Tenet

Tenet ★★★★½

I was nervous going into this because as a big fan of Christopher Nolan's previous work this was one of my most anticipated movies of the year and the chatter had been very mixed. I went in with tempered expectations and they were shattered in every single way. I was completely engaged and at the edge of my seat for every second. This is bold, bonkers, exciting, and deliriously ambitious film-making from a director who I have grown to love more and more with each film he makes.

Christopher Nolan's Tenet is a radical re-invention of the action movie. In a landscape where the action movie has gotten so dull and rote, it's refreshing to see a filmmaker challenge the conventions of what an action sequence can be. We shouldn't watch an action scene with glazed eyes and yawns because we've "seen it all before", it should still excite and that's exactly what Nolan pulls off here. He takes what is essentially the James Bond globe-trotting formula and radicalizes it with originality and a desire to give the audience something new and exciting.

Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker who's ambitiousness gets larger with each successive project. He has complete command of his craft at this point and as an audience member it's exciting to be in the hands of somebody as technically brilliant as him. Christopher Nolan is so known for his big blockbusters that it's easy to take it for granted. There is simply nobody in the industry putting out the kind of work he's doing. There's less visual effects work here than in a Netflix romantic-comedy. He's operating on another level and at this point is just showing off.

Often times you'll see a film with promise that focuses on the worst aspects of it's story and bleeds out the potential of the best parts. This is what Tenet gets so right. It leans into it's most exciting aspects and lets it dictate the movie. You can get sidetracked by trying to follow every single aspect of the plot and trying to nitpick details but that's not the point. As a character says in the movie "don't try to understand it, feel it." That being said the chatter of the movie making no sense is greatly overblown. The story makes perfect sense, the emotional pay-offs and stakes are clear, and just because it's presented in a non-linear fashion doesn't mean it's "confusing." Nolan is asking you to look at time and reality differently. This isn't our world. It's the world of Tenet, just accept it and enjoy the ride.

I greatly enjoyed John David Washington's stoic, hulking interpretation of the spy character. His physicality is incredible and I hope to see him do more big budget work (Green Lantern, anybody?). He's a true action star in the mold of a Tom Cruise. It's refreshing for the filmmaker to not have to cut away to hide it's star or stunt performers, JDW is in the forefront of all the fisticuffs and stunts and the movie is better for it. Equally great is Robert Pattinson who is beginning to prove himself as one of our generation's most talented actors. He can truly do anything as he's shown over the years.

The unstable emotional stakes is what gives this movie a special edge. Elizabeth Debicki's compromised and emotionally explosive relationship with Kenneth Branagh is unsettling, disturbing, and elevates the movie's world-ending stakes in every way. Usually when you watch a spy movie, or a Bond movie specifically, you're left with a a billionaire bad guy who snivels and seemingly has no actual reason to do harm to the world. Branagh's menace hangs over every frame and Debicki's angry and vengeful mother character rises to meet him in equal measure.

Tenet is one of the most exciting action movies to come out in years. Christopher Nolan gets better with each progressive movie he makes. You may enjoy his earlier offerings more but you cannot deny the technical innovation on display here and the sheer mastery of his craft. This is a masterfully made movie that challenges convention and asks it's audiences to abandon faith and logic to go along for the ride. It's a radical sensory experience that always excites with incredible twists, mind-blowing action sequences, and a unfairly maligned sound mix which is truly experimental and exciting. Christopher Nolan has done it again.

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