TENET Redux: 22 Theses on Nolan

Some responses to my previous TENET post have complained that the essay is bloated, confusing, and pretentious. Ironically, these are also some of the most common criticisms of the film itself. In acknowledgment of this feedback (and as an exercise in padding my post count with repurposed content), I have prepared the following “Twitter thread” re-imagining of that essay comprised of only the first sentences of each paragraph from the original post. I think it works rather well.

You can still read the unedited director’s cut of the essay here.

  1. TENET is a preposterous film.

2. Nolan is a paradoxical filmmaker.

3. It is fitting, then, that Nolan has consistently engaged with the notion of paradox in his films.

4. In many ways TENET seems like the most “Nolan” movie yet, a distilled concoction of the filmmakers defining thematic and technical proclivities.

5. Interstellar played with the idea of time dilation but also revisited the nested parallel timeframes of Inception, to greatly diminished effect.

6. Nolan took another crack at nested timescales and intercutting across parallel chronologies in Dunkirk.

7. If Dunkirk can be seen as an attempt to expand the Inception dream collapse climax to feature length, then TENET represents the effort to build an entire movie from the opening credits of Memento.

8. As was the case with past Nolan films, TENET’s release was met with a chorus of complaints that the movie was “hard to follow.”

9. I must admit, I love the idea that Nolan is deliberately trying to instill the effect of a McLuhanesque cool medium, as conveyed in the quote from this blog’s About page:

10. Perhaps this is why Nolan’s characters mumble so.

11. I’ve already mentioned that I’m predisposed to grant Nolan ample leeway with his filmmaking choices.

12. Now, a more generous interpretation of Westworld, one more willing to grant the creators the benefit of the doubt, might consider the series’ apparent shortcomings outlined above as some sort of savvy meta-commentary on contemporary culture and entertainment.

13. The problem is that Westworld simply doesn’t seem that smart.

14. Christopher Nolan’s films have received similar criticisms to those I just levied against his brother Jonathan’s work, namely that they are pseudo-intellectual spectacle with pretensions to profundity.

15. Whereas Inception imagines the filmmaking process as dream weaving, Prestige poses the metaphor of “moviemaking as magic trick.”

16. Inception expands the meta-fictional thesis statement from The Prestige beyond an emphasis on ephemeral audience reaction to a suggestion of enduring emotional impact.

17. If The Prestige envisions pop cinema as an audience-enchanting illusion, and Inception explores the medium’s potential as a psychological dreamscape for working through personal emotions, then TENET stages the cinematic experience as a battleground between competing futures.

18. So how might we go about disentangling the text of the film from the subtext?

19. The significance of the Protagonist gambit is further muddled when trying to discern a political proposition in the film.

20. Reviewers often approach Nolan’s films as a stark contrast between cerebral storytelling and slick special effects, but TENET’s narrative complexity is compounded by a corresponding confusion in its action scenes.

21. As I stated at the beginning of this essay, TENET is a preposterous film.

22. Oh, and the soundtrack slaps.

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