Tenet is the first truly major release since cinemas reopened having closed in March due to COVID 19. Obviously first and foremost don’t go to the cinema if there are still a high number of cases in your area or you feel in any way unsafe, and when you do wear a mask. But as cases in my area are very low I went along to watch the latest Christopher Nolan film on the biggest screen possible.
It is nearly impossible to talk about the story of Tenet in even the broadest terms without giving away spoilers, as the trailers for the film have given almost nothing away, and it is best to go into Tenet knowing as little as possible. The film stars John David Washington as an unnamed protagonist who begins investigating a strange phenomenon which leads into a twisting and globe trotting journey. Much of the discussion around the film seems to be focused on how confusing or mind bending the film is. For me, much like with Inception, the complaints about a confusing plot have been much exaggerated due to some of the more specific and technical details of various action sequences. I’m sure these nitty gritty details are things that Nolan worked out exactly, but I didn’t feel the need to dissect every moment of the film, instead being content knowing how they fitted into the wider story of Tenet.
And whilst it might make for some bewildering action sequences in the film the inverted aspect of Tenet also makes them stunning in their composition. But whilst there are a number of exceptional and memorable action sequences that use the inverted conceit at the heart of the film, it is the opening sequence that really blew me away. It was such an exhilarating and attention grabbing action sequence that pulled me straight into the film that it really made me wish that Nolan would direct a more conventional action thriller. I do enjoy when he makes these films with grander ideas, like this and Inception, but the opening sequence sold me on the idea of Nolan making something like a Bond film.
I also loved the central three performances. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson make a great central duo, with Pattinson adding a lot of dry wit to the film that injects a good amount of the humour in the film, something that is probably needed. His character reminds me a little of Tom Hardy’s character in Inception in that way. Elizabeth Debicki is also great, she brings some humanity to the film, offering a character that really gives us something to care about. Kenneth Branagh however was the one person in the film who was a little off putting at times, he went far too big with his performance quite a few times in the film, and that really made his character feel a little laughable rather than intimidating.
The most frustrating thing in Tenet though is how it carries over some of the problems from Nolan’s other films, particularly Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises, although thankfully I think the final act was better than in either of those. The problems were mostly around dialogue being hard to hear at times. I loved Ludwig Göransson’s score, but there were definitely moments where the sound levels of it and the dialogue was off, with the score being a little overbearing. Similarly there was an issue with the character’s dialogue being muffled by masks are several points, including some pretty key dialogue, much like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.
However this wasn’t the norm in the film, so didn’t detract from my enjoyment too much. Whilst it might not quite reach the heights of Nolan’s best work (The Prestige, Inception, and The Dark Knight) Tenet was still one hell of a ride, and definitely a film I would like to revisit again to see exactly how everything fits as it goes along.