After five gruelling months, the cinema is finally back, but they’re a much different place since the last time we were there. Due to the unforeseen Covid-19 pandemic, the return of cinemas means less available seats and masks to be worn, and I can understand if people are uncertain about returning to the multi-plex so soon. If anyone was going to get audiences back to the big screen however, it’s mastermind filmmaker Christopher Nolan, the genius behind classics such as Inception, Dunkirk and The Dark Knight Trilogy. His latest,Tenet, was designed to be seen on the biggest screen possible. It won’t be remembered in the same breath as his best work, but it’s nevertheless a thrilling ride and an incredibly uniqueone-of-a-kind mindbender.
The less you know going in the better, but the plot follows The Protagonist (John David Washington, son of Denzel) who journeys around the globe to fight for the survival of the entire world in a mission which will unfold in something beyond real time.
After a pulsating opening sequence, I did struggle to follow the story during the first hour, but as the film progresses it does begin to make more sense and tie together. I have seen the movie twice now and do feel a second viewing is crucial in truly understanding the events that unfold, which foreshadows and ties in with later scenes better than I initially thought. As is the case with pretty much all of Nolan’s work, there are undeniable holes in the plot and logic, but if you can go along with it you are sure to have a good time.
The film is very reminiscent of Nolan’s excellent thriller Inception, but it’s sadly nowhere near as tight or neat. Inception’s explanation scenes were creative and got you thinking (you really don’t remember the beginning to adream) yet here it’s never easy to follow or understand. Nolan even writes in one scene “You don’t have to understand it, you’re meant to feel it” showing that Nolan is either trying too hard to complicate, or he doesn’t care if you understand or not.
Beyond trying to wrap your head around it all, the other issue which many people I know struggled with was the sound mixing. I liked the soundtrack but here it is actually too loud, at times sounding out the dialogue, which will make some viewers struggle even more to follow. Some characters even wear breathing masks which doesn’t help, so if you struggled with Bane in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises then you will be even worse off here.
Despite these issues, there is no denying the film is a marvellous cinematic achievement. What Nolan is able to do here is staggering, seeing the likes of cars, people and explosions all in reverse and the visual effects throughout are jaw-dropping. The action is always enthralling and creativeand it concludes in an outrageous third act which had me on the edge of my seat.
John David Washington makes for a great leading man, with a swagger and charm about him very reminiscent of his father’s early work. Robert Patterson is likable as sidekick Neil, as is Elizabeth Debicki as Kat who has a much bigger role to play than I originally expected. Kenneth Branagh convinces as Russian antagonist Andrei Sator, but will not be remembered as one of Nolan’s better villains.
It can be difficult at times to understand or follow, but I really enjoyed this movie and was refreshing to see such an original concept in today’s market of superheroes and sequels. Nolan continues his fine run as a filmmaker, but it’s not quite the home run I was hoping for.
Verdict: A spy movie like no other, Tenet is creative, unique and often exhilarating lead by a game John David Washington. Enjoy the ride.
Best Moment: Blowing up a building forwards and backwards in time.