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Thread: Tenet (Christopher Nolan)

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  1. #1
    In the belly of a whale Henry Gale's Avatar
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    Tenet (Christopher Nolan)

    Last 11 things I really enjoyed:

    Speed Racer (Wachowski/Wachowski, 2008)
    Safe (Haynes, 1995)
    South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Parker, 1999)
    Beastie Boys Story (Jonze, 2020)
    Bad Trip (Sakurai, 2020)
    What's Up Doc? (Bogdanovich, 1972)
    Diva (Beineix, 1981)
    Delicatessen (Caro/Jeunet, 1991)
    The Hunger (Scott, 1983)
    Pineapple Express (Green, 2008)
    Chungking Express (Wong, 1994)

  2. #2
    I only want to see "Tenet" so I can tell Duke exactly how wrong he is in excruciating detail

  3. #3
    In the belly of a whale Henry Gale's Avatar
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    Well, it'll either play directly into the sweet spot of what Duke already loves about Nolan or finally be the work that makes him unfavourably see through some recycled impulses and tricks he's used to drive his films all along, as if The Prestige was actually The Turn and now this act of his career should be The Prestige, but we're no longer mystified because we largely know what's going to happen. (A confusing analogy, in true Tenet fashion.) Still, this is very clearly Nolan working at the peak of his powers, just maybe not showing entirely new abilities.

    Or perhaps he's been at that peak for the better part of fifteen years now, since it seems like every film that he's made outside of the Dark Knight series has felt like more of an anomaly for the studio system than it should, with him playing by his own rules and cementing who he is, which eventually pays off both because of and despite those movies' big and risky nature, securing enough cultural impact and box office return to make his next project to do the same thing all over again. There's no one quite doing what he does, and for better or worse, he's very much doing it all again here.

    Without giving away too much, in Tenet's storytelling mechanics and themes are ideas that feel either spiritually or overtly connected to basically every film in his filmography to this point. Whether it's about perception of time, manipulated consciousness, questions of one's identity, societal power dynamics, our world's survival, or Michael Caine giving advice, its biggest crutch may be in engaging you in ways that make you think about how he's simply renovating spaces he's already taken you before. But at its best, it's like a legacy musician hearkening back to a sound you thought they had left behind. And you're more than happy to hear it return, just with a whispering worry that it may be because they've exhausted their capacity to truly evolve further.

    Nolan has professed his love for the James Bond films and his hope to potentially direct one eventually, while as time and his career moves on it feels like both we and him kind of accept that will probably never happen, and as a result I think here we're seeing a lot of his globe-trotting espionage impulses being let out of his system, while also seeing what his characteristically cerebral version of an end-of-the-world-threatening MacGuffin looks like. [
    ] It's subsequently completely classical and futuristic like all of his best work, even if it doesn't exactly feel like it is amongst them in the process. In addition to that general vibe of its style and everything going on in the world causing it to have a very atypical, less immediate or impactful release, I get the sense that this could easily go down as a "minor Nolan" work, if such a thing is even able to exist with his name. Not to say I absolutely, objectively see it as any better or worse than anything else he's made, but just that it has a scrappy, unusual aura to it that could endear people to champion it certain later Michael Mann films that weren't huge successes. Not just comparable its potential financial relativity, but because this movie really reminded me of certain Mann films in its look, feel and character interplay, but if Mann suddenly had the impulse to make a sci-fi spy thriller with some of the more difficult chemical-film capture systems around.

    And in (potentially fruitlessly) talking about where this may go down in the Nolan canon, I now keep coming back to the feeling that Dunkirk really might be as good as anything he's ever made. Though I realize with its box office numbers and endless awards accolades it's by no means underappreciated, but I just feel that it's even remarkable after this newest movie to see just how much of a beautiful outlier Dunkirk, not just in its real-world basis, but in how it managed to managed to distill its storytelling in often such visceral sections over endless exposition and a runtime that exceeds two hours. Dunkirk does Nolan hallmarks elsewhere, including its own time-manipulated devices to propel the story, but the more time that goes by and the more I watch it, the more I think it's the perfect version of what Nolan does best. A purely experiential series of tension and emotion instead of a spoken guide towards deciphering it. And that's another thing I think Tenet loses something that his last couple of films have certainly increased in their potency, which is emotional resonance. I remember being in distinct awe and being profoundly moved by several moments in Interstellar and Dunkirk, but I don't think anything quite made my jaw drop or being teary-eyed in Tenet. Luckily it has other virtues.

