Tenet, directed by the great and powerful Christopher Nolan, is one of the most exciting films of the year. Armed with only one word, Tenet, the protagonist (John David Washington), journeys through the twilight world of international espionage on a mission to prevent the end of the world.
I had to watch this movie twice before writing this review, solely because I was left in the dark during my first watch. enet has a very convoluted plot that revolves around the concept of “time inversion” and its implication on all matter in this world. This movie is by far Nolan’s most complex yet thought provoking film and requires one to pay full attention in order to fully understand and appreciate it. If any of y’all are planning to watch this movie on the big screen, I recommend making a stop to the washroom before the start of the film – you cannot miss a minute of it.
There are many things that I liked about Tenet. Firstly, it has a very unique premise that challenges our perception of time. Christopher Nolan has done this before: Dunkirk takes place at three locations for completely different spans of time, the dream layers in Inception progress at different speeds, time is relative from galaxy to galaxy in Intersteller, and in Memento the plot moves both forwards and backwards in time. I can’t give away exactly how Tenet manipulates with time, but it does so in an ingenious way. Full marks for creativity.
Tenet also feels like a very “international movie”. Fitting to the spy/espionage genre, this film was shot in a myriad of locations. From the bazaars of Mumbai, to the highways of Tallinn, to the coastlines of Amalfi, Tenet uses these exotic locations to deliver spectacular action sequences. There were two action sequences that stood out for me. The first was a fist fight sequence between two characters in a corridor that incorporated time inversion to deliver an unpredictable and gripping scene. The second involved crashing a real Boeing 747 into a facility. I have not the faintest of ideas of how Nolan and his crew filmed these scenes – they were extraordinary.
The score, composed by Ludwig Göransson, was also a highlight. My favorite non-lyrical tracks of this movie were Posterity and Rainy Night In Tallinn. Travis Scott also made a really nice single for this film called The Plan. The music added to the intensity of these action set-pieces and felt very original and raw. However, the score was sometimes overwhelming to the point where I couldn’t understand what the characters were saying. This added to the complexity of the film because these moments were exposition sequences attempting to simplify the already convoluted plot.
My major complaint about Tenet was its poor character development. The plot of this film is driven by the concept of time inversion NOT its characters. John David Washington’s character was never given a name. None of the characters, except Andrei Sator (played by Kenneth Branagh) were given a backstory. There was no “lesson” conveyed to us viewers through the actions or realizations of the characters. By the end of the film, I did not have any sympathy, empathy, frustration, envy or any other emotion towards any character because I did not know much about them nor was I given a strong enough reason to care. This lack of character development was complemented by frankly mediocre performances. There was much room for improvement in this area.
All this being said, it was a bold move for this film to be released in theatres, and I do have to commend it for doing so. Tenet is (hopefully) kick-starting the revival of movie theatres. It is an action packed film with a very unique premise meant to be enjoyed on the biggest screen possible. Tenet is Christopher Nolans’ vision of James Bond.