A Review of September’s New Movies

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New Movies I Saw in September

TENET

Directed by Christopher Nolan

TENET is about an unnamed CIA agent, played by John David Washington, and his journey to save the human race from a Russian terrorist organization manufacturing weapons in the future. On a personal note, Christopher Nolan was one of the first directors to really change the way I view movies and has influenced my taste quite a bit. Films like MEMENTO, THE PRESTIGE, and THE DARK KNIGHT are all films I consider to be some of the best ever made. TENET is one of those films that you can’t watch just once, and with this pandemic, seeing it twice in theaters wouldn’t make any sense to do. Nolan is no stranger to making films that are narratively or thematically challenging, films that don’t quite make sense until you’ve seen it multiple times. However, unlike his other films, TENET doesn’t really reward the viewer in any way for trying to dissect it. It bombards the viewer with incredibly necessary and confusing exposition that is almost impossible to comprehend or follow, and it would have been easier to enjoy this film despite not knowing what was going on had Nolan been more successful in crafting engaging and interesting characters. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson are two of the most talented actors working today, and while they both deliver great performances, especially John David Washington, the audience knows very little anything about them. It’s only towards the very end that we get a little glimpse into their history. The emotional weight of the story is clearly supposed to come from Elizabeth Debicki’s character, but it feels very weak. Like all of Nolan’s other films, the sheer scope is impressive beyond belief.

TENET is not a bad film, by any means. There are some scenes towards the middle, like a fight between two people, one of them is moving in reverse and the other moving normally, that left me absolutely stunned, wondering how Nolan accomplished what he did without any CGI whatsoever. The way Nolan uses this concept of “inversion” was also brilliant and mind blowing. It’s just frustrating that Nolan didn’t put as much time into his characters and his story telling as he did with the concept of this film. It feels so scrambled and unfocused, especially in its first half, and for no good reason. MEMENTO, Nolan’s second feature film, is a film that, on paper, is far more confusing than TENET, due to the fact it’s basically told in reverse. However, MEMENTO managed to be far more engaging than TENET because I felt like I was going through what the main character was going though, and by doing that it was easy to feel emotionally invested. TENET was in desperate need of actual characters, and even when the film does attempt to have an emotional weight it feels lazy and meaningless. Despite these criticisms, I still recommend the film, especially if you’re a fan of Christopher Nolan’s other films.

  • 6/10

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME

Directed by Antonio Campos

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is a film without a glimpse of hope. This can be a turn off for a lot of people, and after reading negative reviews for the film, it already has been a turn off for a lot of people. THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is not a great film, in fact, even having seen it only a week ago, I haven’t really thought about that much since. However, this film manages to juggle a staggering amount of characters and great performances, that culminate into a deep study of one place, Knockemstiff, Ohio, and the darkness brewing there. The film centers around Arvin, seeing him as a young boy and as a young man, played by Tom Holland. There is also a couple driving around, picking up hitch hikers, and killing them. There is also a cop whose sister happens to be one of the people picking up hitch hikers. There is also a seedy new priest in town, played by Robert Pattinson, that starts interacting with Alvin’s stepsister. Surprisingly, the film is able to balance the staggering amount of characters and storylines thanks to a well written screenplay. Tom Holland is one of the most talented actors right now and is wonderful to watch in this film. He is quiet, but clearly has a lot of anger brewing inside him as a result of his upbringing. The best performance in this film, however, comes from Robert Pattinson. He is so disgusting and unlikeable, and Pattinson gives him the weirdest accent I have heard in a long time, but it worked. All the more impressive was that he refused to have a dialect coach on set. Eliza Scanlen, who plays Alvin’s stepsister, was also fantastic, and adds a lot to an already tragic character.

Despite the great performances, however, THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME struggles to stand on its own as a remarkable film. It clearly has a lot to say about religion, showing its hypocrisies and depicting how people obsess over it, and while I agree with all of the themes the director is trying to convey, they feel very surface level. There are countless better, more innovative films that tackle this subject in a far more interesting and impactful way. In terms of presentation, it feels as if anyone could have directed this. It also has narration that, while not awful, feels unnecessary. It’s understandable why they put it in, being that this is an adaptation of a book and books tend to tell the reader what a character is feeling, something a film can’t do unless it has narration, but it’s up to a talented director and writer to come up with clever ways to show the audience how a character feels.

I admire THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME for having an unforgiving tone, slow pacing, and a lot of really great performances. However, it is a bit forgettable thematically and visually. I still recommend watching it. It’s on Netflix.

  • 6/10