“Tenet” is a great film, but there is no way this film could have saved movie theaters and nor should it have. I wish more had been done in regards to studios waiting and helping theaters by having them as an option to stream films (support your local theatre by logging onto to their website, buy a virtual ticket and you can watch it from your home and still support them). That doesn’t have to do with the film though. This is a great science fiction film that made some compelling characters in a film that largely depends on the reveal of an idea. I won’t tell you anymore than that but if you are a Nolan fan and want some great sci. fi. concepts explored with amazing action, check this one out.
The film was directed and written by Christopher Nolan.
The story follows Protagonist (John David Washington) as he is pulled into the mysterious organization known as Tenet to stop World War III.
The Premise – The idea of stopping World War III through time manipulation is really cool. Especially in how this is explored, initially through the reveal of time inverted bullets and eventually traveling inverted through time and having to avoid meeting yourself and causing a paradox. It is so much fun and the slow buildup to reveal works great.
The Action – The action is absolutely fantastic. The action is the best it has been since “Inception” and we get fights and car chases mixed with forward and reverse action, and it still making sense and really good hand to hand combat and gunplay. At the core this is a spy film and it does that really well.
The Characters – The characters either work on a basic level or are compelling in how they are portrayed and their backstories revealed over the course of the film. Each of them are given a moment of empathy and also a time to establish their power. Nolan does nuance.
Andrei Sator – Kenneth Branagh plays the Russian mobster who is the main villain of the piece. He never stops being bad and someone you want to root for to be taken down but he does have a few moments that give him some complexity. He gained wealth from the very thing that is killing him and therefore wants to end the world. He also at one point loved his wife it seems but even that maybe an illusion as he does have the delusion of seeing the destruction of the world as becoming a God. I appreciate how difficult he was to beat as it took all of Tenet’s resources and best agents to finally stop him from activating the Algorithm that would destroy the world through inverting entropy.
Katherine Barton – Elizabeth Debicki does a wonderful job as the abused wife of Andrei Sator who is using everything at her disposal to resist or escape. Her drive is to protect her son and to get revenge and when she finally gets revenge and calls out her abusive spouse it is rewarding. She goes through so much in this film and seeing her claim justice is one of the strongest parts of the film.
Ives – Ives is one of the agents from the future and knows the most of what is going on. He initially comes off as driven and militant but over time we see his humanity too as rather than complete what they believe the mission to be (after the parts of the algorithm are hid, ending their lives). The implication is that he won’t ever find them and it makes sense when we learn more of what is going on. He was the one who at that point held the most information on the nature of Tenet. Aaron Taylor-Johnson elevated would is initially presented as a fairly forgettable character.
Neil – Robert Pattinson’s Neil is Protagonist’s ally and eventual friend over the course of the film. He knows the rules of time travel the most and embraces each moment willingly. In this he helps Protagonist rise to the role he will eventually become. Pattinson imbues him with empathy, cleverness and a sense of mystery which makes him a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see his Batman. In the end he tells Protagonist that Protagonist founded Tenet and was the one to recruit him when Protagonist is much older. Establishing that loop of time.
Protagonist – John David Washington makes a character who has no backstory beyond being a CIA agent a compelling protagonist. In this we see what drives him and his connection to Katherine humanizes his drive as that personal connection more closely connects him to Sator. Seeing him grow into the role of the Protagonist and with what he learns at the end, closes the loop. Honestly, I’d watch another film with him and what else happens in Tenet.
The Nature of Time – Time is a loop and each time you go back you don’t change things but become a part of what happened. This was really cool in how it was handled and it doesn’t really answer the point of choice or destiny just that the loop exists based on the actions of the people using inversion. This core exploration that drives the film kept intrigued beyond the character drama.
Initial Stilted Dialogue – Everyone is talking in code at the beginning and I get it, it is a CIA operation but it just came off as stilled as silly. So glad that after the opening they got away from this. After the dialogue isn’t stilted but the opening is somewhat long.
Overlong in Parts – The opening and the final battle could have been cut by 5 minutes and been stronger for it. Both go on a bit longer than they need to and I would have traded it for backstory for Protagonist or more time with Neil and Ives.
Sound Editing – There are times that the sound editing is off. The soundtrack will go almost too electronic and it ruins the flow of some scenes. The soundtrack was still great but the sound editing is a point against it and the overall film. When it should be used to elevate scenes sometimes it was working against them. It never reaches the standard of “The Dark Knight Trilogy” for amazing sound editing.
This is a great, flawed and favorite film. This film made me care about a character who isn’t given a backstory and does a great job with exploring the nature of time and making it work in a spy thriller. Seriously, this film might make my Top 5 films at the end of the year. The elements that make it great far outweigh the flaws of the film.
Final Score: 9.6 / 10 The ending reveal and character arcs won the film for me.