Christopher Nolan is the biggest villain in 'Tenet'

This 2020 time-hopping epic has the hallmarks of many of its famous directors, but at the expense of a coherent narrative and emotional storytelling.

From neo-noir murder mysteries to comic-book-based fare and sci-fi brain teasers to historical epics, Christopher Nolan has delivered audiences a uniquely diverse body of work over the past two and a half years. As one of the most talented directors in modern cinema, the excitement and hype surrounding the filmmaker's new project has reached event-level status in the entertainment world. Like Kubrick and Spielberg, the Nolan surname has become synonymous with and representative of a particular brand of storytelling, with loyal fans and casual audiences alike increasingly accustomed to an appreciation for grand spectacle, technological innovation and narrative experimentation. Extremely high expectations.

But no filmmaker, talented as he or she may be, hits a home run every time he or she hits the ball. Nolan's "Tenet 2020" seems to be the culmination of all the knowledge and experience he has accumulated in previous films, and the influence of this filmmaker is beyond his grasp. While he's never been blamed or guilty of crafting a traditionally straight-forward basic narrative based on a cinematic formula, Tenet sees Nolan dramatically swing the creative pendulum to places that are barely comprehensible. The result is a chaotic viewing experience that certainly contains all the thrilling hallmarks of a Christopher Nolan film Because they are about originality and ambition, but at the expense of narrative cohesion and emotional resonance.

'Tenent' Is an Undeniable Feast For the Senses

Tenet is highly anticipated when it hits theaters in September 2020, not least due to the fragile state of theatrical experience. Just three years ago, Nolan's "Dunkirk" was a huge success, and the wildly popular blockbuster brought him some of his highest honors, including Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Picture .

Throughout Tenet's two-and-a-half hours, viewers are taken on a mind-bending thrill ride that is a feast for the senses. Nolan's signature is that Tenet delivers all the visceral thrills a filmmaker prizes. Known for shooting large sets on location, he really spared no expense this time around. From the movie's opening shootout at a Soviet-era opera house to a decidedly unorthodox car chase on an Estonian highway to the spectacular finale in which an actual 747 jet crashes into a desolate landscape, Tenet makes use of all the fun toys , and then some.

Then there are the technical devices of the film's narrative and temporality. It's certainly no secret that Nolan has a fascination with the concept of time and how people perceive time reality, and Tenet took those preoccupations (obsessions?) to an all-time high. With the tireless efforts of his cast and crew, especially John David Washington and cinematographer Hoyt van Hoytema, the filmmaker painstakingly delivers a cinematic account of the frenzy of time. By the end of the movie, assuming one didn't check it out because of mental exhaustion, Tenet has delivered an undeniably unique and noteworthy viewing experience that strives hard to offer viewers something fresh.

Christopher Nolan Chases Ambition at the Expense of Cohesion

Christopher Nolan is apparently no stranger to dense, multi-layered films. Complex narrative structures have been one of the filmmaker's hallmarks since his debut in 1998's Following. Subsequent efforts such as Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar each amount to a narrative whose ingenuity and storytelling complexity resembles that of a jigsaw puzzle. However, this approach to storytelling carries an inherent risk of alienating an audience if taken too far. With Tenet, one can't help but feel that Nolan's grand ambitions compromise and overshadow the film's narrative. Perhaps the most appropriate dialogue is that of Barbara (Clemence Poesy), which could even be seen as a subtle breach of the fourth wall, conveying a piece of advice to the audience Tell the main character (John David Washington), "Don't try to understand it. Feel it."

But the problem with this concept is that it's directly antithetical to the experience of watching a Christopher Nolan film. Part of what makes his approach to storytelling particularly enjoyable is its refusal to submit to the conventions of the big blockbuster cinema. We step into a Nolan film expecting to be intellectually stimulated and challenged, and navigating his rich narrative is one of the ultimate reasons for repeat viewing. While Tenet is certainly another example of this kind of storytelling, the film's time devices are far too manipulative and disorienting. There comes a point where the audience no longer cares about the how and why, at which point the mechanics of the storytelling are beyond comprehension. Instead of leaving theater in awe and wonder, we were left scratching our heads.

