Tenet – Review [NO SPOILERS]
Christopher Nolan kicks-off his decade with a signature mind-bending, sci-fi, thriller.
Released shortly after global lockdown measures were eased, Tenet serves as a perfect reintroduction to the big screen with intense action sequences, vivid CGI, dramatic sound effects and a stellar cast.
Tenet is a sci-fi/action movie starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh and Aaron Taylor Johnson. The film is Christopher Nolan’s eighth major blockbuster and charts the journey of ‘The Protagonist’, (John David Washington) a former spy who is tasked with preventing arms dealer Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) from weaponizing Uranium-241 and invoking World War III.
Utilising the powers of quantum time-travel to weave in and out of specific events, Washington’s character is helped by Neil, (Robert Pattinson) a resourceful agent assigned under unknown orders, Kat, (Elizabeth Debicki) Sator’s abused but strong-headed wife and Laura, (Clémence Poésy) a specialist in the mechanics of time travel.
The fruits of having an immense $200 million dollar budget are apparent through the sublime visual and special effects along with impressive stunts, fight choreography and cinematography. The sound mixing is decidedly inclined toward a loud, reverberating noise during action packed sequences and tense scenes to evoke a physical sensation in the audience. Although riveting it can be overwhelming for younger audiences.
Narratively, this movie is particularly complex with multiple revelations tying it together in an irregular order for a loosely understandable story. Although a part of Nolan’s film style, such complexity comes off in this instance as somewhat incoherent with multiple viewings required for a comprehensive understanding of the film’s events and narrative direction.
No, this film isn’t the ten year reincarnation of Inception but it certainly pulls its weight with an original concept and story line.
Overall, Nolan’s writing and directing is well-done and progressive. It is quite obvious that the movie underwent vigorous editing, which Nolan noted as the most challenging out of all of his movies, but the integrity of the story remains relatively intelligible and cohesive. Despite this process however, the film boasts a lengthy 150 minute runtime.
To simplify the movie, we can view in three acts. Action and tension are built up in the first act as we and ‘The Protagonist’ are informed on the workings of quantum time-travelling. This is applied in the second act through planning and preparation for the final mission. The third act sees an execution of this plan and a final revelation puts events and the meaning of the film into perspective.
John David Washington’s performance as a conflicted and largely unknowing protagonist is well-acted and engaging. His backstory as an American spy is touching but not quite as unique an origin I expect from a Christopher Nolan feature. Nevertheless, Washington fulfills this role and portrays a slick, level-headed and driven character.
Pattinson’s performance was notably impressive with his role being spun on its head towards the end of the film. The way the character of Neil deceives ‘The Protagonist’ is very believable and his purpose to carefully correct and oversee events hits the audience during the film’s denouement. Pattinson portrays this determined character with great aplomb and accuracy.
Elizabeth Debicki’s performance is also rather strong as we see her resilience in the face of a psychotic, controlling husband and her overcoming his grasp. A specific scene embodying this theme is placed near the very end of the film as Kat constructs an unexpected ploy which marks the completion of her character arc and journey.
Lastly, I must mention Kenneth Brannagh’s brilliant performance as Andrei Sator. The nuances and raw emotions of the power-hungry, belligerent arms dealer are brought out in all colours by Brannagh and his experienced and cultivated acting style. The scene where he forcefully asserts that his wife, who has lost all love for him, is his possession is a great example of this style. His acting range is apparent from this performance as his usually tamer or comedic performances are dashed in a realistic and affecting portrayal.
In conclusion, Tenet is a great movie. From Nolan’s screenplay and fantastic directing to Ludwig Göransson’s music composition and Travis Scott’s feature song, this film ticks all the right boxes for an action hit. Also, the pallindromic film title is a subtle and clever feature.
In essence, Tenet has a James Bond-esque feel enveloped in complicated quantum physics and science-fiction drama. Nolan has distinguished characters who intertwine and collaborate in unison for an ending which has been staring us in the face since the very beginning.
No this film isn’t the ten year reincarnation of Inception but it certainly pulls its weight with an original concept and story line.