Tag Archives: clemence poesy

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

I never thought I’d say I was even slightly underwhelmed by a latter day Christopher Nolan film, but such is the case with Tenet, a new pseudoscience mind bending espionage barnstormer from the filmmaker that didn’t so much blow my mind as tie it’s proverbial shoelaces in a knot. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, there’s plenty to get excited by here, but swaths of the narrative feel dry and uninvolved, the central premise that should be rich and tantalizing is painfully underdeveloped and the main character is less a character than a blank game piece scooting around a chessboard of intrigue and action. He’s ‘The Protagonist’, given the ironically opaque title and played by John David Washington in a performance that is sadly devoid of much life or expression. Tasked with playing a vital part in an incoming Cold War whose implications reach beyond science and physics, he’s teamed up with 007-esque operative Neil, played by Robert Pattinson in a turn that’s blessedly engaging, subtle and picks up Washington’s slack. I don’t want to give too much away because the film’s secrets are pretty fun, as they race all over Europe smoking out vague intel, having fierce gun battles and car chases and trying to prevent… what, exactly? There’s a spectacularly nasty Bond villain played by Kenneth Branagh who is a genuinely scary, fascinating piece of work, and I greatly enjoyed his arc and that of his long suffering wife (Elizabeth Debicki, solid) as well as some well mounted, intricate action set pieces. There’s a quick Michael Caine cameo that exists purely so Nolan can seat him at a table for all of two minutes to deliver clipped exposition, and appearances from Martin Donovan, Fiona Dourif, Aaron Tyler Johnson and Clemence Poesy. Nolan makes his paradoxical concept so dense and intricate that by the time the scintillating finale rolls around, parts of it are so much in the clouds that you just raise your arms in defeat and go “ok bro” and trust that he knows what he’s doing, because I sure didn’t, yet perhaps will with some more viewings a lá Inception. That isn’t the bone to pick here though, it’s mainly the fact that the narrative feels rushed, staccato, unnatural in places and doesn’t possess the fluidity, grace, cohesion or focus of his earlier works. Half the time the dialogue and editing during interaction scenes is so brisk, so chopped up and so hurried that its tough to really be drawn in, before you’re off to the races in a flurry without a proper roadmap to prep you for the fun. There are some very exciting sequences involving the premise which I won’t spoil, some terrific character work courtesy of Branagh, Debicki and Pattinson. But man, Washington is just not a dynamic actor and can’t carry the weight expected of him, while much of the film’s setup isn’t strong enough for payoff later on that isn’t strong enough either. I loved the super sonic, unconventional score by Ludwig Göransson, the action is neatly photographed and intensely realized when its good, and somewhat incomprehensible when it falters, especially in a hectic third act paramilitary incursion that I’m sure made sense to Nolan on the drawing board, but comes across as pandemonium on film. There’s a lot to enjoy here, but I have to be real and say this could have been so much more, especially for an artist as accomplished as Nolan.

-Nate Hill

In Bruges: A Review By Nate Hill

  
I can’t really say in enough words how much I love In Bruges. In fact there aren’t words in my language which can express how deeply in tune to it I feel every time I put the DVD in for a watch, which is at least every four months or so. The dual forces of comedy and tragedy have combined here using Martin McDonough’s genius scriptwriting as an avatar to create something raucously funny and profoundly moving. The comedy is of the spiciest and very darkest nature (my favourite), and the tragedy tugs at both the heart strings and the tear ducts, scarecly giving you time to wipe away the tears of laughter from the scene that came before. The best in UK crime fare, some of the most balanced, peculiar writing and fully rounded characters who are as flawed as human beings get. Colin Farrell delves deep and gives the performance of his career as Ray, a would be hitman who has fucked up bad, and now heads for Bruges (it’s in Belgium) with his mentor Ken (Brendan Gleeson, pure brilliance and humble class). Ken loves eccentric little Bruges, with its historical architecture and quaint townsfolk. Ray is bored to tears and pouts like a toddler. They meander around the town getting into all sorts of mischief including a dwarf (who has fascinating ideas about the ultimate race war), museums, cocaine, the Belgium film industry and more. Ray sets his sights on the gorgeous Chloe (), and Ken does his paternal best to keep him out of trouble while wrestling with his own gnawing guilt. The film gets a shot of pissy adrenaline when their boss Harry comes looking for them, in the form of a knock it out of the park funny Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes rarely cuts loose and bounces off the walls like he does here, and his Harry is a delightful creature to watch in action. Angry, petty, volatile, clever and out for blood, just a joy to behold. As playful as the script is, there’s a purgatorial sadness to Ray’s situation, a fateful sense that he’s been dumped in Bruges not just to fool around, get drunk and utter witty barbs in that brogue (which he does do a lot) but to deeply ruminate on his choices and ponder where his actions will lead him moving forward from his terrible deed. Maturity permeates each exchange between him and Ken, a fledgling and an old timer shooting the breeze about heavy topics which neither of them pretend to understand, but both are neck deep in. I always cry at certain scenes, always laugh my ass off at others, and never cease to be affected right to my emotional center and the marrow of my funny bone each time I watch this. Look for a brief cameo from Ciaran Hinds in the opening few minutes. Every second of this piece is filled with lush, thought provoking dialogue, awesomely un-politically correct dialogue that doesn’t censor a single impulse from its characters, and a yearning to explore the decisions which cause people to be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, something that’s inherently complex yet feels lightly treaded on here. Masterpiece.