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SPOILER TALK: TENET (2020, Christopher Nolan)


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Bang on. 😄     Karol

Inception gets all the points over Tenet by virtue of actually feeling cinematic. Like it or not, it understood how to communicate memorable images and set-pieces within the heist genre it operates in

Incredible movie ! I'll need time to process it. 

 

I didn't even realize while watching that the Protagonist is never given a name ! 

 

One thing I'll say, I would have liked a more uplifting ending, à la Inception and Interstellar, rather than the hero coldly shooting someone in the back of a car. Maybe they could have ended with him and a past or present Neil going off to further aventures. 

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8 hours ago, eitam said:

Incredible movie ! I'll need time to process it. 

 

I didn't even realize while watching that the Protagonist is never given a name ! 

 

One thing I'll say, I would have liked a more uplifting ending, à la Inception and Interstellar, rather than the hero coldly shooting someone in the back of a car. Maybe they could have ended with him and a past or present Neil going off to further aventures. 

 

Yes, the ending was another disappointment to me. He usually ends films in clever ways, but this just....stopped. Btw, the end shot is not him shooting the Indian scientist in the car, but the woman walking down the street with her son. Nothing terribly exciting.

 

I have respect for Nolan's 'project' here, but I'm also feeling a sense of 'yearning' for more typical Nolan. I go into this in the review that I published yesterday; feel free to run it through Google Translate if anyone's interested:

 

https://montages.no/2020/08/spinnvill-selvbravur-i-christopher-nolans-tenet/

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1 hour ago, Thor said:

...the end shot is not him shooting the Indian scientist in the car, but the woman walking down the street with her son. Nothing terribly exciting.

Isn't the final shot of THE THIRD MAN one of a car passing a woman? Nothing terribly exciting, then again, TENET is not THE THIRD MAN, and Nolan is certainly not Carol Reed.

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What a perfectly awful piece of blockbuster filth. Bereft of human (or, god forbid, likable) characters, poetry or a purpose we are left with human ciphers, stilted dialogue, long and loud action scenes that are not really that exciting and a poor man's Bond plot artificially complicated by Nolan's usual quantum physics and time continuum spiel (not too speak of tiring third and fourth 'reveals' that just got on my nerves).

 

What worked in Inception because it basically was a love story falls flat on its face here because there's just nothing to it beyond the shenanigans, explosions and designer locations.

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I mean, I watched the first half of this review and he even had me coming around to the idea of making the effort to watch it sometime:

 

 

But then in the second half he put me right off it again.

 

I'm not a fan of flashy technical exercise movies. Which in my view is Nolan's chief motivation as a filmmaker, and the main reason why I could never get onboard the Nolan hype train. All I see is gloss and veneer. 

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Just finished watching it. I was completely on my own at the screening.

 

Maybe it's just my mood but I completely couldn't get into it. It's not even that I couldn't follow it as much as I just didn't really care. There were several moments where my attention just sort of drifted. High concepts like this work only if you care about the characters or can relate to anything within the narrative. But at no point was I really involved so the fact the plot does "this" or "that" for its own sake was of little interest to me. I didn't really get what is supposed to be so special about the central idea. I was constantly asking myself "why"? It all felt really silly to me and it was impossible to suspend my disbelief. Sure, there are some cool locations and impressively staged action setpieces. They might be even better realised than in previous Nolan movies. But in the end the only thing I got from this experience was a headache (in a literal sense).

 

I've got an IMAX ticket for next Sunday but now I'm thinking of maybe cancelling my booking. But still it would be nice to see the 70mm screening for the visuals alone and because it is such a rare thing to witness these days. Bet it will look nice on a massive screen...but is it reason enough to sit through this again? I tend to enjoy Nolan's films more the second time but this time....I don't know...

 

This is what it must feel like for Nolan detractors to watch any of his films.

 

Karol

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I agree that the human element is weaker than in other Nolan movies (except maybe Dunkirk, can't remember that one), but still, I thought John David Washington and Robert Pattinson had enough charisma to make their respective character likable and keep me interested in what happened to them. 

 

As an aside: the end credits should have been split into 2 columns going in reverse directions ! 😁 

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But they were ciphers, nothing more than chess pieces in a let's go on a mission scenario - the pitiful attempt to bond (no pun intended) JDW and the blond gal just shows you how misguided they were. I'm rather baffled that no one at WB had a hard look at the screenplay and said, maybe let's not put 300 Mio $ into this.

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Why, in-fucking-deed.

 

Watched this tonight on IMAX 70mm. Look, Nolan is clearly a clever guy, who gets hooked onto high-concept ideas and pseudo-science. And he explores that stuff with a lot of anal discipline. But somewhere in that rabbit-hole, he forgets that he's making a fucking movie.

 

What a colossal piece of nothing.

