TENET – Film Review

Armed with only one word–Tenet–and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist (John David Washington) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

To say that Christopher Nolan is one of the most acclaimed and highly-praised directors in the history of cinema would be an understatement, to say the least. Throughout the years, he has crafted excellent pieces of art that are equal parts massively entertaining and highly thought-provoking such as InceptionInterstellar, and The Dark Knight.

Ever since it was first announced, Nolan’s eleventh movie Tenet has been one of my most anticipated, if not the, most anticipated movie of the entire year. I only saw that one trailer that was released back in December of last year and tried my best to stay away from watching any clips or any other promotional material. However, during my showing of Birds of Prey in IMAX this February, I was treated with a ten-minute preview of Tenet which blew me away despite not knowing absolutely anything that was going on. The sheer size and spectacle of everything was almost intimidating and a pure example of Christopher Nolan doing what he does best.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would be seeing Tenet in theatres or not. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic ruined everything for everybody and is still very much so a threat right now, but seeing as how certain places in the world are slowly but surely getting better, movie theatres are beginning to re-open with proper health and safety protocols put in place. I was greatly pleased to see that my local theatre was open with several safety procedures put in place so I was more than happy to see Tenet in IMAX this weekend, which just so happened to be my first time back at the movie theatre since March.

To start things off, I will say that if you, too, are looking to go back to the movie theatre anytime soon, Tenet is without a doubt the movie you should go to see. Although I can’t say it’s completely flawless and the greatest film Nolan has ever created, it is still an awe-inspiring head-trippy journey that will leave you totally breathless by the time the ending comes around.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Many people are going to see Tenet and say that there wasn’t enough action. They will say that there was too much talking and these moments were too boring. I couldn’t disagree more. Nolan is a master at giving his audience little pieces of information along the way to keep you interested but eventually starts to give you more and more answers and then, at the very last moment, starts to give us even more questions but it’s never done in an annoying or unsatisfying way.

There was a moment within the final hour of Tenet, which is in my humble opinion, one of the greatest third acts ever put to screen, in which I genuinely thought that I had it all figured out. Just as soon as my brain was slowly putting all the pieces to the puzzle together, Nolan went in and changed everything and made me re-analyze everything that had just transpired on-screen. It’s a film that is so mind-bogglingly confusing to unravel but is going to be quite fun to speculate on with fellow film fans for seemingly years to come.

Of course the movie has answers. Or does it? It is so intricately plotted and so carefully planned that some part of me honestly wants to say that Nolan made a film that is almost too confusing and borderline impossible to understand it all. It is extremely fun and satisfying to watch the film and think of answers after watching it, and I cherish filmmakers like Nolan who love to challenge their audience. I hate it when a filmmaker spoon-feeds their audience. I love it when a director comes in and makes the viewer think deeply about what they just saw.

So many movies these days feel so disposable in the long run. They may be fun while you watch them, but you will probably forget about it in a day or two. That’s certainly not the case with Tenet. I will be thinking about this movie for an extremely long time and I can’t wait to see if I can crack the seeming impossible mystery behind the film.

If I’m being honest, the biggest flaw I have with this movie is the sound mixing. I’m just going to go out and say it – it’s awful. All of the music composed by Ludwig Göransson, which is admittedly incredible and goosebump-inducing, is ten times louder than the dialogue in every single scene. There were countless scenes in which I couldn’t understand a word of what anybody was saying. It sounded like they were mumbling, but in reality, it was just the result of poor sound mixing. Here’s hoping that the Blu-ray fixes this problem because if it does, it’ll make the film significantly easier to piece together, because that way, you’ll actually be able to understand what these characters are saying.

But like I said, that’s really the only major problem I have with Tenet. Everything else is so incredible and so jaw-droppingly impressive that the film as a whole is immensely difficult to fault. I could spend hours talking about how the cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is astounding and gives off a feeling of incredible size. The film genuinely feels like you are watching a cinematic epic. I could spend hours talking about how John David Washington and Robert Pattinson deliver some of the best performances of their entire careers here and how they definitely need to be nominated for Academy Awards, as does the film itself. But instead of that, I’ll just say this – Tenet is definitely worth the wait and is a movie that you absolutely need to see on the biggest screen if possible. It will leave you feeling exhausted, thrilled, and confused all in one package but in the best way.

Overall Grade: A

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references, and brief strong language

Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, Fiona Dourif, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Himesh Patel, Clémence Poésy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release Date: September 3, 2020

Running Time: 150 minutes

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