Updated: Sep 22, 2021
If there is one filmmaker who is an innovator to his craft it would be none other than Christopher Nolan. For over a decade the acclaimed filmmaker has made some of the most memorable blockbusters (not to mention some of my favorite films) like Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy, and each of his films bring a sense of style to their respected genres. Now Nolan is back with a new twist filled blockbuster by the name of Tenet. Much like Inception, Tenet takes a known genre like spy movies and blends with a surreal concept such as time travel. Originally the movie was supposed to be released in July, just in time for the tenth anniversary of Inception, but the global closure of theaters prevented it from making its that date and so the film was move to start the fall season. Regardless of when the film came out, seeing what Nolan had in store for Tenet was enough for me to check out this blockbuster-and the movie did not disappoint.
The plot centers on a CIA agent (John David Washington) who is enlisted in a group known as Tenet. Along with his handler Neal (Robert Pattinson), the protagonist is tasked to stop arms dealer Andre Sator (Kenneth Branagh) whose manipulation of the timestream could bring an end to all of existence. The plot of Tenet was as engaging as it was ambitious. At its core the story was a tale of espionage, and this factor was able to give the plot plenty to twists as well as create a gritty atmosphere to this world of spies. Along with the spy element was the concept of time travel which had an ambitious execution. Time travel is nothing new to movies but it tends to be an interesting concept to interpret-and Tenet was no different. The story used the concept in a way that was both thematic and investing, but this was not to say that this element was executed effectively. While the idea was engaging it could be hard to follow in places as its delivery could be confusing-although I think some of the confusion was intentional. Despite this the story was exciting from beginning to end as the turns this surreal tale took had me constantly on my toes-and that (on most occasions) is the best kind of story that movie can tell.
Tenet’s cast was impressive to say the least especially when it came to performances. John David Washington brought a lot of charisma as the film’s protagonist who, despite not having much development, captured the right aspects of a super spy. Equally as impressive was Robert Pattinson as Neal. Along with having as much charm as his partner, there was a mystique to Neal that kept me pondering just what his role really was in this film. Elizabeth Debicki also had a standout performance as Andre’s estranged wife Kat. Kat brought a sense of practicality to the cast as her conflict was easy enough to relate to. Last and certainly not least was Kenneth Branagh as Andre. The villainous arms dealer was a stronger antagonist than I expected, and this was thanks to Branagh’s performance whose demeanor balanced the subtlety and viciousness of the character. Rounding out the cast was performances from the likes of Aaron Taylor Johnson, Dimple Kapadia and Michael Caine which brought plenty of support to this stellar ensemble.
When it comes aspects like cinematography and music, Tenet was a spectacle to behold. From the practical cinematography to the gripping use of sound, the movie’s spectacle was delivered to near perfection; and these aspects were detrimental in the execution of the action. The action was nothing short of impressive as the likes of chase sequences were thrilling and the fight choreography was dynamic by incorporating the inverse concept in a stylish manner. Finally, there was the music. Usually the music for Christopher Nolan is handled by Hans Zimmer, but in the case of Tenet the score was conducted by Ludwig Goransson. Despite Zimmer’s absence, the music by Goransson felt right at home as it not only felt reminiscent to Han’s style but also lived up to the film’s concepts to the point where the music felt like its own character.
Like many of Nolan’s work, Tenet was an experience to behold. While it could be too ambitious with its ideas, the film’s execution made all the difference in the world. From the keen storytelling to the immersive spectacle, this movie brought something new both spy movies and the sci-fi genre. I cannot say just where Tenet stacks up with resume of Christopher Nolan, but what I will say is that this surreal blockbuster lives up the filmmaker’s name and is without a doubt one of the best films of the year.