Tenet

Tenet ★★★★½

At least in the UK, Christopher Nolan has become one of the very few celebrity directors. While even names like Scorsese and Fincher won’t have my less film-y friends rushing to the cinemas, Nolan, along with Tarantino and just about nobody else, will. Like Tarantino, Nolan has developed a highly idiosyncratic style of film that, building on the reputation of early masterpieces, allows him to churn out something similar every couple of years to a huge box office return. Also like Tarantino, his latest film seems to be the one that appears to be the *most* him. Tenet is undeniably a Nolan film; fiddling with the concept of time, putting a beautiful wife and her child in danger, having huge, impressive set pieces, and feeding Michael Caine’s family. 

While I think the level to which Tenet is taken from Nolan’s previous successes should be classed as a fault, I am actually surprised by the luke-warm reception that it has received on here. There isn’t the love and imagination in here that Nolan found in what I see to be his masterpieces - Interstellar and Dunkirk - but that seems to be by design. Tenet is a straight up, cold, action-heavy, espionage thriller. There have been waves of comments that this is what a Nolan Bond movie would look like, and it’s not too far off. While the most common of the complaints are about the complexity of the plot and the difficulty to understand dialogue, I didn’t find myself having much of a problem with either. 

As far as the plot goes, it is extremely high-concept, and takes about an hour and a half to allow you to grasp the whole deal with inverse time. By then, we’ve already seen huge, incredible action set-pieces. The great thing is, that once the inverse time comes in, we get to see them again, with the unexplained from before making much more sense, and reveals that made me grin from ear-to-ear as I made sense of the events that have already unfolded. While this is one of the earliest films to return to cinemas, it really is the perfect beast. The action is huge, loud and relentless, the story is fast-paced and thrilling. This really is one of the greatest espionage thrillers ever made. 

So it really does seem strange to suggest that Tenet isn’t quite as smart as people wanted it to be. The basics of its plot are simple to grasp, and once you’ve got a basic idea of what’s going on, seeing it unfold is spectacular. Washington, Pattinson and Debecki all give incredible performances, supported by Kenneth Branagh’s maniacal Russian villain, and a super macho soldier type played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. It is no surprise that Nolan wanted Tenet to appear exclusively on the big-screen, because it’s a real cinema experience. Loved it.

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