Film Review: Tenet

Don’t worry about trying to understand why – just how. It doesn’t have to make sense because it’s already happened and you’ve already understood it..ti dootsrednu ydaerla ev’uoy dna deneppah ydaerla s’ti esuaceb esnes ekam ot evah t’nseod tI .woh tsuj – yhw dnatsrednu ot gniyrt tuoba yrrow t’noD

Tenet

The Synopsis
So here’s the gist of it. A former CIA operative, who we know only as Protagonist (John David Washington) has been selected to stop World War III. He doesn’t know much about the threat to humanities survival, only a code word and gesture he can use to infiltrate certain circles to discover more: Tenet.

At the epicentre of the worlds oncoming doom is Andrei Sator, (Kenneth Branagh) a Russian Oligarch who can communicate with the future and change the entropy of bullets by inventing them. Basically meaning they now work backwards, better yet they travel backwards in time simultaneously with a world moving forwards.

Things start to feel like they’re moving in reverse until Protagonist realises if he wants to stop Andrei, thinking linearly isn’t going to cut it.

Tenet

The Good
Despite the generic core of the movie (save the world or else) Tenet was incredibly unique. Heck, yes it was essentially a time travel movie – but I’ve never seen it done like this before. The bar has officially been raised for how we depict the idea of manipulating time.

I enjoyed the performances of John David Washington as Protagonist, Robert Pattinson’s Neil and their relationship, but the round of applause goes to Kenneth Branagh and his depiction of antagonist Andrei. Cold, cruel and with an acute knowledge of what the hell was going on and manipulating it to his advantage – he was the one to watch.

Also, a cheeky special mention to Aaron Taylor-Johnson who was looking and sounding especially appealing as military commander Ives.

There was a lot about this movie I was able to either keep pace with or piece together because I’ve seen similar techniques and troupes take place before. I’m not pretending that I didn’t have my fair share of ‘Huh?!‘ moments watching Tenet but despite the ebbing headache if I deep it too much – I enjoyed the experience.

Tenet

The Bad
Coming off the back of my last point above a major downside to note right now, is that if this is your first dive into the world of mind-bending, timey-wimey, blurred reality etc media – you’ll spend more time baffled than not.

One of my main irritations within the movie was the depiction and treatment of Andrei’s wife Kat, who is played by Elizabeth Debicki. All we hear her talk about is her son, which is fair enough except for the fact it is her entire personality. Sure she also hates her husband which drives her motives towards the end of the movie, but overall I found her character most lacking in substance. A shame as she was the female with the most screen time.

I don’t know what Nolan was going for with the transition shots but I found it both odd and another thing I had to be on high alert for. Protagonist would go from, say being in Oslo, to the next shot being of him walking up the steps in Italy. It happened time and time again – to the point I lose track of where he is across the globe and have no idea why he’s there until I see who he’s talking too.

I love time travel related movies, books, television series’ etc, but a point one of my cinema companions made that has stuck with me is this; It felt too confusing for no reason. I was loathed to agree – at least to a point. I think trying to rationalise the workings of the world left for a few holes in the story throughout, and forced things that could have been explained in a simplified manor, to match the level of complexity as the circumstances around it.

At the beginning we’re told not to even bother trying to understand the movie which I found a major cop-out; Don’t worry that it doesn’t make sense, we decided it doesn’t have too because we can’t explain it either.

During the general explanation of inversion and entropy I was sat up straight trying to take it all in, so were my cinema companions. As soon as that line was delivered we simultaneously deflated and sat back. Perhaps it was just a throwaway line that meant nothing – but I doubt it. It partially dismisses the audiences’ intelligence in wanting too and attempting to make heads and tails of the story.

Tenet is undoubtedly a movie that will make sense the more you watch it, and one that you could also grow to love even if you don’t like it the first time around. However, we typically judge a movie based on that solitary first experience which means it could go either way in regards to enjoyment for a lot of people.

Tenet

The Conclusion
I wasn’t mad that they kept the core of the movie incredibly basic; stop WWIII. It’s the basis of many movies but there was no reason to make the fundamentals of Tenet complicated – the entire concept did that for us.

Personally, I like a movie that keeps you thinking long after the credits. It’s only been a day but I have been hit with a few waves of crashing realisations over certain actions that took place in the movie. I might not have understood it when I was watching it, but it clicked later on.

Talking about, internally mulling over and analysing is part of the film experience that we don’t always get a chance to revel in, and I believe hightens your connection with a movie overall.

So often we watch a movie, maybe rate it/write a review and then move on to the next. It’s a refreshing change to have one sit with you for a little while longer, whether that is because you loved it, or you hated it.

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