Tenet ★★★★

I’ve been waiting for TENET for a long time. Through these delays and other such obstacles I have finally been able to see it. And as I sit here writing this review all I’m certain about is that this film has a lot to process. (This is also a pretty long review)

I’m a huge Nolan fan and this film was probably my most hyped film of 2020. I had my expectations high. Too high. I think the delays lowered my expectations and halted myself from overhyping this film. It’s hard to explain. But so is the movie. I think when we watch a film with too high of an expectation it can sometimes hinder our own personal opinion of the film. And that’s something I’ll take into consideration for all films into the future. Anyway, about the film. The film is described as an international spy thriller similar to a James Bond film and it’s great in that regard. We follow “the protagonist” as he tries and prevents a global disaster. Typical spy stuff. I thought John David Washington did an outstanding job in the lead role. In fact all of the cast members were excellent. The cast is filled with a lot of actors and characters. Like with most Nolan films, the characters are flat plot devices but with a cold action thriller like this, I felt the right amount of development was just right and perfect. With a stacked cast like this film, it’s no surprise that some actors show up for one scene and that’s it in a similar fashion to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I can see how these can be problematic for some but for me it doesn’t bother me that much. Kenneth Branagh is chilling as Sator and does a pretty decent job at being a formidable antagonist to... the protagonist. I think one of the main highlights for me is Robert Pattinson as Neil. He’s a charming accomplice to the protagonist. 

The story is where the confusion starts. Although to be fair, there is a lot of mumbling of exposition and it can be hard to follow the film because of that but that’s not the point. As I said earlier, the film is told like a spy thriller. Evil villain with an evil plan and the good guys have to stop him. Now this is where Nolan comes in. For good and bad. The film is set up in which scenes provide exposition to move the film to the next action set piece. Within that exposition is the mumbling and a lot of information to take in. I feel like it’s not that hard to follow but there’s a lot of detail we as a viewer get. But as Clémence Poséy’s character Barbara says, “don’t try and understand it. Feel it.” I go to a Nolan film do be wowed. To admire the larger than life spectacle and then learn about it later on. Sure it may be deliberately complicated and hard to follow but that’s not the reason many of us go to watch one of his films. This film is meant to be rewatched and I think a lot of things will become clearer with each viewing. I sure as heck don’t try and watch Nolan’s films expecting to fully understand it on first viewing. Or watch an action film for the plot. Which brings me to my next topic. 

The action is one of the high points of the film. From small fist fights to “crashing this plane” this film is one big action spectacle. The car chase that a lot of people probably recognize from the trailers was so cool to see with cars traveling either through time or backwards in time. The idea of inversion is hard to follow at first but as the film goes on, I felt like I was able to understand it a lot more. I can’t go into detail about how that is but there’s a scene that explains it better and I was like. Ohhhhhh ok. I’ve always liked cool gimmicks like this film with inversion and Nolan is a great gimmick filmmaker who can make the most of a simple idea. One thing I’ve also always admired about Christopher Nolan is his favoring of practical effects. His action set pieces are alive because of it. He’s a modern day James Cameron. Watching the scenes with the 747 and watching it crash was the sight to see. Especially on the big screen. This is a film that deserves your attention in the theatre. I even forgot to talk about Ludwig Goransson’s phenomenal score. He’s one of the best rising composers in the modern age. There are sound effects that resemble noises going in reverse throughout the score that’s a literal eargasm. The music is definitely a key aspect of the experience. 

TENET is an ambitious film. There’s so much I want to talk about but I can’t without spoiling it. These types of films are hard to review because of it. I wont even mention what things to look out for in danger of mentioning something too close to being a minor spoiler. Both the negatives and positives. I think it’s safe to say that TENET is a satisfying addition to Christopher Nolan’s amazing filmography.

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