No matter what you think of ‘Tenet’, one thing is undeniable: Christopher Nolan’s movie is unequivocally his.
It has a budget only Christopher Nolan can get using an original screenplay – even Martin Scorcese had issues getting funding for ‘Irishman’ – and it contains a time-manipulating plot only Christopher Nolan is known for.
‘Tenet’ wastes no time getting into the action, dropping us right in the middle of an attack, very reminiscent of the opening scene from “The Dark Knight”.
One of the agents sent to stop the assault is John David Washington (known only in this movie as ‘The Protagonist’). He gets captured by the enemy, tortured, and ends up taking a suicide cyanide capsule.
He miraculously survives, and he’s soon given a top-secret assignment that involves a new technology that’s able to manipulate time, commonly referred to in the movie as “inversion”.
The assignment, more specifically, is to stop a Russian arms dealer named Andrei (Kenneth Branagh), who has been using inversion for his own villainous gains, and gets the assistance of a mysterious partner named Neil (played handsomely by Robert Pattinson).
To get closer to his target, The Protagonist uses Andre’s wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), who hates her husband but is essentially being forced into staying with him, or else she’ll lose her son.
If this sounds like a plot from a James Bond movie, it’s because it basically is. Except without the charisma.
That’s the basic plot of ‘Tenet’ and any further explanation would only serve to confuse you.
This movie is exposition-heavy, but even with all that exposition, we’re still left with only a somewhat understanding of what exactly is going on.
There’s a line in the movie which a character utters, “Don’t understand it, feel it”, and I really think Mr. Nolan should take his own advice.
In the vain of other Nolan movies like ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’, and ‘Inception’, multiple viewings will be needed to truly decipher the meaning of it all. Problem is, those previously mentioned movies were not only technically magnificent, but connected you emotionally to the characters.
We know less about The Protagonist than we do about James Bond (at least James Bond has a name), and even though I think James David Washington is a solid actor, he was not quite ready to carry a film of this magnitude.
To say ‘Tenet’ is a difficult movie to emotionally engage with would be an understatement. It doesn’t take away from the visual spectacle of the movie though, and action junkies will certainly be pleased. Charlie Kaufman on the other hand, would not.
Still, I applaud Christopher Nolan for consistently creating a sophisticated action movie – a genre growing increasingly rare thanks to Mark Wahlberg & Vin Diesel, and even the basic action sequences are sensational.
I just wished he spent less time on the exposition, and more on the characters.