Movie Review – Tenet

            Well…it’s certainly been awhile. A lot has happened in our world since the last time I was able to share with you all a good ole’ movie review. Honestly, I refused to write any reviews until I was able to have that authentic feeling of sitting in an actual movie theater again. Six months after the Covid-19 pandemic began (that sounds like the beginning of a movie in itself), I found myself finally being able to go back to the movies. With that being said, Tenet is the best movie to welcome not just me, but all of us back to the movies.

So let’s get back to business. For those who have been clamoring for famed director Chris Nolan to get a shot at directing a Bond movie – you (sorta) just got your wish. Tenet is a two-and-a-half hour thrill ride that rivals Bond films of the past, but with a heavy dose of those Nolan mind games that his fans know and love. Every minute of the film is needed and absorbed by the audience, as the 150-minute experience becomes just a memory before you realize how long you’ve been sitting there watching.

            Tenet is the 11th feature film that Nolan has written and directed. Like many of his prior films, Nolan’s projects come with heavy fanfare and high expectations. They have yet to disappoint, and Tenet follows suit. In addition, as if the pressure of living up to its predecessors isn’t enough, Tenet is going to serve as a litmus test to the rest of the industry in terms of box-office sales during a pandemic. This is the first “blockbuster” film to be released in theaters since the Covid-19 outbreak began back in March, so if this movie somehow fails to meet its earnings expectations, then it could lead to other big films pulling the plug on any theatrical release prior to the pandemic coming to an end.

As far as the actual film goes, Tenet stars John David Washington as “The Protagonist,” a covert CIA operative. We don’t know much about him or his backstory, but I believe that’s the way it was intended. There is still plenty of meat on that bone for us to munch on in the future – but more on that shortly. He is recruited into a program called Tenet, which is a highly-classified group that works with time manipulation. It isn’t quite time travel, but rather time inversion – where events are able to be played out in reverse time in order to save lives and prevent catastrophes.

            The Protagonist is partnered up with Neil, played by Robert Pattinson, and they work together to defeat Andrei (Kenneth Branagh), a wealthy, powerful man who is believed to be manipulating time for all the wrong reasons, mainly being global annihilation.

Tenet: Christopher Nolan Didn't Show Films That Inspired Him to Cast |  IndieWire
Robert Pattinson (left) and John David Washington (right) make quite the dynamic duo in Tenet.

            That’s basically the high-level synopsis of the film, but there are so many spoilers that I can’t write about that further elaborate on the deeply tangled story-line and plot twists. This is the kind of movie I could write pages about, but I fear it would compromise your movie-watching experience if I said too much. Like The Protagonist, this is the kind of film where it’s best to not know too much about from the beginning and learn as you go. Like other Nolan films, I would highly recommend seeing Tenet twice to fully grasp what you saw in the past during your first viewing. I definitely will be going back to see it again.

            John David Washington does a solid job as the star of the film, but I honestly think they could have casted the role better. Although I believe he is a good actor, I wasn’t fully sold on him in this specific role. I also thought his on-screen chemistry with Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) was strange. Was she a love interest? Will she evolve into that? Why did he care so much about her? I found it a little odd.

Another critique I have of the movie is the fact that as much as I enjoyed Tenet, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching an Inception continuation of some sort. It felt at times like Nolan followed the exact same plot template. Both movies are about men fighting against time. Both utilize some sort of manipulation as the unseen antagonist (Tenet with the time inversion through the secret agency, while Inception had dream manipulation). While Tenet focuses on characters on a boat closing a time gap, Inception used the falling van crashing into the water. Both films involve main characters trying to save and be reunited with their children. Ironically, in the same way that The Protagonist learned how to revert back in time, Inception felt like a past version of Tenet. Now, the question becomes – is it? Yes, there are conspiracy theories out there linking the two films, but that’s another conversation for another day.

            Earlier, I mentioned how there was meat on the bone still when it came to learning more about The Protagonist. Because of that, I am hoping Nolan develops Tenet as a trilogy. There are so many different angles that can be explored with these characters and this storyline, and the way the film develops and ultimately ends, I can totally see that being the direction Nolan goes.

All in all, Tenet is a really good movie. In fact, the multiple similarities to Inception were frustrating to me and were the sole reason why I rated this movie where I did. With that said, if you love the cerebral brilliance of Inception, the non-stop action of Terminator 2:Judgment Day, and the visual beauty of the James Bond films, then you’ll agree with me that Tenet is a must-see.  


OSCAR SCALE: 7/10 (Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Original Score, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography)