Directed By: Christopher Nolan Released: September 2, 2020
I missed this feeling. Just last week I went to the theaters to see Inception in anticipation to see Nolan’s next film, but I had already seen Inception, multiple times in fact. Seeing it again in theaters was just pleasant. But to experience a new film up on the big screen, the rush of the sound hitting you on all ideas, and of course I had to see Tenet in Imax. It was exciting and I loved every second. I highly recommend you go out to your local theater, follow safety guidelines and social distancing, and have a great time. That’s just my PSA after being back in a theater. Now, we keep going.
Christopher Nolan films are like nothing else. He can create this insane idea and somehow make it work. Everything on screen is happening all at once, the action the sound the glaring lights the sense of dread the drive to go forward, but you aren’t lost. Within all this chaos he throws you in there are moment where you stop and realize wait…I know what is going on. Because he allows the film to breath and establish itself with characters and ideas that make sense once all the pieces fit. Tenet is the most extreme example of this, but that may not be for everyone. It throws caution to the wind and moves ahead with reckless abandon.
In a mission gone wrong, we find our hero (John David Washington) has to take his own life in order to protect his country. In doing so, he is now allowed into a secret order that knows that an ultimate threat is coming. Someone is going back in time from the future and leaving behind “inverse metal.” To control a nuclear bomb is one thing, to control the very nature of time itself is far more dangerous. He has to find out what this all means and where it comes from. To do so he needs help. He finds a reliable partner in Neil (Robert Pattinson), a man able to hire elite squads of soldiers or well coordinated thieves in short notice but only in the most elaborate fashion. On the inside he befriends Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), the wife to an infamous arms dealer who might be the key to where this “inverse metal” comes from. Our Protagonist needs to figure out what this all means fast, time is running out….
Or has it already happened?
The entire idea of weaponizing time is crazy enough, but how Tenet uses that concept is what makes it so fascinating. Sadly…I can’t go into too much detail. The best part of the film is how it is fed to the audience. You never feel lost. And instead of having the film tell you what the next step is, it jumps to the next stage of the plan and lets you fill in the blanks. Those moments where you understand what is happening is some of the most fun I’ve had in a theater in years (of course the most fun this year, but there isn’t much competition.)
What’s interesting about Tenet is it has a much more focused cast compared to other Nolan flicks. Think Inception or Interstellar, our main protagonist is surrounded by a team of people that somehow advance the goal. Tenet is about our Protagonist as he tries to save the world. John David Washington is absolutely incredible as the lead, his presence (and his beard) command the screen with the right amount of charisma and authority. He doesn’t want to kill you, but he knows how to without making a mess. He can call upon Neil at any time, and once Robert Pattinson comes in the two have instant chemistry. This may just be my favorite film with Pattinson. I will be honest, I haven’t seen too many, but of the ones I have this may be his best. And his character slowly endeared me to him. Elizabeth Debicki may not get a ton of time on screen, what she does get shines. I have a hard time deciding who I like more, Washington or Debicki, within the film. Washington gets more and the film centers around him for a reason, but the range of emotion and arc Kat goes through is nothing less than heartbreaking and Debicki sells every single second. Nolan somehow brings the best of every actor.
In this entire review, I only have said one negative aspect of Tenet. It’s a lot, from start to finish. For me, I loved every frame. I felt smart and exhilarated, like I was a spy right alongside our Protagonist. But of course that is me, I can understand if there are those that find the idea of “inverse time” to be a bit pretentious. If you aren’t hooked by the halfway point, then you are not going to go into the second half convinced it’s a good idea. Tenet doubles down on it’s idea and doesn’t stop. The action is loud, fast and the details in the back can clue you in to where you are in the timeline. If that sounds more like homework than a mystery to solve, then this may not be the film experience you are looking for. Me however, I love a good mystery.
You may have been able to tell already, I love Tenet. I can’t tell yet it I enjoy it more than Inception but I know that I had a great time. The characters are all interesting, the action is loud and in your face, and the clues are just subtle enough to be noticed but clearly hidden away from future viewings. You can piece it together, and I love that. If you are looking for that edge of your seat experience in the theaters again, Tenet is here to satisfy that craving. Don’t worry though, you have already sat down to see this movie. You just haven’t done it, yet.
Have you seen Tenet? What did you think? Have you already read my review and commented? It’s ok, it was going to happen anyway. Until next time, we are all tenetivly waiting for your return.