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‘Tenet’ (review)

Produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson,
Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine,
Kenneth Branagh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Himesh Patel


Save for his Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan’s works can largely be defined by his preoccupation with non-linear timelines and how straying from conventions such as chronological timelines can be utilized to increase the impact of the narrative at hand.

With Tenet, Nolan once again presents viewers with a tale that feels like it could very well take place within the same realm as Inception, all the while not being derivative of his previous works. Instead, Nolan rather draws on his trademark competence and the high production value associated therewith, creating a film that will likely please both his loyal fans, as well as those who are just generally looking for a less conventional action thriller.

Narratively, Nolan stays true to his style by predominantly showing instead of telling, leaving the audience with enough information to not lose track of the various characters’ motivations and where the narrative as a whole is going as the complexity of how the standard and inverted timelines intersect, which ensures that the plot unfolds in a continuously intensifying warping of time with an increasing amount of twists until the credits roll.

The action is hard-hitting and expertly choreographed, establishing John David Washington’s The Protagonist as a skilled operative from the very beginning.

Throughout the film, both the sequences that play out in standard time as well as the mind-bending inverted action sequences manage to impress, especially when standard time and inverted time collides.

In terms of the acting, aside from minor annoyances such as Aaron Taylor-Johnson once again reminding audiences that he cannot do a consistent non-American accent to save his life, the main players all deliver engaging and subdued performances. John David Washington once again proves that he is a magnetic leading man who will undoubtedly continue to grace the silver screen for many years to come, but Kenneth Branagh continuously manages to steal scenes with his subtly menacing portrayal of an antagonist with a god complex.

Impressive as Tenet is, however, it ultimately does not pack the same punch as Nolan’s previous efforts. This is not so much due to sloppy storytelling as it is due to his previous films having a different complexity in the layering of the reality of any given world on display, just as the depth of the characters that inhabit these worlds is usually more nuanced than is the case with Tenet.

Thus, while Tenet starts out strong and swiftly moves through an arguably very convoluted plot, the convolution is not the issue as it is somewhat permissible due to the science fiction aspect of the story.

Instead, the bigger problem is rather that the character development feels neglected after the first act. Similarly, one must also question if the film would have been better served with a shorter runtime since the pacing begins to suffer in the middle of the film, slowing the narrative momentum down to an extent that risks affecting viewer engagement to the point where some viewers may disengage from the film entirely.

Tenet is perhaps not be the best entry in Christopher Nolan’s impressively successful and competently executed filmography, but the standard he has set for his work nonetheless ensures that his latest effort will satisfy fans of the filmmaker, and in a year where we are due to see James Bond try to save the world once more, Tenet may just turn out to be the better tale of covert operatives in a race against time to save the world.

Verdict: 7 out of 10.


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