“We live in a twilight world, and there are no friends at dusk.”
To say that Christopher Nolan’s new film “TENET,” was confusing is an understatement. Does that mean this is particularly a bad thing? No. It is everything a Nolan film is supposed to be, and much more.
The Protagonist, John David Washington, the prodigal son of Denzel, is an operative in an unnamed special ops corps until one of his missions goes sideways, leaving everyone dead except for a select few. Among those few are Robert Pattinson’s character Neil and Elizabeth Debicki’s starring as Kat. He is tasked to stop a hundred-year-old plot to save the people of the future by destroying the Protagonist’s present through a method of temporal augmentation that allows any person or object to move backwards in time at the same rate that it moves forward.
Christopher Nolan’s fare usually include bombastic action sequences, confounding warps of time and flashy practical effects. “TENET” has all of these in spades. Ever since his explosion into the minds of the film, starting withgoing public with his Batman trilogy, he has been allowed by the big studios to make as big and as ambitious of a film as he pleases. This has paid for itself in both the quality of films and box offices everywhere. It is almost a shame this film has to basically carry the entire movie theater industry by itself in the age of Corona.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
At the root of the whole story is a gimmick. This gimmick, however, is probably one of the best executed gimmicks in all of film. A gimmick that can only be executed in a film that cannot otherwise be properly experienced in a book, nor explained in just one television episode. Finding a character in a fistfight with a version of himself in the future, but in reverse, is one of the strangest experiences one could possibly witness in a movie theater.
Once the characters find themselves inverted halfway through the film, the effects are difficult to explain. It is almost a dip into the uncanny valley where everything looks normal on the surface, but on further inspection, is just a bit off, especially with the big firefight at the end.
Even outside of the inversions, most of the practical effects are spectacular, especially the Oslo art heist toward the beginning, where the Protagonist’s crew crashes through the front of a real structure with a real Boeing 747. All of the effects that can be real and on camera and have most likely happened in real life is the most incredible during the regular car or reverse car chases.
The characters in this film, much like most of Nolan’s non-Batman characters, tend to come off as cold. The main character doesn’t even have a known name. Some will say that it makes it difficult to relate to a guy that does not have a name, but the film presents itself in a way that the protagonist doesn’t really need a name. With the amount of stuff going on in the film, all of the background information we could find out about the protagonist’s backstory would most likely muddle the massive amount of information that the film already has. The film establishes that he has something of a moral code, that he won’t leave a man behind, and that is enough characterization the film really needs for him.
“TENET” is probably one of, if not the, smartest films Christopher Nolan has made so far. A film that stands at a staggering two and a half hours, but somehow feels more like an hour and a half. It makes it all the better for the almost certain fact that one has to watch at least three or four times to understand in its entirety. Mind-bending, action-packed, a film that really makes one think. If that is what you are looking for in a movie, then this is the film for you.