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‘Tenet’ Review – A Fine Spectacle Film Lacking in Character Development

Get ready to be confused because Christopher Nolan is back, and this time, time itself is the main character in Tenet.

Originally scheduled for release in July of 2020, the $200 million blockbuster was postponed until August of the same year. With cinemas taking a huge hit in numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a risky move by Warner Bros to cave to Nolan’s demands for Tenet to be a theatrical release. However, after watching this movie, it’s easy to see why a theatre is the best way to experience this film for the first time.

Tenet is as bold as it gets from a boundary-pushing filmmaker. The concept of ‘inversion’ (or time travel) leaves you excited for the story to come with the potential for a spectacular display. Unfortunately, the way the movie is structured doesn’t explain much of anything in any thought-provoking way, instead opting for some truly lavish and indulgent exposition scenes that themselves are drowned out by garish audio that plagues the entire movie.

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To say this movie is loud would be a huge understatement. As mentioned before, the movie absolutely requires you to be in the biggest theatre with the best speakers, because your ears and eyes will ring at some of the truly magnificent work at play here. Notable examples are a truly amazing road heist scene with an incredible piece of music (composed by Nolan’s ‘Zimmer’ backup, Ludwig Goransson), a climax that includes a building simultaneously blowing up and reassembling itself, and a brilliant series of stunts involving people fighting ‘inverted’ people down a hallway.

The characters in Tenet are its true low point. Not once do we know the main character’s name, goals, fears, or aspirations, and therefore we do not ​care ​about him. John David Washington does a fine job with the material, but his performance is wasted on a script that doesn’t care to give him anything to do. Robert Pattinson has more going on, but like Washington’s “Protagonist” he’s a hollow character with nothing going on emotionally.

Tenet is a fine spectacle film with some great technical aspects, but it lacks any true emotional depth, instead opting to win you over with the amazing production. It’s definitely on the lower end of Nolan’s filmography but even saying that means you’re in for a filmgoing experience like no other (though watching it at home with subtitles may also be beneficial).

Fun Fact:

The production team purchased and then crashed a real 747 airplane into a hangar. The stunt was all practical effects, with no visual effects or CGI. Director Christopher Nolan had originally planned to use miniatures and set-piece builds; however, while scouting for locations in Victorville, California, the team discovered a massive array of old planes and it became apparent that it would actually be more efficient to buy a real plane of the real size, and perform the sequence for real on camera.

Tenet
Story
60
Characters
50
Performances
75
Direction
75
Entertainment Value
65
Directed By
Christopher Nolan
Starring
John David Washington
Robert Pattinson
Kenneth Branagh
Elizabeth Debicki
Himesh Patel
Michael Caine
65

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About author
A film student from Ireland who is going to make films of my own in the future. Deserted Island film collection: Rocky 1-5, Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy, La Haine, Midnight in Paris, Jaws, and Cast Away (for inspiration). Best movie snack: Popcorn with Maltesers in the tub, sided with some overpriced theatre sprite.
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