I have been waiting for this day for a long time, the day when I can finally experience the magic of sitting in a cinema watching visual craftspeople do what they do best. But the question on my lips before watching Tenet wasn’t how mindbogglingly complex it would be, or what kind of vision Christopher Nolan would be presenting us, the question was whether after a global disruption affecting many people’s lives, mine included, if our tastes had changed. We refer to early 2020 as post-pandemic and it’s been proven over the years that major global events change minds. But the cinema should always be a safe haven that shields us from grimness and after so many months not being able to have that protection, Tenet will welcome you back like cinema had never gone away.
Christopher Nolan has a bigger responsibility with Tenet more than all his other projects put together. For some smaller cinemas, this film’s success could be the factor in if they’re able to stay in business, but I have no doubt people will flock to the mention of his name and work. It gives you hope that people still crave originality and Tenet is flooded with the stuff. The central idea of the film revolves around the inversion of time and Christopher Nolan wields this idea as another way to bend and shape the narrative of his film. The progression is nurtured around this central idea so in Tenet you are going to experience sequences you’ll have seen earlier on in the film, albeit from a different perspective and the way Nolan closes those loops makes the sequences feel fresh, even though we may have seen them for the first time an hour ago, maybe even less.
An auteur like Christopher Nolan often has handpicked favourites amongst performers, but Tenet will mostly feature actors who have never starred in his films before, the only glaring exception being Michael Caine and he’s only featured in one scene. Even the team behind him is relatively new, no Wally Pfister as the cinematographer, No Lee Smith as an editor, even Hans Zimmer is out of the picture due to his work on the upcoming Dune. The reign of the composer is passed to Ludwig Göransson whose work has included the Creed films as well as TV shows like Community and The Mandalorian. Music is just as essential to a Christopher Nolan films in the same way it is essential to shoot in IMAX, but the application of the score is thematically done and well-executed. For instance, to keep with the idea of inverted time, in the inverted world the score is reversed to strengthen how immersed we are to the film.
John David Washington, son of Denzel and recent star of BlacKkKlansman is the nameless protagonist of Tenet along with his associate Neil (Robert Pattinson). Both are fantastic talent, but I have to give this round to Mr. Future Batman. Robert Pattison has been working his way back into these big blockbusters and he’s almost like a rare bird in some ways, we know about it, but we haven’t actually seen it ourselves. I think it very safe to say that he has put substantial distance between himself and his connection to the you-know-what films and I’m glad he’s been able to do that.
Kenneth Branagh is the Russian villain Andrei Sator, an arms dealer selling inverted bullets who wants to commit omnicide with the new technology he’s acquired. Kenneth Branagh dominates every scene he is in, he has such a huge presence in the film that he becomes genuinely terrifying, you feel like he’s going to traverse the silver screen at come up to your face. Other actors include Elizabeth Debicki as Andrei’s wife Kat and Himesh Patel’s continues his climb to Hollywood with a minor role here.
There is no doubt that this film, much like any other Nolan film, is a glorious spectacle to watch both technologically and visually. However, I usually walk away with very little complaints about said films, but the same cannot be said with Tenet. I love the vision Christopher Nolan has with each of his films, it what made him a household name after all, yet Tenet bugged with as it offered a lot of explanations without much definitions. There are sequences devoted to explanatory dialogue, you’d have to with a world this complicated, but the actual information contained within those lines of dialogue is lacking. For instance, we know very little about the characters when the film is over and the dialogue contains supposedly factual scientific information, but it is rarely put into practise for us to experience except for a couple moments.
Being a Christopher Nolan film, Tenet is a non-linear narrative, which will obviously not bode well with people who like a story in order. With that being said, I think Christopher Nolan has a fascinating mind and he has every right to show off how visionary he is. But there is a difference between showing off your intellect and flexing it and the later is done here. We’ve seen this before in Inception where it divided people into those who got it and those who didn’t, and I expect Tenet is going to replicate that division which is something I thought we were over with.
If I were to do a tier list of Christopher Nolan films, Tenet would possibly be in the lowest tier, but that’s just judging it compared to his other works. When you compare it to the bigger picture, it a remarkable feat. I also have no doubt Tenet will be in most people’s top 10 list this year, It really is everything you could ask for in Christopher Nolan film, but putting it aside Inception, The Dark Knight, Dunkirk, it just can’t mix with that crowd.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Tenet? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: The New Mutants