Dennis’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I’ll see you at the beginning, friend.”
I get the people who were hyping Tenet from the beginning now. This movie is essential Nolan and those who’ve familiarized themselves with his body of work will know that a recurring theme within the British auteurs filmography is time. Nolan is obsessed with it and you don’t have to look further than movies like Memento and Interstellar to figure that out. Tenet marks his tenth film and is by far his most bold and ambitious movie. To release this in the middle of a pandemic put the movie in another disadvantageous position. It didn’t pay off, of course but it is interesting to me that a filmmaker like Nolan would risk his reputation.
I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of this movie the first time I watched it, I felt disconnected to most of it by trying to understand what Nolan was going for with this and by the end still hadn’t really figured it out. That changed after rewatching it. Tenet is a movie that needs to be watched more than once to fully grasp what Nolan is going for, at least I think so. Love him or hate him I think Tenet presents the most fascinating ideas I think Nolan has produced. The action sequences are mind-blowing and the second half of this movie is the best filmmaking I’ve seen from Nolan throughout his career. The essence of this movie for me is full of what ifs with the ultimate goal being, as is so many times the case in these movies, saving the world. What if Sator was allowed to continue as he was? What if Neil and The Protagonist never met? Nolan uses time in this movie for our characters in the movie to try and find and answer to these questions. The past dictates the future and the future dictates the past which is evident in a quote that we hear later on in the movie.
“I’ve been thinking, we’re their ancestors. If they destroy us, won’t that destroy them?”
“That’d bring us to the grandfather paradox.”
“You went back in time, and killed your own grandfather? How could you’ve been born to commit the act?
“What’s the answer?”
“There is no answer. It’s a paradox.”
As we gather this information we basically learn that, as I said before, the movies is full of what ifs just like time. Life consists of a certain time you spend on earth in which you are shaped in one way or another by things that have happened to you in the past or things that will happen to you in the future. That same thing goes for Nolan in this movie, Tenet doesn’t really provide answers and when it does it circles back to fill the viewer’s head with even more questions. The reason for that is that time is uncontrollable, we don’t know what will happen to us, we can only go off what has happened to us. The thing in Tenet, however, is that the past can be changed through technology which makes things more complicated and that is why the essence of this movie is full of what ifs because if you can change time you can change everything and the possibilities are endless.
That is what makes Tenet a complicated movie to decipher because even when Neil and The Protagonist have saved the world as they know it, it won’t be like that forever and another threat will rise up in the future. There are no answers to the questions this movie asks, as the grandfather paradox quote I mentioned earlier suggests but Nolan’s obsession with time has never been more thought-provoking to me.
Tenet is quite comfortbaly Nolan’s best movie for me. Like I said, the action sequences were immense and the fact that most of the stunts in this were done practically with minimal VFX (which are still amazing) makes me appreciate what Nolan has done here even more. Hoyte van Hoytema’s photography and Ludwig Göransson deliver their best work to date. JDW & Pattinson both put in great performance and I weirdly liked Branagh as the villain despite his terrible Russian accent. Nolan has never made something as romantic as this either, to put it shortly this movie is just really great and one of the best this decade has had to offer so far.