dark Knight > The Prestige > Tenet (After 1st viewing) > Dunkirk > Batman Begins > The Dark Knight Rises > Insomnia > Following