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Overall 8/10, Recommend Seeing, Make sure you aren't distracted.
Tenet tells the story of a CIA agent, presumed dead after an operation gone bad, who is brought into a higher stakes mission. He learns about technology, invented in the future, that makes some objects travel back in time instead of forward, technology used by someone in the future to attack the present. Our CIA agent must, of course, find out what is going on, stop whoever the bad guys are, all while coming to understand and use reversed time. the movie plays as described, as a spy story with a lot of time reversal mixed in.
The story of the movie works quite well, though you want to pay full attention. My first time, I missed some details at the beginning of how our main character met people and figured out what was going on, though fully paying attention it made sense when watching again. The time reversal stuff I generally followed fine, though specifics are fun to figure out, as many youtube videos attest. Overall the structure feels a lot like inception, where the main gimmick plays a major, major role in the story. Also like inception, the first half (roughly) takes place mainly in the normal world, while the second half makes much greater use of the gimmick, in the dreams in inception and using inversion for tenet, plus reveals the full stakes of the movie.
Unlike Inception, the main character doesn't have his own thing going on, he is instead focused on the mission. Despite what many people say, the characters work quite well, their actions and characterizations make sense, and nothing took me out of the movie.
The set pieces are a lot of fun. Traveling backwards in time adds a lot of interactions that normal time travel would not, and the movie takes full advantage. Even regular time travel stuff seems amped up, quite a lot that happens large and small is some form of Stable Time Loop, whether major parts of the story, single scenes, or little actions within a scene. Normal and reversed people fighting, objects traveling backwards—I know tropes kind of spoil the movie anyway, but I won't reveal too much. Watching these cenes is great fun, figuring out how they work is great fun. I've done a lot of edits on this wiki for this movie, and am also writing an analysis of how the physics could actually work (The movie doesn't follow exact physics, but that is very much excusable for the fun, exact physics would make some scenes more difficult for little payoff.) and have watched lots of youtube videos on scenes, as well as watching the scenes myself, so this is probably the most fun element of the movie.
Of course, there are niggles. Not a perfect movie after all.
Issue 0: The sound mix. I watched it on youtube and could hear everything well, so can't comment.
Issue 1 is a big battle at the end. It uses inversion quite heavily, with inverted things nteracting with non inverted things, and...such a missed opportunity. Often a chaotic mess, you can't really see what the bad guys are doing, or much strategy beyond some specific major plot events. The first time, I could follow the major plot events well, but the major battle as a whole was confusing until I watched some youtube videos to understand it. This wastes a good chunk of the second half of the movie, where we really should be having as much fun with inversion as possible, especially what that means for a big battle.
Issue 2: The movie at the end gets pretty depressing. It's hard to say exactly why, probably a mix of things. The characters being disconnected from the outside world, the sad music at the end, the movie's time model where everything is fixed probably contribute. Being inside all the time while watching during COVID doesn't help, but won't apply in the future (hopefully).
Issue 3: Since I'm comparing to inception, the movie just doesn't feel as big as inception. Hard to say exactly why, might be the set pieces, might be that dreams allow lots of creativity but the spy world is more closed and isolated, but the result just feels like it is missing something.
So overall: Watch this while in a good mood, and enjoy the time shennanigans, make sure the sound mix is good. Recommended.
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