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I sing the praises of Inception for having its cake and eating it to with how it takes a templete for a genre film (heist) but adds interesting concepts and layers and has a sidestory that adds heart, mystery and tragedy and it's all done in a relatively grounded setting. It's inventive with the nature of reality and art both contextually and subtextually. The main problem with Tenet is that it does the exact same trick but misses the point. It's a genre movie (spy) with fantasy concepts but it doesn't do anything beyond that.
Inception takes this. Tenet was good but dreams > time travel as concept.
It's not so much the concept alone that makes Inception better. Tenet's inverse entropy is an insanely brilliant and unique idea too. However, the way Nolan integrated characters like Cobb and Mal into Inception's plot made it more resonant and impactful throughout. Tenet lacked that same degree of character depth, losing the emotional impact behind the film and making it less compelling in the process.
I heavily agree with the previous comments. Tenet is cool in premise and still well executed in everything that isn't character development. It's complex and immensely thought out and cool as hell, but Inception does all the same stuff better and with actual characters. I still need to see Tenet more to fully grasp and appreciate it - I did like Washington's performance, but the characters aren't up to scratch with some other Nolan's other stuff. It definitely felt like the world and the inversion aspects were all thought up first and the characters and their journeys were all secondary and put in to fill the story. Inception felt like a character story from the ground up. But still, two bangers of a film - one is just better than the other. Nature of the beast on this site!
Inception all the way. It was mindbending and innovative in its concept, while maintaining a sense of cohesion throughout the whole film. Tenet may take a few more watches to fully comprehend it, but Nolan's true masterpiece lies in his 2010 hit.