Movie Reviews

Tenet - Review

Time-travel this is not. Christopher Nolan's latest epic is as brilliant as it is confusing.


AUGUST 31st, 2020

RATING:

Director: Christopher Nolan | Cert: 12 | Runtime: 2h 31m

© Warner Bros.

D

on’t think, just enjoy.

These are the four words which should be advised to every audience member before they watch Christopher Nolan’s time-twisting epic, Tenet. With such a complex and often confusing plot, it is hard to fully comprehend just what is actually happening, and yet amongst the confusion it is impossible to look away.

For such is Tenet’s scale, grandeur and action sequences, Christopher Nolan proves why he is arguably this generations greatest filmmaker, and he is one who thrives on the enigmas of time. Interstellar took us to the far reaches of space, questioning time itself; Inception delved into our dreams, bending both time and space and Dunkirk placed three timelines side-by-side; so, his latest foray into time-travel is no surprise.

The iconic 'folding' city dream sequence - © Warner Bros


Except this isn’t time-travel.

“Don’t try to understand it”, declares Clémence Poésy’s Laura, who ironically is the woman with all the answers. Instead, she explains to John David Washington’s character – who is left nameless – that they are using “technology that can reverse an object’s entropy”. From the get-go, this isn’t child’s play, nor any Back To The Future plotline. The world is at stake, and it isn’t so much as ‘time’s running out’, but rather ‘time’s running left, right, up, down - in every possible direction.’

Grounding the heart of the movie is Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) – a woman estranged and abused by her husband; Kenneth Branagh’s arms-dealing oligarch Andrei. But this isn’t the great driving plot of Tenet, for Christopher Nolan, it is time itself. How it moves, can it twist, mould, or break? These are questions which Tenet strives to answer, thereby creating both hits and misses within the framing of the plot.



You could be forgiven for believing that Nolan’s Tenet is an intricate film which delicately navigates its way through the story – it does not. Loud, brash and unapologetically grand, Nolan pulls no punches. Barely any CGI was used to bring the reverse-time sequences to life, and yes, that is a fully-fledged 747 Jumbo Jet being blown up. Tenet is never afraid to go big, and with what could have been at risk of overshadowing the plot and cast, pays off astronomically.

There have been many comparisons between Tenet and James Bond, and it is no secret that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is Christopher Nolan’s favourite movie, so it is expected that elements and tones are borrowed from the famed British spy movies. Yet, unlike Bond, Tenet plays against the stereotypes or clichés. In effect, Nolan has stripped all the great parts of the iconic spy and placed them into a new modern realm where time is relative, and the stakes are higher.

747 Jumbo Jet crashes into aircraft carrier - © Warner Bros


John David Washington is exceptional as The Protagonist, steering the movie effortlessly. Robert Pattinson is electric, rounding out an impressive cast with Debicki and Branagh on top form. Though whilst these are magnetic actors well within the prime, it isn’t until the finale of Tenet where the recognisable chills and gasps of sheer awe-inspiring wonder, which have become so synonymous with Christopher Nolan’s work, hit hard, fast and loose.

What differs from Tenet, compared to Nolan’s other work, is the determined direction he steers the plot and characters. There is no time for a breather; we head full force along the action and the many twists and turns the movie takes us. Each character knows their goal, their ambitions and drive, stemming no further than where Nolan needs them to go. It creates a movie which feels astute, direct and without much sentiment for its characters.



For some, Tenet will be too much happening all at once. The plot confusion will detract from the experience and no number of explosions will hide the disappointment. For most however, Tenet will live up to the Nolan bar set by the iconic director himself. Whether there are elements audiences will fully understand upon the initial viewing isn’t what Tenet is ultimately about. It is a movie designed to be dissected, researched, observed and deconstructed. The confusion is as much a part of the experience as the action.

Tenet may not be Christopher Nolan’s greatest movie, and it may not reach the echelon’s of The Dark Knight or Inception, but what it does do is successfully carve its own lane within the Nolan universe. Through an ambitious storyline and impressive performances, Tenet forces you to eventually adopt the aforementioned four-worded advice as you take your seats: ‘Don’t think, just enjoy.’

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