Goliath’s review published on Letterboxd:
Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
Yesterday was the opening for the Nolan’s long awaited action/espionage thriller, Tenet. As Tenet is not available in many countries at the moment I will refrain from spoilers but I recommend to everyone who has access to this film to go and see as soon as possible and I guarantee you will not regret it. With the lack of new films coming out this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all was resting on Nolan to deliver real cinema and to reignite the industry with a mind-blowing blockbuster. Sitting down in a cinema to watch a brand new movie that has just released after 5 months of watching movies on VOD was joyful, I was finally back to where I am supposed to be and I can’t wait for all the new releases that will be coming out in coming months. I try to not go into the cinema with expectations but with everything going on this year, they were through the roof because I needed Tenet to be great. As the credits were rolling, there was one thing on my mind, Nolan you fuckin genius. Tenet is unprecedented in cinematic history, I have never seen a film like Tenet, I was in a continuous state of awe as I watched mind-boggling practical effects, reversed fight scenes and spectacular visuals. The premise of ‘inversion’ is wholly original and will definitely need to be watched multiple times to fully understand this incomprehensible concept. To call Tenet confusing would be an understatement, it’s more complicated than Inception and Interstellar combined and will not be easily accessible to some. After seeing Tenet twice now in theatres, the concept and exposition throughout finally makes sense. This is a sensational achievement filled with mind blowing action sequences, unparalleled storytelling, excellent performances and blood-pumping intensity. The pure genius behind Tenet is unimaginable and Nolan essentially did what no directors can do. Like many of his other films, the story is told in a non-linear fashion and the different timelines are woven so intricately and excellently that only a handful of people could master this type of storytelling. The spectacle of this movie is immaculate and the practical effects are outstanding. Nolan has stated many times that the use of CGI will only make the film age quicker and by using mostly practical effects, the film will hardly age at all. The audience knows on some level the difference between real life and artificial and I think it’s important for filmmakers nowadays to start to stray away from the extensive use of CGI and to focus more on real practice effects. What Nolan is able to accomplish with little visual effects is extremely impressive, very few directors will even attempt this and I’m pretty sure Nolan is the only person at the moment who could pull it off. While the spectacle is magnificent, it never once eclipses the story. Nolan’s always manages to find a balance between awe and characters. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography was exquisite, the beautiful scenery and the extraordinary camerawork is top class. I will go as far to say that Tenet is one of the most breathtakingly stunning movies I have ever seen. Each shot captures something new and exciting, this was a behemoth task and congratulations to everyone who worked on Tenet, you did something that very few could do. The action is spectacularly riveting, how in the sweet Mary fuck did Nolan manage to achieve some of the most white-knuckle action sequences I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). JDW did all of his own stunts and the physicality of all the actors and stunt performers is inconceivable. From exploding buildings that rebuild themselves to the reverse hallway fight scene to the highway chase sequence, this is up there as one of the greatest action movies to ever grace our screens.
Nolan once again deals with the manipulation of time and this is unlike anything you ever seen before. Take Memento (2000), Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014), then combine them and you will get the level of complexity of Tenet. You have to pay attention to every single detail and if you lose concentration during this 150 minute movie, you may miss and important piece of information that will throw you in a state of confusion. The acting was phenomenal. John David Washington as the ‘Protagonist’ is his best performance to date, while we don’t know much about this character we learn about his morals and personality through his actions and conversations with other characters. We learn of the type of man he is and with no information about this mans past or where he came from, it’s very difficult to try and get your audience to connect with him. One of the main criticisms I’ve seen is the lack of characterisation, while I don’t necessarily agree with that, I can understand where some people are coming from. If I explain why I disagree with that I will be getting into spoiler territory and I do not want to ruin the experience for those who have not seen it yet. Robert Pattinson, the man will not stop being in amazing movies at the moment. His comeback from the atrocious Twilight movies with Good Time (2017), The Lighthouse (2019), Tenet (2020) and The Devil All the Time releasing later this year and with the highly anticipated The Batman (2021), he is going to be one of the most talented actors of our generation. Kenneth Branagh was excellent as Sator. His complex morals and egotistical mindset results in some fantastic scenes of raw intensity. Elizabeth Debicki was great also, she had a fantastic subplot regarding her son which was executed perfectly. The editing by Jennifer Lame was immaculate, the amount of continuity errors she must’ve faced is incomprehensible. If the position of one actor is out of place, if one prop is handled wrong or if the camera captures something at the wrong angle, the whole movie becomes messy.
Ludwig Göransson’s explosive score assaults the ears of the audience members within the first minutes of Tenet. Unfortunately, Hans Zimmer was unable to work with Nolan on Tenet due to his work on Villeneuve’s Dune (2020) but I can say that Göransson did not disappoint. There are certain moments where the score is so loud that it’s difficult to understand what some characters are saying, and it’s especially difficult when those characters are also wearing masks. I fell like if the dialogue was given more priority over the score in the editing process, we would’ve been able to understand better but that only happened a few times and does not comprise the film. Now onto a little rant about movie critics. Do not call a movie confusing after your first watch, especially with a film like Tenet (I’m talking about you @indiewire). Yes the dialogue is challenging, yes the exposition is complicated and yes the concept is confusing but if you actually pay attention for fuckin once in a movie theatre, you may actually understand what is going on. The story of Tenet is like a Rubix cube, you turn one piece which triggers three other piece to movie which changes the whole landscape of an object. The ending was surprisingly emotional, I wasn’t expecting to have such a connection with our characters and I know that the majority of people do not feel the same way but fuck it, I don’t care.
Tenet is genius, pure genius. Nolan achieves what few directors can only dream of, these unimaginable concepts and the way he decides to tell the story is incomprehensible. The practical effects are jaw dropping, the editing is perfect, the action is sensational and the performances were phenomenal. The cinematography and camerawork was divine, utterly flawless. The score, while could’ve been a tad quieter, deserves global recognition and I guarantee that Göransson will be the next Hans Zimmer. Nolan challenges his audience, he doesn’t sit back and produce some generic action movie, he keeps pushing the limits and continues to impress us. Tenet is unprecedented in cinematic history and that why Nolan’s grand and sensational espionage thriller gets a 9/10