Resisting myself from any content that got published post the August 2020 release of Christopher Nolan’s latest film Tenet was indeed a tough task. And watching the movie finally on the big screen indeed gave me the brain exercise I was anticipating. Unlike the other films he has made, which manipulates the viewer into investing in the hypothesis behind the idea, Tenet felt more like a movie that just shows the whole concept’s tip and then leaves the audience to do a lot of permutations post the viewing experience.

A CIA agent is our central character. We are shown an opera house attack at the beginning of the movie in which our central character fails in his mission. He tries to kill himself and ends up being a part of a larger mission. I don’t wish to get into the story’s details as it may spoil it for you. The task is basically to prevent something of the scale of a third world war from happening, and the tool here is this inverted time-traveling concept (Complex for me to explain even if I want to spoil it for you). This mission’s complexities and how exactly this time inversion strategy works is what we see in Tenet.

Yes. Much like any other Christopher Nolan movie, this one is also a cerebral exercise. In some ways, this one is a thematic amalgamation of movies like Interstellar and Inception, where you see characters trying to use the medium of time for emotional manipulation. But one thing I felt different from Nolan’s usual narrative pattern was that he wasn’t really trying to explain the whole thing in the beginning. Yes, there is a moment in the film’s initial phase where a scientist explains the entire concept to our protagonist. But it felt more like a peripheral brief. And the sequences that follow it are happening at a rapid pace that you would feel like hitting the pause button while sitting in the theatre (Lockdown after effects). But the pace sort of drops as the movie navigates towards its end, and now when I think of it, I think Nolan made his script go through the temporal pincer.

John David Washington balances the cluelessness and the stubbornness of his character very neatly. The movie is narrated in a way that we are exploring the concept through his eyes, and it is not a super agent cool ride. Robert Pattinson as Neil is that level headed handler character. In terms of performance, the character isn’t offering a broad spectrum for Pattinson to perform. Still, a gradual aura is generated around that character, and Pattinson was able to add grace to that depiction. Elizabeth Debicki, as Kat, has the most eventful character in the movie, in my opinion. You get to see the various dimensions of that character through the entire narrative, and Debicki was able to bring life to that character’s struggle. Kenneth Branagh, as Andrei Sator, was a convincing antagonist with depth in characterization. Sator has multiple moments in the movie where he goes through drastic shifts emotionally, and Branagh portrays those moments without making it look loud on screen.

For Tenet, Christopher Nolan had made two significant changes from his usual team. Instead of Hans Zimmer, you have Ludwig Goransson, and instead of Lee Smith, we get to see the cuts made by Jennifer Lame. I am mentioning these names here because they clearly brought a visual change to how a Christopher Nolan movie is generally made. As I said, it has these story elements that will remind you of the movies that were made by Nolan in the past. But the fast-paced parallel cuts and the background scores of different texture gives Tenet a sense of freshness. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography uses the chaotic style extensively. Visual cues are given to the audience subconsciously through the colors we see in the visuals. Even the 180-degree rule-breaking is happening to convey the inversion phenomena.

Tenet began like an idea that was only surfing through the glossy periphery of a concept. But, as the movie ended, I found myself thinking about the future and past of most of the supporting characters. In his usual skillful way, Nolan manages to showcase the grandeur of the concept to the viewer rather than focusing utterly on the visual scale of things.

Final Thoughts

In his usual skillful way, Nolan manages to showcase the grandeur of the concept to the viewer rather than focusing utterly on the visual scale of things.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.