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You know all those people who were complaining about Nolan's soulless mechanical filmmaking, stilted expository dialogue and oppressive assault on the senses? Well, he proved them all right with Tenet. He made EXACTLY the film they were describing. Inception in comparison is a light-hearted and almost whimsical fare. This was just dour, joyless and tiring. And all of this comes from a "Nolan apostle".

 

I also feel his blockbuster formula is getting old. I started to feel that ever since The Dark Knight Rises came out. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed his first ten films to various degrees but there's something increasingly bloated about them.

 

I liked Elizabeth Debicki. She really works hard to give this some emotional depth but by the end of the movie her character lost me as well.

 

I spoke to one of my oldest friends last night, with whom I discovered Nolan about 20 years ago, and he felt exactly the same.

 

Karol

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14 minutes ago, Quintus said:

So he finally did disappear up his own arse then, huh. 

 

Not necessarily. I see it more as a self-aware 'celebration' of sorts - perhaps a meta film a la Michael Bay's PAIN & GAIN. I go into this in my review that I posted above.

 

While I have several issues with the film, I think some of the comments here are too harsh. It also needs to be lauded for what it is, while recognizing its flaws.

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9 hours ago, crocodile said:

You know all those people who were complaining about Nolan's soulless mechanical filmmaking, stilted expository dialogue and oppressive assault on the senses? Well, he proved them all right with Tenet. He made EXACTLY the film they were describing. Inception in comparison is a light-hearted and almost whimsical fare. This was just dour, joyless and tiring. And all of this comes from a "Nolan apostle".

 

I always felt Inception was much more accessible than it got hyped up to be. It's a film that remembers its dramatic purpose. It's a heist film, with a B-love story. All the codes and ciphers are window-dressing and stylistically support the genre.

 

With Tenet, all of Nolan's worst tendencies are at war with what the film aims to be. There's a barebones sketch of a Bond film. There's a hokey hammed up Russian villain, spies in suave suits, a car chase, a mothering weeping for her son, a time bomb (literally), and for some reason...a massive siege at the end (still don't entirely understand how we got to that). But none of these things register as anything more than cursory gestures because the whole thing is overstuffed with its fascination with its own rules. Even visually, none of the images (however fascinating the shooting of them must be) manage to resonate like the best moments of Inception or Interstellar did.

 

Obviously everything is shot and staged well. But this isn't cinema. It's a puzzle, made of carefully sequenced film tropes, but it forgets to function as a film.

 

9 hours ago, crocodile said:

I also feel his blockbuster formula is getting old. I started to feel that ever since The Dark Knight Rises came out. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed his first ten films to various degrees but there's something increasingly bloated about them.

 

Yeah. I wish he was more interested in shaking up his formula than chasing high-concept ideas. The moment the first flashback popped up in Tenet, I could see he was planting the same seeds, the same way.

 

9 hours ago, crocodile said:

I liked Elizabeth Debicki. She really works hard to give this some emotional depth but by the end of the movie her character lost me as well.

 

She was definitely doing her best with the material. But her character still just felt like a token to inject something human to route for. There was a funny moment where she's dying in a truck, but still manages to spew out expository dialogue about algorithms and inversion with her eyes half-closed.

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1 hour ago, crocodile said:

I cancelled my IMAX booking. Don't really feel like watching it again at the moment. Perhaps if it is still showing by the end of the month but for now I can't be asked to sit through this again.

 

That's a shame. The action sequences looked amazing in IMAX.

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Normally, Thor, I would agree, but Pub has hit the nail on the head. The term "visionary" has become a cliché, when talking about anything concerned with cinema. It is as overused, and as meaningless as "iconic".

True, these terms once meant something: someone with a singular style, or thematic overview, but, recently, just about everyone connected with a film is a "visionary", or an "icon".

Nolan is a maker of popular, successful films, but "visionary"? Gimme a break.

 

 

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I don't see the problem, seriously. Sure, the term may be overused or even wrongly used some times, but that's not the word's fault. It has perfectly specific meaning, and as far I think - perfectly suited to a director like Nolan. He always has a very strong vision for his films; one that pushes boundaries, both in terms of narrative and setpieces. Using 'visionary' to describe his work is a no-brainer.

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Also I didn't see anything to warrant the term in Tenet. Sure, it's a huge, globe-spanning production that is a technical achievement, but frankly, nothing that is beyond recent Bond and similar fare. The central gimmick, the challenging of linear storytelling, wasn't successful - Godard did that stuff better in the 60's - and if that doesn't work, all the first-class technicians in the world can't save the thing.

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Watched this earlier tonight, first film I’ve seen in theaters since the pandemic. And this is the first Nolan film where it’s more style than substance.