    It's cerebral, it has endless spectacle, it has a sense of framing unusual locations in dreamy ways that I feel major films in the last two decades have largely lost an affinity for, and it left me befuddled and bewildered in ways I was always happy to soak in and let further viewings work out. But one of its most uniquely compelling aspects is that despite the fact that he's literally only ever known as "The Protagonist," John David Washington's lead solves more than one issue of the "Nolan Protagonist" of the past, where it often felt like his main characters and the actors embodying them were merely designed to reflect a steely embodiment of Nolan's overall style, or even meant to be a movie-star-handsome proxy of how Nolan sees himself as a navigator through the image. And beyond Washington not feeling that way simply as the first non-white lead of any of Nolan's films, there's a distinctly different sense in the approach of how Nolan utilizes Washington's protagonist in this film, while there's also little sense of a compromise between how Nolan may have written the protagonist as usual and the way Washington clearly injects himself into the role simply by way of his personality. Washington, though he carries echoes of his father in his voice and mannerisms, is not yet an established-enough performer to have a persona, and instead, it feels like this film is letting him build one, whether that simply be for the purpose of Tenet, or the feel of him as a leading man going forward, often in his more spontaneous moments. For instance, when Washington delivers the same kind of mildly effective, "Hmm!"-inducing instead of laugh-out-loud-evoking Nolan jokes we've come to know, he owns them with his voice and makes them a lasting part of his character and the overall film's tone along the way instead of how they previously felt like awkward distractions designed for the post-title card parts of the movie's trailers. There's often even little playful gestures he throws in between dialogue or action beats, which is especially refreshing in a film that often edits its dialogue-heavy scenes with such little breathing room otherwise, letting you latch onto those more unspoken human moments than anything written.

    The rest of the cast -- particularly Pattinson, Debicki and Branagh -- deliver nice performances, even if in all his versatility, it feels strange that Branagh, the Shakespearean thespian he is, is given the role of the heavy, but often seems to be playing it the most tongue-in-cheekily. Pattinson and Washington are funny, but feel committed to the reality of the absurdity, whereas Branagh often feels like he's constantly re-calibrating his own tone from scene to scene. And as it increasingly feels with any movie she's in, it feels like Debicki is the core of the whole thing working as effectively as it needs to, as she's such an entrancing and endearing presence on screen. And Ludwig Göransson taking over Hans Zimmer's role as Nolan's composer for the first time in 14 years results in him probably delivering his best work to date (and his work has been very good before this). It's a relentless, bassy, glitchy, completely captivating soundscape that makes every shot of Hoyte van Hoytema's expectedly spotless and pervasively exciting camerawork that it's paired with sing even more, especially with a huge theatre's sound system. Big oversight in alluding to the Travis Scott tie-in track musically during a car chase but leaving out the "skrrt skrrt"-invoking lyrics, though....

    But in the end, all that should really matter is that with or without the joy of being back in a movie theatre again for the first time in nearly six months (which wasn't without its discomforts, as a family of four down the row and another couple in the row in front of me weren't wearing masks the entire time and snacking care-free, with a few visible checks of phones I'd forgotten how much I didn't miss), this is a bold, sturdy, and often very fun film once everyone gets bored of talking and starts doing things, that completely takes advantage of the big screen and booming sound in ways that perfectly fuse with the precision and spectacle of the style and ambition of its storytelling. As overbearing as all of those things can all find their ways of being throughout, I don't think you're willingly coming into a Christopher Nolan movie expecting subtlety. But in a career that has seemingly been about increasingly raising the bar for himself, as well as concurrently for audiences' standards in rapidly bar-lowering marketplace, it may not immediately feel like a complete "WOW" statement-piece like so much else he's made in his filmography, but it's also nowhere near a disappointment to see such a capable and influential director make something that's just perfectly, completely good, even if it's in own self-paved lanes, inspired largely by himself and unturned stones of past projects.
    Last edited by Henry Gale; 08-28-2020 at 02:00 AM.
    Last 11 things I really enjoyed:

    Speed Racer (Wachowski/Wachowski, 2008)
    Safe (Haynes, 1995)
    South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Parker, 1999)
    Beastie Boys Story (Jonze, 2020)
    Bad Trip (Sakurai, 2020)
    What's Up Doc? (Bogdanovich, 1972)
    Diva (Beineix, 1981)
    Delicatessen (Caro/Jeunet, 1991)
    The Hunger (Scott, 1983)
    Pineapple Express (Green, 2008)
    Chungking Express (Wong, 1994)

  4. #4
    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    Soooooooooooooooooooooooo... best picture, best director, best actor?

