Welcome To The Palindrome
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Warning: This one will have big spoilers so, you know,
if you don’t want to know then please don’t read.
Regular readers of my blog will know I’m not the biggest fan of Christopher Nolan. I’ve seen nine of his feature films now but was generally disappointed by most of them and truly baffled by the bizarre impression that they’re somehow high brow and almost impenetrable in their construction (pedestrian and obvious would have been my thoughts). I’ve been disappointed by hopeful expectations almost every single time and, the only films of his I’ve really thought were worth a ticket purchase, were the second and third installments of his Dark Knight Trilogy (after a fairly shaky, fumbled first installment with Batman Begins). I’m never really wanting to go into his films expecting them to be bad but I’ve almost resigned myself to that now and... now that I’ve finally seen Tenet... yeah, I have to say that, okay, it’s not as bad as Inception but, it’s still a bit drab, in all honesty.
Tenet has a nice central concept but it’s a whopper of a suspension of disbelief in terms of the fantasy element of the movie and, frankly, I’m more likely to be on board with fire breathing dragons and magical swords than I am with what he’s done here, which is to hijack the concept of the flow of time as, crucially to the plot, something of an alternating current that you can ride both ways and, well, ridiculing the science while, to his credit at least, remaining totally poe faced about the whole thing.
It’s somewhat strange and a bit of a dud as far as I’m concerned because... I’ve never really believed in the passage of time. I don’t have Alzheimers yet (as far as I know) but, if I did I think I might well be perceiving the universe as it really exists... as a single playing field which, due to the limitations of my standard ape brain, I can only perceive in a linear fashion, to the point where the whole human race participates in the measuring of this fictional thing known as time and begins to see it as something beyond the huge convenience which that specific measure was invented for... to synch up various actions and events with each other. So the idea that you can run backwards and forwards through time as though it’s something that can be viewed from differing viewpoints kind of misses the point, for me. Also, one of my favourite ideas when I was growing up was the metaphorical use of entropy to describe the chaotic, moral decadence of human nature but, when you get down to it, I’ve either completely misunderstood the concept of what entropy is all my life or... Nolan’s just not using it in a plausible fashion. Entropy isn’t something that can be reversed folks so... yeah... like I said, a fantasy film. And I don’t mind a fantasy film, for sure but... it just felt a bit flat for me.
So the main premise of a secret organisation which literally wears the name of its underlying strategic tactic on its sleeve, so to speak, seems to me to be a little overly silly. Actually there’s a scene in the film which popped me out of the movie because it features two of the central protagonists hatching the details of their upcoming ‘heist’ on a crowded bus and I was like, “Seriously, you’re supposed to be a secret organisation, do you imagine none of your fellow passengers are listening in on your plans?” Now that I contemplate the full extent of their ‘special word’ though, I found myself thinking... well, yeah, what do you expect of such people. They need to recruit some professionals instead.
That being said, Tenet isn’t a bad movie... it’s watchable and holds your interest. The main lead, John David Washington, holds the attention and he did a really good job in this. Despite the limitations of his script he brought a certain confidence to the role and I’d like to see him in something similar but, perhaps, something less overtly fantastical. Ditto for Robert Pattinson who, frankly, I often have a hard time taking seriously but, I think he does an excellent job here. Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh are equally watchable in their roles and, in terms of actors and on screen chemistry, the whole thing works rather well.
The film looks quite good in terms of the 'cleanliness of shot' which I tend to associate with this director. He seems to have a penchant for symmetry and a lack of clutter which, honestly, gives everything a kind of polish and layer of shininess which doesn’t always help the credibility of the milieu but, well, it’s easy on the eye, at least. The music by Ludwig Göransson is also pretty good although, I have to confess, if I hadn’t known he was scoring this picture I would have assumed, on hearing it, that Nolan’s regular composer, Hans Zimmer, was on the job. Honestly, it sounds pretty much the same as what I would expect him to compose for a movie so... yeah, great score and I’ll definitely try and grab a copy on CD before long but, well, I certainly couldn’t pick up Göransson’s personal signature from this one (mind you, it doesn’t help that so few of his scores have actually made it onto CD, instead of a useless electronic download, so I don’t exactly have an opportunity to listen to his stuff properly).
My real disappointment comes, perhaps, from my expectations for the film about half way through. I was sure that Robert Pattinson was going to turn out to be an early version of Kenneth Branagh’s character but, instead, the implication from the final shot of the movie seems to be that he’s Branagh’s son. At least, that’s the obvious conclusion I came to from watching this and, yeah, it might be that I’m wanting to cheer the film on to at least some sense of a twist or slightly more interesting denouement because, frankly, Kenneth Branagh quoting the old chestnut about the world ending with a whimper rather than a bang could well be equally applied to this film itself. It’s just a bit dull and, although the film was apparently made in a very clever and impressive fashion, frankly, I’ve seen film being reversed through a projector since I was a young boy and it failed to impress me then too (doubly so when Superman somehow managed to break established temporal mechanics... such as they are... and reverse the world at the end of Superman The Movie... that made no sense). So, if your trick to attempted spectacle is to have various things in a shot running backwards and forwards at the same time... I’m really not that impressed, to be honest.
All I can conclude, I think, is that Tenet has its moments but is not my idea of a truly great action movie and it just felt a little lacklustre in places. Not unwatchable though, for sure... although I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. As for me, I think I’ll stick to The Dark Knight, thank you very much.