“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein
The very concept of time is a confusing and complex notion. To contemplate the manipulation of time is even more impossible to fathom, however in the realm of possible it may be. Using time as a tool to progress a story, particularly in film is a genre that has been visited and succeeded in only a small amount of instances in comparison to the total number of attempts period. Back to the Future and Terminator 2 are just a couple of examples of time travel storytelling done right in a lasting, memorable way.
Christopher Nolan has now come along with his catalogue of films where time is often a main motivating factor to his characters’ actions and thus their consequences. As much as Inception is about dreams, the law of time in dream versus reality is a constant antagonist forcing their hand in many moments of dramatic climax. Memento is a jumbling of time and an attempt to once again navigate the line that time as we know it resides on, despite being mentally stunted and emotionally compromised at every turn. Even Dunkirk creates a ticking effect heard throughout the film indicating impending doom or forthcoming salvation and time is most certainly of the essence. And now, in his most Nolan-ish effort to date, he brings us the uber-complex, yet highly engaging espionage thriller, Tenet.
Tenet is everything you hoped and wanted and expected it to be without knowing what in the hell is actually taking place or how and most of the time why it’s happening. It demands your attention without ever talking down to you. Nolan has always respected his audience and knows that eventually we will catch up.
His films have always fascinated me for one main reason and that is the complexity of his stories, elements often found in smaller sci-fi films or even indie efforts, are mixed in a concoction of blockbuster spectacle. And not only does he pull this off with a true eye for detail and scale he convinces the studios to fund these highly original concepts; something Hollyweird is notorious for refusing to do. Remakes, sequels, prequels are not only successful but financially less risky than new properties and yet Nolan has thrived on new, extremely risky ideas. It can’t be understated that his success is due to his win v loss ratio and arguably he has remained in the win column since Memento.
Tenet is without question his most risky and aggressively uncharted effort since Interstellar. At least with Interstellar a pitch could be made in under five minutes if needed whereas now that I’ve seen Tenet I’m still not entirely sure what happened. I can’t imagine the pitch he made to get funding for this one. But I’m glad he did because Tenet, like the majority of his filmography, was a major risk but a definite success at least when it comes to original ideas being fleshed out and shaped into something worthwhile. It sounds like I’ve hit my head when I say I didn’t really understand what I was watching most of the time but somehow I still kept up in a way and was enthralled by the entire journey.
Like carrying the torch passed to him by his father, Tenet star, John David Washington carries this story with absolute confidence and tenacity to both the physical side of his role and the emotional aspect of such a daunting adventure. He is a convincing leading man navigating yet another Nolan extravaganza. Continuing to prove his days of sparkling are well behind him, Robert Pattinson is fantastic as Washington’s trusted confidant and fellow soldier in the fight against world terrorism in a form never before seen by any normal, everyday human. Manipulating everything from the protagonist to time itself, Kenneth Branagh stars as the villain of time and physical dimension as we know it. This is a stellar cast that takes the complexity of the script and makes it breathe life, as if it all could somehow actually happen.
I must say this movie absolutely will benefit from multiple viewings and thankfully it’s entertaining enough and paced brilliantly that two or more watches isn’t such a painful thing. The concepts and rules of this world are insane to hear explained and even crazier to see occur in real world circumstances. The action sequences are repeatedly amazing works of art just on their own as most of what you are witnessing is captured in camera, rarely enhanced or taken over by visual effects. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking as Nolan utilizes IMAX cameras like no one else can in his field of fictional storytelling. His scale and world building implications throughout the story are always immense without ever losing the spirit of its characters and their motivations, even in the most intimate ways he knows when to hold back and when to unleash and Tenet is a true marvel of cinematic achievement.
Is it his best? It’s hard for me to say. I’m leaning toward no but as this is the first in theater movie I’ve seen since March of 2020 it’s about as good as it gets when it comes to finally going back to that coveted movie theater. I had a blast with this movie and have already purchased tickets to see it a second time. I’m a Nolan fanboy, sue me. I will always appreciate his ability to balance storytelling and spectacle that often gets lost or jumbled by other directors with such freedom and lack of budgetary restrictions. Tenet is another check in the win column. If anyone could bring back the magic of cinema, it was Nolan and he achieved it with Tenet.
Rated PG-13 For: intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language
Runtime: 150 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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