Nolan’s theatrical crusade lands on DVD

Film review: TenetLanz Aaron G. Tan (The Philippine Star) – February 4, 2021 – 12:00am
In 150 minutes of delirious sci-fi pomp, Christopher Nolan has crafted a truly unique spy film with Tenet. The Protagonist (John David Washington) and his sidekick Neil (Robert Pattinson) must fight merciless international foes with the caveat that they can move backwards in time.

It’s a premise that lends Tenet gimmicky success in a crowded action genre. The fight sequences are stunning, and it’s mind boggling how Nolan was able to orchestrate choreography with one set of actors going forwards in time, and the others going backwards. It’s all the more impressive when one factors in that Tenet was shot with largely practical effects — as the director even crashed a real Boeing 747 instead of resorting to cheap computer graphics. But Nolan never just makes a conventional action film.

While most Hollywood blockbusters descend into formulaic territory, Nolan has always fought against the grain. When superhero films were all campy fun, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy tackled grim themes of corruption and terrorism. When action films spoon-fed lazy plots, Inception encouraged audience participation by presenting them with a cerebral multilayered puzzle.

Tenet deserves credit for making audiences work for payoffs. But when audiences are made to put in that much mental gymnastics for such a lengthy film, they are right to expect rich payoffs. And I’m not sure those payoffs are as cohesive or as abundant in Tenet as they are in Inception or The Prestige. Tenet feels like it’s smart for the sake of being smart with an impregnable wall of exposition — so much so that I’m willing to bet if Tenet had opened in Philippine theaters, concessioners would have made quite a profit selling Paracetamol for confused audiences.

Tenet is a big, blustering blockbuster — the cinematic equivalent of getting hit on the head with a brick while on a roller coaster while hungover. But perhaps that’s a surprisingly refreshing feat in today’s parched theatrical landscape. After months of lockdown, it’s easy to forget the irreplaceable awe of a movie theater. And, while watching Tenet on a TV at home doesn’t quite hit the spot, Nolan’s latest is a reminder of the power of film to bring big spectacle to the big screen. As the highest profile release so far in the pandemic, Tenet is film that all cinephiles should watch and debate.

Tenet is now on Blu-ray and digital video.



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