'Tenet' Follows an Emotionally Distant Journey

People often want to eat his cake and want to eat it. When Barbara tells the protagonist (and the audience) to feel the film rather than understand it, she certainly has a point. Although watching Nolan's films is often a form of mental gymnastics, audiences want to find This dynamic balances out all the emotional baggage, which also makes for an engaging experience. Nolan has often been criticized by some for being aloof when it comes to considering the emotional nature of his narratives and the characters within them, and while that argument may hold water among critics of his work, no film has ever been better in a film than Tenet. More obvious.

Comparing "Tenet" to some of the filmmaker's earlier work, it is clear that while the films have similarly complex structures, they are more emotionally grounded and resonant. It might be hard to understand Memento's time-shifting representation, but at the heart of the film is a palpable sense of loss and the obsession that drives Leonard (Guy Pearce) to find his wife's killer. While audiences may not fully understand every twist and turn of Inception's labyrinthine narrative quality, they can certainly recognize and hold onto Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) with painful memories The emotional turmoil of fighting and longing to go home. When Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) goes on his interstellar mission, he separates himself from his family and children through incredible distances in time and space, and the audience knows all too well Pain and heartache permeated every fiber of his being. The triptych setting of Dunkirk might have had us excited for nearly an hour and a half, but we were suffocated when those civilian ships showed up to save the day and Hans Zimmer's soundtrack surged. With each of these films, viewers get a sense of how much is at stake, even if they can't necessarily articulate how and why it happened.

This is not to say that Tenet was an entirely unemotional experience. The final exchange between the protagonist and Neil (Robert Pattinson) infuses the film's narrative and those characters with a tender and bittersweet catharsis. Undoubtedly, Kate's (Elizabeth Debicki) liberation from the villainous Sator (Kenneth Branagh) in the moments before certainly provided viewers with well-earned satisfaction and righteous liberation. But it was too late. The emotional power of the film's final moments is belied by the bewildering hoops the audience jumps through towards the end. Instead of reveling in sentimental thoughts and finding closure, we feel relatively cold and alienated.

Furthermore, this emotional detachment is partly a result of the main character's function as a protagonist. Although John David Washington is brilliant in this film, the The impersonal nature of his unnamed hero keeps him free-floating for much of the narrative. As a person who may exist and exist for a period of time in countless parallel realities, the protagonist provides the audience with little to no emotional context. There is very little information about Washington's character or his past beyond what Neil veiledly mentions, so he remains an atomized individual lacking any concrete basis for the world around him. Whether it's Memento's Leonard, Inception's Cobb, or Interstellar's Cooper, each of them is a vessel for the audience to experience the film's world, and the predominantly first-person setting allows the audience to appreciate the larger picture of what's happening at any given moment.

Through Its Convolution, 'Tenet' Remains Wonderfully Frustrating

It's easy, and always tempting, to speculate on a filmmaker's intentions, or lack thereof, and Christopher Nolan is no exception. As one of the greatest innovative directors of his generation, audiences are used to expecting a lot when they sit down to watch one of his films, and rightly so. In an age of cinema that seems to encourage formula and normalcy over experimentation and risk, Tenet symbolizes the refusal to bow to the familiar A metaphor for modern entertainment.

Whether left chilled and bewildered or exhilarated and exhilarated, there's no denying the film's singular power and ambition as a formidable piece of cinematic work. After decades of clever storytelling, a filmmaker like Nolan raises his expectations so high that it inevitably ends up being too much. While some have cited his other films (like Inception and Interstellar) as examples of this dynamic, there's no denying that Tenet took his clumsy ambitions to new heights, both Awed and frustrated.

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