Movies everyone should see in their lifetime


Four years ago, in the study hall of my middle school cafeteria, I began to draft a list. I titled it “Movies EVERYONE Should See In Their Lifetime.” I wanted everyone to fall in love with the films I adored, so I began to add all of my favorite movies to this small, half-a-google doc list. I started taking suggestions, and looking at today’s list, I could still tell which movies were suggested by whom. This list became somewhat of my legacy. My friends quiz me on my claims that I know quotes from “every movie on the list” (which is only somewhat true), people I’ve barely even met already know about my list, and my Instagram polls get pretty heated when I claim Ethan Hunt is way better than James Bond. The natural next step was to share it with everyone, right? Every week, I go through a different movie that managed to make a list that now strains to stay on two pages. What I liked, what I didn’t, where you can watch: you have found the movie you’ve been looking for, and it won’t take you a lifetime to see it.

Year: 2020
Genre: action/sci-fi
Rating: PG-13
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

A CIA agent known only as “The Protagonist” (John David Washington) joins his team in Kyiv to extract a diplomat at an opera. Things run amok. He is captured by mercenaries. He takes cyanide rather than give up information. He dies.
He wakes up. There is a new mission. He is paired with another agent, Neil (Robert Pattinson) who knows more than he says. They all know more than they say. The world is being destroyed, but they don’t know when. There is one organization that can stop it. They want the Protagonist. They give him his weapon. It’s just one word. TENET.

What I liked: If you couldn’t tell from the description, Tenet is a very complex film. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this type of super-complicated, non-linear plot, and I think the movie carried a lot of those benefits. Oftentimes, spy movies are formulaic: agent gets mission, agent looks for clues, agent has fight scene. However, Tenet quite literally turned the spy trope on its head. It has those streamlined and sexy elements that make the genre so alluring, those intense performances and dastardly villains that have excited and energized audiences for the better part of the century, but that’s where the similarities stop. Director Christopher Nolan’s filmography is famous- sometimes infamous- for its conceptualization of time and for the experiments his movies take with that medium. Adding that idea of time’s fluidity to a spy thriller is, to me, nothing short than a stroke of genius.

What I didn’t like: While highly anticipated by seasoned Nolan-lovers and novice viewers alike, Tenet did not hit home for many viewers. There’s something about this one that keeps it firmly in the “good” column for me, but never in the “great.” At some point, the direction of the film just went too far. At first, the complexities of the plot filled me with excitement, the thrilling confusion of trying to understand theoretical physics principles in a two-hour headspace. Then, something changed. The oversaturated sound editing made the dialogue difficult to hear. The most, and really, only, prominent female character, Kat, was a plot hole of a character, as her motivations were wholly underdeveloped and unclear. There’s also several other very real plot holes that make the film’s structure fall apart when looked at under the microscope of criticism.

Conclusion: Tenet had the potential to become one of my favorite films. I rushed to the theater in September with infinitely high expectations. The premise was perfect, the trailers were vague and titillating, I was ready to love this film. And sure, there were the incredible performances by John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, Ludwig Göransson’s emotive, intense score, Kenneth Branagh’s existentially relevant villain. Unfortunately, Tenet didn’t move most viewers the way we expected it to. But there’s still a possibility of success for first-time viewers. If there’s one tip I have for watching this film, it’s this: don’t think too hard. Don’t try to figure out what’s going on. This movie swings on such a tenuous thread that you could easily snap the entire thing if you analyze it. If you do that, if you just go with the flow instead of thinking about all of the complexities, you might find yourself a fan of this hotly debated spy thriller. This film is available on Amazon Prime and YouTube starting at $5.99.

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