TENET Movie Review
Updated: May 5
TENET was directed by Christopher Nolan (Inception) and stars John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman), Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), and Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). The film centers around Washington's character named "Protagonist" who goes on a mission to uncover the people behind a machine from the future, which has the capability of bending time, in an attempt to prevent World War III.
TENET's biggest strengths lay in its action and direction. Naturally, the concept of having time move simultaneously forward, as well as in reverse, opens up numerous possibilities for psychedelic fight scenes, and Nolan does a great job at using that to create moves that better explain the physics of the time-bending technology. Another surprising aspect was the humor laid throughout the movie. There were only about three or four, but they were all very well-written "laugh out loud" moments. On top of that, Ludwig Göransson's score is beautiful and suits the tone of the movie perfectly.
Washington and Pattinson shine as "The Protagonist" and Neil. They share great chemistry and show real emotion. Washington does a spectacular job subtly conveying his character's confusion surrounding the situation, and Pattinson plays the role of the mysterious character very well. Additionally, Debicki does a great job of showing the struggle of Kat, and she shows real growth in her arc. The actors themselves deserve some credit, since they are the sole source of character development, considering the dialogue doesn't do much of that until the very end.
Unfortunately, a major flaw of TENET is the sound mixing. Whether the choice not to record ADR was affected by the pandemic or not is unknown, but a large part of the film's dialogue is obstructed by background noise and muffled audio. Not only does it take the viewer out of the experience, but it also makes it difficult to grasp the full plot, which is especially important with a story like TENET.
Speaking of the story, that's where another major flaw rears its head. There's a difference between deciphering a story in bits as a film progresses, and needing a flow chart to understand the sequence of events. The downfall of TENET was that it chose to do the latter. Nolan shrouds the plot in mystery up until the second act, which leaves the viewer confused throughout the entirety of the extremely long first act. By the end, the time inversion mechanism becomes far too difficult to follow accurately and you're left puzzled as to what exactly you just watched. That said, the conclusion of the film is a satisfying payoff to the mental journey you've just embarked on. This is the kind of movie that would lend itself well to multiple rewatches, as with enough piecing together, the story becomes more coherent and interesting. Sadly, it's difficult to fully enjoy on first viewing.
Overall, TENET is a flawed, convoluted movie with great action and an interesting concept, that only comes together after close analysis.
Worth a Watch?: Yes