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  5. #5
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    The time-reversal gimmick is so neat, often exhilarating in its disorienting effect, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Unfortunately, the level of difficulty finally exceeds Nolan’s grasp, even with the avalanche of exposition; it needs a more visually fluid director to make this premise sing all the way. At first, it works so well in intimate scenes of demonstration and hand-to-hand combat, and still fine in vehicular mayhem, but it finally descends into a visual and mental clusterfuck when we arrive at the climax with so many moving people, explosions, and gunfire, in which the director isn’t able to keep the these elements in the two layers distinct enough to prevent confusion from emerging half the time on a scene-by-scene basis.


    Also unfortunate is that this is also the first time since maybe Following that Nolan’s gimmick isn’t much relevant to the film at hand. Memento’s illustrates Guy Pearce’s mental state and our capacity for self-delusion; Inception’s ties it to Leonardo DiCaprio’s tragedy and repressing memories for catharsis; and Dunkirk’s reflects the intense disorientation of how time passes when you’re in a war zone. On the other hand, Tenet’s time-reversal seems to just for sprucing up a spy action film, even if sometimes to uniquely awe-inspiring effect, when Elizabeth Debicki’s potent, emotionally fraught storyline should have been center stage. Her wish to go back on the seemingly inescapable predicament she finds herself in seems full of potential to be developed in tandem with Nolan’s gimmick into something really powerful. As is, even with all the increasingly counterproductive confusion, the film is still exciting fun enough. But with Debicki as the lead, it could be something more. 6.5-7/10
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  6. #6
    Administrator Ezee E's Avatar
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    Hmm...

    This might feature the worst characters in any Nolan movie, but the sequences are so exhilarating that it still remains a recommended movie. I'll probably need a reddit map to truly appreciate this, as I can't really decipher what went on, unlike Inception/Memento/Prestige that are pretty comprehensible. Perhaps it's the very chopped up first half hour that is missing something... It almost feels like a recap with how cut it is.

    I can't emphasize that the characters are pretty uninteresting, if not first drafts of characters from other Nolan movies or cliche cutouts.

    Trial of the Chicago 7 - **
    Pierrot Le Fou - *** 1/2
    Black Bear - ***


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  7. #7
    It's a mess. Kind of interesting in some ways (I kind of like the selfishly small-scale motivation of the villain; I don't like that we basically learn about it in another of Nolan's patented exposition dumps) but the last pincer movement is basically incomprehensible in both the way it is shot and edited and in terms of the story - only the scenes on the yacht register on an emotional level.

    NOLAN RANKED:

    1. Memento (80)
    2. The Prestige (70)
    3. Inception (69)
    4. The Dark Knight Rises (64)
    5. Dunkirk (64)
    6. Insomnia (63)
    7. Interstellar (57)
    8. The Dark Knight (55)
    9. Tenet (52)
    10. Batman Begins (51)
    Last edited by transmogrifier; 09-02-2020 at 10:53 AM.
    Last 10 Movies Seen
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    El
    (1973) 70
    The Day After
    (1983
    ) 63
    Duck, You Sucker (1971) 68
    Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) 71
    Noriko’s Dinner Party
    (2005) 61
    The Third Murder (2017) 56

    /Audition
    (1999) 85

    /Toy Story
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  8. #8
    Supporting Actor Zac Efron's Avatar
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    This was one of the dumbest movies I’ve seen in quite some time, but its overall fairly watchable, just alright I guess. I like this more than Inception, easily. Seriously though, as a filmmaker Nolan is turning into Roland Emmerich with nice suits. Fans will love this, but jesus christ the scripting and use of these characters is absolutely unforgivable. I don’t know how Elizabeth Diebecki said her lines with a straight face while John David Washington was unfortunately so flat and not directed well. I like these people, they deserve much better.
    Last edited by Zac Efron; 09-07-2020 at 09:42 PM.

  9. #9
    collecting tapes Skitch's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say anything about a negative review because to each their own, but comparing Nolan to Emmerich is silly.

