31 August 2020 4536 Views

TENET is the worst film I have ever seen. No! It’s the BEST FILM EVER! Wait? Can I be sure I saw it? TENET is.

by James Murphy

I present the world’s first ever reverse entropy, palindromic film review..

I highly recommend this film. No, wait. I cannot recommend this film. The plot is..no wait, I cannot say..drat, spoiled already. Or HAVE I? Maybe I did and then we erased it as you read i…

The film is directed by Ken Branagh and stars Batman. No that’s Much Ado About Nothing. Or IS it? Maybe the entire CAREER of Sir Christopher Nolan is in fact, much ado, about, a few ok -ish bits and some standouts? But generally fairly overrated because the bar is so low on what constitutes ‘good’ (or ‘gud’ if in Scutland; or ‘dug’ if in TENET). Look! He shoots sterile white rooms with endless corridors and weird sort of buzzing no noise. HE IS THE NEW KUBRICK! That sorta syllogistic jump is now what passes for consensus in film criticism.

Tamwar off Eastenders is in TENET. As are lots of Asian /Indian/other people from Pakistan/India/that area of the world but I cannot tell which..not because I am racist but because this film changes location / time-zone/story-line focus more times than something very clever in the way of analogy that you /I change, frequently. Like pants. Yes. This film is a bit pants. Or is it braces? That’s entropy for you. Yes. I am NOT racist. tsicar ton ma I. seY. Neither is this movie. Even though, yet AGAIN, you have the Asian actors as baddies or hired help doing tech stuff, like INCEPTION (aka NOITPECNI). I mention INCEPTION, because I , like many, thought TENET might be a sequel to said movie about dream inversion / insertion / entropy? This is not that. Sorry, spoiler.

Ok it IS the INCEPTION sequel. Or may as well be. IF you simply SLEEP through TENET. Possible, given that it is slow, meandering, devoid of genuine innovation, wit, warmth, romance, sexuality, laughs or ANYTHING that defines GOOD blockbuster entertainment.

By the same token, do not expect any truly intellectual substance here. What you get is a sequence of set-pieces that are absolutely fine but unjustified, in every way, by the garbled pseudo-erudition cloaked in exposition that poses for script. As Nolan once said himself: VERISIMILITUDE! Or EDUTILIMISIREV? As in, a director owes his audience absolute clarity of tone and vision.

Yes, one can fuse genres or give a new take on old material ‘Batman, but done for real’ is basically his Dark Knight series, for example. ‘James Bond, without physics’ is Inception, right? DUNKIRK = war movie, but played as a race against the clock thriller? All fine. But: merge too many motifs; get TOO clever and..bang goes the..verisimilitude and with that, the entire film.

There is nothing wrong with being bold and experimental. Trying to provide that kind of quality though is by its nature, at odds, with providing a crowd pleasing piece of spectacle based entertainment. You have to at least get some sense of what it is that you want to feel and,. in turn, what you wish your audience to come away with at core tonal level, surely? I know that Nolan CAN move mountains emotionally. I still cry when I watch THAT end to Dark Knight Rises. One day, I hope to be in Florence, myself for happy end /beginning/whatever that was in said 2012 gem. And the man can tell a normal, linear thriller with a twist one has earned (go back..yes BACK to his first film, FOLLOWING).

The problem, by contrast to those earlier Nolan hits, is that, in TENET, you have complexity wrapped in an aura of what should be escapist sheen and charm. Yet it is in fact pretension, overlong schoolboy philosophy amateur debate, delivered by an entirely mismatched and miscast ensemble.  I say that, pointedly. This movie does have elements of salvage worthy gold-dust.

Sweeping land/seascapes and a joy in travel, atmosphere, sound, light and score all present and correct.

So: had they just sat back and relaxed a tad, trimmed the length and either genuinely added substance or accepted there was none there at all and gone for all out fast food fix fun? Either way, we’d have been fine. Instead, this feels like a geek trying to be a jock or vice versa; like the school bully sitting down with you to talk the meaning of life, or teacher’s pet trying to look cool in a dorm-raid.

The leading men do not convince as action heroes. You hired the wrong Washington and the wrong Batman. The villain has no menace or strength. The love interest is neither damsel in distress nor independent female du jour and is given little in the way of sensual tropes with which to command her male counterparts’ attention.

But it is always nice to watch Elizabeth Debicki in action of any kind. They have her down to play Princess Diana now in The Crown’s final series. Great and one can see the visual clues to that here (woman seeks independence via swimsuit and sea?). But it’s a shame to not simply give her the leading role, as she towers, literally over everyone else. And As Guardians of the Galaxy showed, she can do comedy and villainy herself. Bit biased, much, am I? Sorry. It’s the time travel thing. she’s my #efiwerutuf. Or IS she? 😉

Look out for a cut-price Tom Hardy somewhere in there. Same beard / voice. Just not, in fact, Mr Hardy. 

Sir Michael Caine has a cameo. Alas, all too short. And doubly sad in that it feels very much like a final bow, as the camera lingers on his now frailer form and says ‘Goodbye, Sir Michael’. Entropy? I hope not. Caine had far more fun in his KINGSMAN role. Indeed, this whole movie is a lot like that Secret Service /Golden Circle set-up; a modern, or post-modern, nouveau riche take on James Bond with added sci-fi?

In that sense, Matthew Vaughn and Chris Nolan are not that dissimilar. Except, for some reason, Vaughn is not yet elevated to the ether of cinema’s perceived intellectual elite. Whereas Nolan..is? Terrible shame.

KINGSMAN is just as clever as TENET and even makes similar political points in its closing reveals. But with more fun. Same goes for MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, FAST AND FURIOUS and just about ANY FUNCTIONING ACTION ADVENTURE SPY FRANCHISE EFFORT, that homages 007. So quite why TENET wins plaudits where others attract scorn / derision? A mystery from the future, perhaps?



Ps yes this is a rushed review without structure. Can’t imagine why I was inspired to write it that way? 😉



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