Tenet is the latest movie by writer and director Christopher Nolan. The film stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh. It follows a character only known as “The Protagonist” as he explores the world of espionage and is tasked with saving the world from a new technology that can manipulate time. I’m going to try to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers.
Christopher Nolan might be the most ambitious blockbuster filmmaker working today, and Tenet certainly reflects that. I’m not the biggest Nolan fan, but I respect how he makes these visually stunning, mind-bending experiences. That being said, I think this is probably the most ambitious project of his career. The action set-pieces are extremely well-directed and perfectly choreographed. From what I’ve read, there was no green screen use and barely any visual effects shots, which is extremely impressive considering the scale of some of the scenes. The production team also bought and blew up a real 747 airplane, reflecting their commitment to realism. Nolan even consulted with a theoretical physicist to try to make the story as close to theoretically possible as he could. The numerous moving pieces in the movie are handled well, in general, and it’s very well-paced for being two and a half hours long. The way that time is used in the plot is something that I’ve never seen before. The entire cast is great. John D. Washington further proves himself as a leading man and Kenneth Branagh’s acting is over-the-top in the best way possible. In the absence of Hans Zimmer, Ludwig Göransson’s score stands out and drives the energy of each scene.
Where the film lacks is in its character development. The biggest thing we learn about the characters is that Debicki’s character has a son she cares about. I can’t say that I really cared about anyone, but I think Nolan was aiming for a plot-driven movie. If you’re familiar with Nolan’s other work, like Inception, Interstellar, and Memento, you know how confusing his plots can be. Tenet blows these films out of the water in comparison. I’ve seen this movie twice so far and I think I understand only about 80% of what happened. To me, Nolan can trip over his own feet in his writing and things just aren’t clear on screen. Some helpful details are hidden in a line or two, then it moves on and expects you to catch up. Taking on a project like this likely means there are going to be a good bit of plot holes, and Tenet is no exception, but there is nothing that invalidates the overarching plot. To fully understand it, you need to rewatch it at least two or three times.
This was my first trip back to an actual movie theater in about six months, and things have obviously changed in how things operate. From what I could tell, the theater was very safe and cleaned often. There were hand sanitizing stations in the halls and wipes to use to clean your seat to ensure that it was germ-free. The four total people in the theater, including myself, wore masks the entire time and the experience honestly wasn’t much different than normal.
Tenet is a great way to welcome back the theatrical experience. The visuals and intriguing ambition make up for the lackluster characters and puzzle-box of a plot. Despite being in the bottom half of Nolan’s filmography for me personally and giving me a headache, I still had a good time.