“Tenet” Review: Nolan, Or The God Of Time? They Are One And The Same.
DISCLAIMER: We managed to find a showtime with zero other people, or COVID managed to wipe out everyone else. Frankly, I’m not so sure.
“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” Tenet was written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It tells the story of “The Protagonist” (John David Washington) who sets out to stop the end of the world by traveling forwards, backward, sideways, and inside out throughout time. Oh, and also inversion is something in the film as well. Basically, from your POV, you are moving normally, while everyone else is moving in reverse, when you’re actually going backwards, and everybody else is moving forward. It’s time travel, but then again, maybe it isn’t? The truth is, I don’t know if anything is anything anymore, my brain is about to explode. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going back to the movies any time soon. However, as I desperately searched for a nearby theatre, I just happened to find one, that was an hour away and was open. That led to the inevitability of seeing my most anticipated movie of the year, Tenet. The groundbreaking, insanely complicated Nolan masterpiece with some flaws. If you were to hold up two pictures to a six-year-old child, one was Christopher Nolan, and the other, Kronos, the god of time. And were to ask, “yo kid, spot the difference or you’ll be punished.” The kid would reply nervously, “b-but, they’re the same.” This kid, whoever he/she may be is completely correct. Nolan is a literal time-bending god. While this may not be his best work, it sure is a wild ride. Remember the good old days of Cars, in this simple film, there was a line, “turn right to go left.” This piece of dialogue wasn’t too complicated, and yet it was the movie's own bit of philosophy. Of course, nowadays we are dealing with somehow having a future in the past and freaking inverted bullets. All I can say is, times are changing lads, times are changing. You, the reader, are probably yawning in boredom thinking “just stop the exposition and get on with the f-ing review.” Welp here goes nothing, what were my flaws?
The setup. The first 15-20 minutes or so got me completely confused. I had no idea what was going on, and couldn’t figure out whether these scenes had anything to do with the rest of the story. Also, I was not ready for the sound of those bullets, Jesus Christ! The movie is like Christopher Nolan holding a gigantic speaker up to someone’s face and turning it up all the way while yelling “is this loud enough for you, mate!?” Of course, you get used to the noise later on, but the beginning made me jump in my seat. In addition, there was a little too much exposition. I know exposition is Nolan’s game, but even in films like Inception, there wasn’t as much exposition. However, there is a plus, the characters explain the movie very well, making Tenet slightly more understandable. But it simply felt like every line of dialogue was plain exposition. There were also some instances in the middle of the film where I felt bored, pretty much the whole setup to the final act felt slow. I would have liked to have seen 15 minutes shaved off the runtime, but that’s not how things played out.
Christopher Nolan is my favorite director by far, that means I have high expectations for each film that he creates. While Tenet didn’t exceed all of them, I sure have a lot of positives. The action is unlike anything Nolan has done before. We have cars moving backwards, buildings reconstructing themselves, a plane crashing into a building. Backwards hand to hand combat. All of this was done with practical effects. The production is truly a visual spectacle, from the intense hallway fight scene, to the excellent car chase, it seems that Nolan has well out Nolan-ed himself, if that’s even possible. And that final battle, man, was that an epic showdown. The landscape was absolutely incredible, the cinematography done at a masterful level, and the score by Ludwig Göransson, the whole movie's soundtrack was utterly brilliant and fierce. Although clogged with exposition, the writing offered up clever explanations for a puzzle that the audience needs to solve. The magic of each Nolan film is that no matter what, if you want to further understand the movie, you need to see it again and again (I’ve seen Inception four times now). Most likely, you’ll never figure it out, but you can certainly try.
I’ve noticed critics criticizing the lack of comedy and emotional characters. For example IndieWire called it a “humorless disappointment.” Oh, I’m sorry, did I miss the part that states Nolan is about making comedies? However, the film actually had a few decent laughs, and the whole point of Nolan’s characters isn’t to make you feel sentimental, it’s to carry out information to the audience. The story can be very confusing at times, but is overall very entertaining. The interesting thing about all of his films is that while the quality always varies, his concept of bending time and reality is always being enhanced. If you look at his career from Following to The Dark Knight and now Tenet, you can tell that his filmmaking style has drastically changed over the years. He’s a true inspiration for all the young filmmakers out there, with ideas just waiting to be written on the page. I really want to see a director’s nomination at the Oscars for Nolan, he has gone above and beyond making an imperfect, sleek, dazzling, philosophical, relentlessly intelligent action movie told with undeniable skill and talent. If you take this film too seriously, you’re going to have a problem with it, all I can say is, go with the flow man, go with the flow.
The cast including John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson and Kenneth Branagh have all instantly proven to be committed action stars. However, Branagh’s performance is the one that surprised me the most. Andrei Sator is an undeniably frightening villain, and Branagh’s performance was suitably chilling enough for the role. In scenes like the one where he yells at Debicki in their hotel room, you can feel the terror within his lively performance. Washington also provided an excellent performance as “The Protagonist” (Nolan, if you’re reading this, why doesn’t he have a name? If you don’t tell me, I may lose my mind). His level of badass acting and stunt work are showcased at the maximum level of awesomeness. He’s truly an action gem with a future that I can’t wait to see. Also, shoutout to Michael Cain, who...um, is playing the same role...again. He was great as always, even with a small part.
Tenet is action-packed, gunshots, some blood, stabbing, hand to hand combat, explosions. There is some language, occasional uses of sh-t and fu-k. There’s not much romance in the film, some flirting, a bit of kissing. Each character is brave, resilient, independent and shows great teamwork with each other. Overall, if you’re a teen who’s been given the a-okay to go to the cinema, see Tenet on the biggest screen possible. If not, wait for it to come on Amazon, it’ll be worth the patience.
This title contains:
Positive role models
Violence & scariness