 

For a film that Nolan has pushed to be the first major film to reinvigorate moviegoing during a pandemic, it is too twisty and borderline incoherent in places. The driving concept about inverted time never makes much sense— even when it resolves itself at the end, it left me shaking my head.

 

John David Washington is given a thankless role here, literally named ‘Protagonist’, who comes off as a watered down version of Jason Bourne. I’m not sure whether Nolan wanted him to have a simmering chemistry with Elizabeth Debicki, because it isn’t there. Kenneth Branagh gives the film life by essentially reprising his Shadow Recruit role. Robert Pattinson stole the whole film, he has energy and charisma that Washington lacked.

 

But the whole movie looks sumptuous, most effects shot practically. Hoyte van Hoytema deserves major credit for his IMAX lensing and Tenet deserves to be seen on the big screen. It’s a serviceable blockbuster.

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It's not even that the reversed time thing doesn't make sense. I just completely didn't buy it. The Nolan's signature earnest tone doesn't help. At least in the Marvel or Bond films you have tongue in cheek tone that helps you go with whatever. Here it just comes off as plain ridiculous. In other words, I can't take the film seriously because it already treats itself way too seriously.

 

But yes,some of it looks rather good. Shame there's literally almost nothing else in there.

 

I really type all if this with heavy heart because I do enjoy the other ten films. I suppose it was inevitable he'd produce a did at some point. One in 20 years isn't bad really.

 

Karol

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I'm dreading watching this movie, which feels a bit strange. I still am anxious to see it, but having gone a bit of a 180 on Nolan in recent months, I don't want to see a movie like this flop. More original blockbusters and expensive practical SFX are something I really want in cinema. 

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It's deafening loudness deserves to be heard from outside the theater, though. I had this complaint with several films over the years and - together with Nolan's relentless noise plastering - it's an assault on the senses that isn't justified by the result.

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4 hours ago, crocodile said:

 In other words, I can't take the film seriously because it already treats itself way too seriously.

 

I'm not so sure that it does, actually. Within Nolan's parameters, it's a pretty self-celebratory and self-aware film - no doubt written with a few glasses of red wine in front of the keyboard. I think it may be the Nolan film that takes itself the LEAST seriously, like a pulp version of his usual aesthetic. Which to some is great, but to me is a loss, in a way. I miss the places and the build-up (and Zimmer, obviously). While I recognize its sheer 'muscularity'; its musical tempo (and it really needs to be applauded for that - nobody does these kinds of things as good as Nolan these days!), for me something is missing. In other words - it should not be so easily and aggressively dismissed as some have in this thread; but it also doesn't stand up to his previous movies. At least not on first viewing. I'm curious to see how it holds up on subsequent viewings; once I get a grasp of all the palindromes and Möbius strips and all that.

 

Incidentally, all of my colleagues were ecstatic. I'm the only one that is more lukewarm.

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23 minutes ago, publicist said:

Yeah, there sure is a schism between regular folk and people *into* cinema who in case of Nolan always find rationalizations for what's put in front of them (see above). 

 

Which is pretty strange to me. Because in my head, any "self-proclaimed cinephile" would delight at ripping apart this puff piece for the nothingness that it is. 

 

36 minutes ago, Thor said:

 

I'm not so sure that it does, actually. Within Nolan's parameters, it's a pretty self-celebratory and self-aware film - no doubt written with a few glasses of red wine in front of the keyboard. I think it may be the Nolan film that takes itself the LEAST seriously, like a pulp version of his usual aesthetic.

 

If this is indeed his intent (though I'm less than convinced about that), it sure is an awfully humourless attempt.

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9 minutes ago, KK said:

If this is indeed his intent (though I'm less than convinced about that), it sure is an awfully humourless attempt.

 

I said 'within Nolan's parameters'. He's never going to take it all out, a la Michael Bay's deliciously self-ironical PAIN & GAIN or whatever. But it's about as close as he gets, sort of turning both his usual narrative complexity and the insanity of the action setpieces up to 11. It's not 'ha ha' funny, more 'wink wink' meta-funny. But it's not really a landscape I want to see him in; I want him back in the more serious and cerebral mode.

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I'm not even sure what means. I have 'ideologies' and preferences like everyone else, and these will no doubt be reflected in my writing. All writers are ideological, to one extent or the other.

 

But I think in the case of someone like Nolan, who's such an idiosyncratic director, you first need to ask yourself what his style or 'project' has been over all these years. Once you've identified that, you can approach a film like TENET and ask where it hits the mark and where it doesn't. I think the film exaggerates all the traits that have identified Nolan over the years, and as such is an 'over-the-top' exercise, almost. As I said, a "pulp" version of his aesthetic. A lot of people seem to love that aspect of it (like my colleagues), but personally I'm not too thrilled with it. I'm torn between respect for what he does in this case, and nostalgia for what he should have done, and as such - perfectly in the middle.

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