Tenet – Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

We’re back in business. Rejoicing in the reopening of movie theatres worldwide, after what has felt like a long stint away from many’s favourite pastime. And what better way to welcome us back than with another Nolan, mind-blowing head-scratcher. With his obsession with time and the manipulation of which, yet again being at the forefront of his latest action heavy piece, Tenet.

Starring John David Washington as The Protagonist. A CIA operative given the simple task of saving the world from a nuclear apocalypse. To make matters easier, he’s introduced into ‘time inversion’. Something up until now was very much alien to him, along with the rest of the world. This ‘twilight world’ (no that’s not a Pattinson pun there) of international espionage, could be what will put an end to Russian oligarch, Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) and potentially save the planet from an extinction level threat.

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Now there’s a reason I’ve put some of those phrases in quotations. Not because I’m trying to coin a new one myself, but you’ll hear them often, and it may take you some time to fully understand and appreciate what this film was attempting to do. There’s even a quote in the movie itself “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it”, and if you don’t take that as a subtle nod to the progression of the film, then you’ll be lost.

Nolan continues to push filmmaking boundaries. Every time he introduces us to his trademark concepts, you feel there’s no more he could do to surprise us. Certainly from the narrative perspective. But yet again, and this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve exclaimed this, he’s managed to do exactly that.

Tenet is a film that both feels like his boldest project in theory, but in practice, due to its general story progression and theme, is perhaps one of his most grounded. Trying to keep up with every intricate detail however, can often become more of a chore than is intended. But it has a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ message throughout, so toilet breaks or snack trips midway will leave you playing catch-up for the duration.

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It falters significantly in its hefty middle act. Whilst the occasional action piece does split up what is easily the movies most script driven segments, the Goliath level of exposition and plot planning becomes rather tiring.

It doesn’t all manage to feel like a complete waste of time however. After its explosive opening sequence, and its frantic, wonderfully stylistic final third, there’s some Nolan-ism’s in there, that feel as organic as ever.

John David Washington isn’t quite the household name that his father is (just yet), but his performance, leading a Nolan thriller, felt comfortable and strong, so I expect this will do wonders for his career.

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Being a viewing first experience for a more matured Robert Pattinson, I was thoroughly impressed with his performance and am starting to understand his casting in the upcoming Batman movie much more. Pattinson not only works perfectly alongside Washington, but even perhaps has the biggest takeaway from the experience as well.

Whilst I wouldn’t consider Tenet to be amongst the best we’ve seen from Nolan, it is still an astonishing display in its visual art form. Paired with the scene propelling compositions from composer Ludwig Göransson, Tenet pulls no punches when it comes to action spectacle. Had it not been for it’s overly convoluted, self-indulgent middle act, it would have ranked higher in Nolan’s filmography for me.

Perhaps with a second viewing (which would be strongly advised), I can pick up on whatever I missed the first time around. As for now, it will remain a clever, bombastic action romp, that has some pieces missing from its puzzle.


Have you seen Tenet yet? If so what did you think, and where does it rank among Nolan’s work? Feel free to drop a message.

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