Tenet ★★★★

2020: Ranked

Christopher Nolan: Ranked

Christopher Nolan’s most recent directorial effort and the film that has been the leader of trying to save the box office in possibly the worst cinematic year of all time. Tenet sees a Protagonist (John David Washington) armed with one word ‘Tenet’ and fighting for the survival of the entire world as he journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

Nolan once again presents his knowledge of and interest in time in a unique, thrilling and and times brain scrambling way in this intrigue heavy sci-fi action thriller. Featuring some very original and creatively choreographed action sequences and an excellent cast lineup giving strong performances. However in terms of character depth and development and some jumpy pacing problems the film does falter.

The film is dialogue heavy and does require a lot of concentration as many of the conversations are nearly all essential for helping workout what is occurring and learning more about how time, time manipulation and time structure all work in this universe, though the film does have a line directly stating to the Protagonist - “Don’t attempt to try to understand this.” However that being said for the majority of the film the time elements are explained and presented in an understandable and not too complex fashion. The story does feel slightly choppy at times and there are some very heavy exposition dump moments.

The time shifting sequences make for a myriad of creative and entertaining sequences. From the sheer visual design of the backwards moving vehicles, people, elements and more. Whole scenes play out simultaneously in the past and present, with some of these including backwards dialogue and reversed sound design. The action set pieces are as thrilling and dramatic as expected from Nolan. The epic plane crash stunt and the visceral rewinding and fast forwarding fight scene accompanying it is thrilling. The highway car chase and extraction is a brilliantly choreographed spectacle and the finale is utter chaos of the past and present colliding. In relation to the sound design and alleged difficulty to hear the dialogue I personally didn’t have any problems with it.

Though none of the characters are particularly developed or compelling the cast is an impressive lineup. John David Washington’s Protagonist is a strong and commanding lead who takes everything in his stride when it comes to the time elements. Robert Pattinson is good as his cunning and well spoken accomplice. Though unfortunately her role is mostly getting shouted at by her husband and injured Elizabeth Debicki gives a broken yet courageous performance. Said husband is played by Kenneth Branagh who is scenery chewing and biting in his visceral dislikability. 

Tenet is a time and mind bending blast of fast paced, original action set pieces utilising excellent visual effects and choreography. The cast lineup all deliver great performances, despite not being the most interesting characters and the pacing can feel jumpy at times.

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