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Tenet review: ‘It feels like several blockbusters combined’



That sounds pretty tempting, and after a summer without summer blockbusters, I’m grateful for a film which feels like several blockbusters combined. But Nolan and his editor haven’t quite found the right balance between those blockbusters. That is, they have devoted so much of Tenet to the Bond-alike sequences that the later science-fiction sequences are frustratingly hurried, undeveloped and almost impossible to make sense of. The previous Nolan film which most resembles Tenet is Inception, but in Inception, the notion of popping in and out of meticulously designed dreams kept recurring from beginning to end. In Tenet, time inversion is pushed into the background for so long that you start to wonder if Nolan has forgotten about it. After all, we hear early on in the story that inverted objects could obliterate the universe as we know it. It’s hard to care, for the next hour or two, whether an oligarch’s wife is unhappy because she doesn’t see enough of her son, or which high-security vault contains a forged drawing.

Again, you have to hand it to Nolan. To use the old expression, he puts the money on the screen, delivering the kind of noisy, extravagant and fundamentally ridiculous pulp fiction which reminds you why you go to the cinema. But it collapses under the weight of all the plot strands and concepts stuffed into it. You don’t get the impression, which you usually get from his films, that every element is precisely where it should be. Some parts of it go on too long, others not long enough. It’s a treat to see a really big film again, but a smaller one might have been better.

★★★☆☆

Tenet is released in the UK on 26 August, and the US on 3 September

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