  10. #10
    Supporting Actor Zac Efron's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Skitch (view post)
    I wouldn't say anything about a negative review because to each their own, but comparing Nolan to Emmerich is silly.
    Nope, its not.

  11. #11
    Quote Quoting Skitch (view post)
    I wouldn't say anything about a negative review because to each their own, but comparing Nolan to Emmerich is silly.
    Hey, I'm as big a fan of him as almost anyone, but even I think that comparison isn't always too far off:


  12. #12
    collecting tapes Skitch's Avatar
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    I guess if we're connecting the two because "scenes of destruction", okay

  13. #13
    Scott of the Antarctic Milky Joe's Avatar
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    I wasn't expecting this to be Primer for babies. But I liked it.
    ‎The severed arm perfectly acquitted itself, because of the simplicity of its wishes and its total lack of doubt.

  14. #14
    I think the implication was more that "Tenet" is big, loud, and dumb, all key features of your typical Emmerich film

  15. #15
    collecting tapes Skitch's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Irish (view post)
    I think the implication was more that "Tenet" is big, loud, and dumb, all key features of your typical Emmerich film
    I get the comparison, but even if you hate Nolan, his worst is still probably objectively ten times more professional than Emmerichs best.

  16. #16
    Quote Quoting Skitch (view post)
    I get the comparison, but even if you hate Nolan, his worst is still probably objectively ten times more professional than Emmerichs best.
    Emmerich's best: Independence Day (56)
    Nolan's worst: Batman Begins (51)

    Yay Emmerich.
    Last 10 Movies Seen
    (90+ = canonical, 80-89 = brilliant, 70-79 = strongly recommended, 60-69 = good, 50-59 = mixed, 40-49 = below average with some good points, 30-39 = poor, 20-29 = bad, 10-19 = terrible, 0-9 = soul-crushingly inept in every way)

    El
    (1973) 70
    The Day After
    (1983
    ) 63
    Duck, You Sucker (1971) 68
    Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) 71
    Noriko’s Dinner Party
    (2005) 61
    The Third Murder (2017) 56

    /Audition
    (1999) 85

    /Toy Story
    (1995) 65
    Vice (2018) 57
    The Counterfeit Traitor (1962) 62

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  17. #17
    collecting tapes Skitch's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting transmogrifier (view post)
    Emmerich's best: Independence Day (56)
    Nolan's worst: Batman Begins (51)

    Yay Emmerich.
    Apparently we are only comparing scenes of destruction though....whatever that means.

  18. #18
    I think the difference is that Emmerich was always fun, in on the joke, wanting to entertain above all else.

    Nolan considers himself an artiste (and at this point, probably the savior of cinema). He's always taken himself way too seriously to be Emmerich's brand of fun. (This is a guy who talked about the thematic concerns of "A Tale of Two Cities" during the "Dark Knight Rises" press tour, after all.)

    But it's interesting Nolan went big, loud, and dumb late in his career. Kinda reminds me of Lucas and Cameron, two other guys who started sorta high minded and technical (and all three very definitely believers in their own bullshit).

  19. #19
    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    I haven't seen Tenet yet, but if it's dumb, the comparison to Emmerich would be apt.

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  20. #20
    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    There are a lot of thematic similarities between TDKR and A Tale of Two Cities, and he based much of the plot around it.

    I don't know why that's a bad thing.

  21. #21
    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    There are a lot of thematic similarities between TDKR and A Tale of Two Cities, and he based much of the plot around it.

    I don't know why that's a bad thing.
    If Nolan knew how to tell a story (a different matter than devising convoluted structures whose complexity is their only purpose), that is if he knew what Dickens knew, he wouldn't have to go reaching for his Penguins Classics every other reel in order to inject enough pseudo-profundity into his movie-like contraptions to intimidate the spectator into thinking they've seen a Very Serious Work of Art.
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  22. #22
    This was way too loud. The whole theater was shaking. My head still hurts.

  23. #23
    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Mysterious Dude (view post)
    This was way too loud. The whole theater was shaking. My head still hurts.
    Seems like this is a theater problem.

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  24. #24
    Quote Quoting Dukefrukem (view post)
    Seems like this is a theater problem.
    Probably, but others have complained about the movie's sound mixing. My theater may have increased the volume to make the dialogue intelligible, but that just made the "music" unbearably loud.

  25. #25
    Cinematographer Idioteque Stalker's Avatar
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    Nolan's sound mixing has been like that forever and I'm not a fan.

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