Mild spoilers ahead!

Written and directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy

Synopsis (IMDB): Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

Julian’s review:

Hello, Internet, I am back again with another movie review. I gave myself a couple of weeks of desensitizing myself from Tenet, a weird, yet intellectually made movie from the director of The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and the most mind-warping movie Interstellar, Christopher Nolan.

The auteur director’s latest project confused the heck out of everyone with the action going forward and in reverse. As awfully weird the idea is, I am game for it. Now to talk to you about how complex this movie is.

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet (Warner Bros.)
John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet (Warner Bros.)

Tenet, starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Clémence Poésy and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a cold war story. However, it’s a cold war story involving time inversion. Hearing myself say the words “time inversion” makes me wonder if this is a pseudo-sequel to Inception. Anyhow, Washington is a man who goes by the name of the Protagonist, a CIA agent on a mission to prevent World War III from forces using time inversion to enact global catastrophe. It’s a simple plot included with the signature Christopher Nolan intellectualisms displayed on screen. This movie made me feel like I am back in college having a required 3-hour course on physics in a good way. The movie is 2 hours and 30 minutes of epic set pieces, complex explanations, and excellent visuals. These elements are great, but they can feel a bit tiring. Not how Zack Snyder’s Justice League made me feel tired in an agitated way and feel unfinished, but a good tiring where the story does have a happy conclusion.

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Washington was great as the Protagonist, and Pattinson as Neil, the Protagonist’s handler, also excelled in his pre-The Batman role. I think this role and every other serious role Pattinson has done erases Pattinson’s time in Twilight out of the picture. Debicki did a good job in the role of Katrine “Kat” Barton, a woman in a toxic relationship with her husband, Branagh’s Andrei Sator (who was also great in this film). Dimple Kapadia had a complex role as arms trafficker Priya Singh, but she also acted well in the role. Lastly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson who shows up midway in the movie as military commander Ives, and Clémence Poésy, who plays scientist Barbara, did good for the small screen time they had.

The dialogue is good on its own, but do not try to wrap your head around it. Barbara tells the Protagonist, and in turn, the audience, “do not try to understand it, feel it.” That character is correct because most of the time, I barely understand what was happening in this movie. When I watched Inception, I understood the concept of the characters’ heists within dreams. As much of a headache as Interstellar was, the weird concept of how love within a time paradox can help humanity colonize to other planets still made some semblance of sense within the story’s logic. Dunkirk was a film showcasing three different sides of rescuing British soldiers—also understandable. Tenet, on the other hand, is the movie where anything goes and you just hope the main characters can save the day regardless of how impressively weird the plot is.

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John David Washington in Tenet (Warner Bros.)
John David Washington in Tenet (Warner Bros.)

Tenet is a movie where you do have to re-watch over and over again to fully appreciate the movie’s subtext and how great the movie actually is. While it’s runtime will somewhat bog down the pacing in certain areas, you can not help but to appreciate how great the visuals are when characters are going in reverse. While simple, the plot does feel like an ‘80s cold war James Bond movie that works well within its own right. I wonder what Christopher Nolan will think of next. Maybe a film collaboration with Denis Villenueve in the future, perhaps?

Rating: 8/10

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*Julian Jones is a sociology student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. When he’s not studying or watching films, he’s practicing for his next performance with the UAB Chamber Singers. Let him know what you thought of his review by leaving him a comment below!

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