I can already hear your blood boiling. I can already hear the thousand flaws and dealbreakers you’re about to point out. But bear with us here, as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet got nowhere near the love it deserved when it came out last year. Heralded as the “film to reopen cinemas” and hyped up to a ridiculous degree, there was no way it was gonna live up to the ungodly expectations placed upon it in a time where we were glued to our screens and Netflix accounts. But regardless, it’s still an absolute treasure of a film, a masterclass in all aspects of cinema, from narrative structure to direction to action (again, bear with us here).
Thus, we thought it deserved another viewing, deserved one more chance (or maybe fifty, depending on how long it takes for you to understand it) to prove to you that its an absolute banger of a film, and most importantly, old mate Nolan’s best work. And warning, spoilers lie ahead…
Christopher Nolan no doubt has an eye for talent, able to garner amazing performances out of Hollywood veterans and newcomers alike. Tenet is no different, with virtually every cast member delivering performances that are totally gripping and magnetic. From the epic leading man-and-a-half in John David Washington’s The Protagonist to the suave Robert Patterson as Neil and the fierce Elizabeth Debicki as Kat (along with a terrifying Kenneth Branagh as bad guy Sator), everyone steps up to the plate. It’s an all-time ensemble performance that easily contends with Nolan’s other blockbusters, while managing to not be overwhelmed by the insane story.
Speaking on the plot, Nolan described Tenet as his “take on a James Bond film,” but honestly, Tenet makes James Bond look like bloody Cody Banks. There’s literally no way to do justice to the complexity and intricacy of the plot of Tenet, but we’ll give it a go. Based around the the idea of being able to invert an objects entropy, John David Washington’s The Protagonist has to navigate a world of smoke and mirrors to save the world from an enemy in the future, becoming more and more caught up with opposing timelines and motivations along the way.
The film literally merges time travel with espionage with global destruction and twenty other themes. However, weaved through it all is a simple love story of a mother in Kat whose desperate to keep her son safe, a mother who’ll do whatever it takes to ensure the one thing she loves most is safe and well. It’s bloody beautiful, and the more you watch it, the more you’ll see it come through.
Although Christopher Nolan and Hanz Zimmer are an absolute match made in heaven, what he and Ludwig Göransson achieved with the Tenet Score was totally out of this world. It’s amazingly detailed, lush, anxiety-inducing and most importantly, striking. It’s the perfect auditory embodiment of the richness of the film, and even follows the process of inversion itself: if you’re not sure what we’re talking about, listen to it again, and at times you’ll hear the score literally playing in reverse, another clever nod to the film’s main narrative device too.
You might wanna have subtitles on when the music is blaring though (or just throughout the film in general), as Nolan has this weird tendency to put dialogue at the bottom of his sound mixes, probably the only gripe we have with Tenet.
Christopher Nolan truly outdid himself on the action side in Tenet, with every fist fight, shootout and explosion jumping off the screen in a totally confronting and claustrophobic matter. Not to mention we’ve never seen all of the above as they are in Tenet (once again courtesy of inversion). From the Freeport fistfight to that iconic reverse building explosion and highway chase, Nolan manages to make each action sequence feel distinctly unique and different, not just to each other but to anything ever put on a screen. And of course he did the majority of it with no special effects, which just goes to show what a bloody genius he is.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this is Christopher Nolan firing on all cylinders. Tenet is easily an amalgamation of all of his past works, taking bits and pieces from films like Memento, Inception, Interstellar and numerous more as he goes to town on his favourite theme: Time. He leaves everything on the table with Tenet, using every cinematic trick at his disposal to craft a multi-dimensional epic.
It’s no wonder it confused (and still confuses) countless viewers to this day, it’s a melting pot of all the emotions, themes, messages of the past 20 years of his work. Yet, it’s hands down his best yet, and like the greatest of Hollywood cinema, it ages like the richest of wines, helping you realise something new each and every time you watch it.