Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh
Here’s that rare kind of blockbuster whose concepts seem bigger than its action. There’s plenty of impressive fist fights, car chases, and battle sequences with a forwards-backwards scheme that make them look unlike anything seen at the cinemas before. Yet it is the mechanics of time, in this vaguely futuristic setting, that are astonishing and likely to leave the biggest impact on viewers.
For such an anticipated movie whose publicity has been scarce on divulging many plot details, let’s break it down as simply and with as few spoilers as possible. A specially recruited agent (John David Washington) is tasked alongside Neil (Robert Pattinson) with preventing a nuclear warhead from traveling backwards in time and into the hands of a Russian weaponry criminal (Kenneth Branagh), working through his wife (Elizabeth Debicki) to obtain and establish its safety.
This core story doesn’t have much originality, as give or take the time travel element it could’ve easily been lifted from a James Bond film (particularly one from the 80s). The race against time to save the world from nuclear devastation has certainly been done before, though Tenet beefs up this familiar plot with puzzling and intriguing time dynamics surrounding it. This results in some pretty exciting and fascinating action scenes, though by the film’s finale, this dual-timeline dynamic seems less impressive housed in a fairly drab setting, looking like a multiplayer game for a first person shooter.
Tenet may be a bit too cold, distant, and unemotional for some – there’ll be comparisons made to writer-director Christopher Nolan’s other high-concept blockbusters like Inception, though unlike the depths of reality/fantasy that are at the core of that film, Tenet doesn’t have as much philosophical, emotional or thematic musings to go with its grand central idea. The film moves forward with a ferocity, which is exciting to see, but by the film’s suddenly pithy final scene, the true weight of the film may be felt, and it may be lighter than you thought.
Nolan is doing what Nolan does best, creating a blockbuster spectacle that requires your full attention, with a central conceit that he handles with both seriousness and playfulness. To go along with this for two and a half hours is a brain training joy that’s certainly unlike your average blockbuster.