Movie Review: Tenet

Tenet –

“What the hell happened here?”… “Hasn’t happened yet.”

– Robert Pattinson as Neil and John David Washington as The Protagonist

By Cain Dennis

Tenet is a film by Christopher Nolan. That sentence may even say more than I can about this film, Christopher Nolan’s nearly incomprehensible script and ridiculously entertaining techniques in crafting this film are the star just as much as any actor featuring in it. Of all of his films, Tenet is the most his filmmaking method come to life. Continuity and understanding be damned, “Tenet” isn’t looking to comfort moviegoers with its story, but its visual spectacle and incredible action most likely will.

After months of delays, Tenet is finally releasing in theaters on September 3rd, 2020, I was fortunately in a market that was able to have early preview screenings of this new, time bending film. In “Tenet” Time takes center stage, and Christopher Nolan’s direction in the action scenes is impeccable, giving us great set pieces, but the characters and story kind of suffer a bit. When it comes to characters, John David Washington serves as The Protagonist, and Robert Pattinson is Neil, and they work together as operatives through a world in which time flows forwards and backwards, fighting against threats in the present and future all at once. While they aren’t as strong of characters as some of Nolan’s, namely “Inception”s Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and “Interstellar”s Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), they serve this story well and have good chemistry together in “Tenet”. A Christopher Nolan staple, Michael Caine also appears. Elizabeth Debicki is stunning as Kat, while her character’s motivations don’t go far beyond wanting to protect her son from her abusive husband, Andrei Sarto (Kenneth Branagh) she brings a vitality to her role that could have been lifeless with a lesser actress in her place. When “Tenet” begins, we are greeted by a cacophonous scene not completely unfamiliar to viewers who have seen its trailers, in an opera house, and we are quickly ushered through a couple different settings until we learn of The Protagonist’s mission through time. He enters his mission very quickly and we are sent on our way along with our cast of characters as they try to “Prevent World War III”. “Tenet” is honestly a very difficult film to follow. We are given many details throughout the runtime of this film, but the sound design makes it hard to hear what is being said at many times during the film, some instances of background music and sounds are even played over what our main characters are saying, making it very hard to follow what is going on, when we get to a set piece at an airport, viewers are confused at the motivations behind what we are seeing play out on screen. We are seeing action scenes of epic proportions play out but haven’t had an explanation of why exactly these acts are taking place. I feel that once I get to view this film on home media with subtitles, I will have a much better understanding of the events taking place in this film. Some scenes seem to take place without proper justification, and some conversations jump from place to place, being continued even as characters nearly transport across settings, disorienting viewers.

“Tenet” is a confusing film. It drowns its most important explanations out with its score and sound design but brings a satisfying ending that explains the connection between our two main characters and tells viewers why these events have taken place after the last two-odd hours. Nolan leaves us to wonder about certain story beats but we are given an end in the present that ties into the future. The dialogue also does kind of suffer a bit in this film, as some lines just don’t impact like they should, for example, “I’m the protagonist of this story.”

“Tenet” is an extremely interesting film with incredible set pieces that won’t always make sense in the moment, but it may be just what the box office needs, and despite its imperfections, is a damn good excuse to get back into a theater.

I’m going to give “Tenet” a


An aside:

With these unprecedented and dangerous times we’re living in, I understand that a lot of people (Including myself) have concerns about returning to crowded rooms full of people to see a movie. In my experience, our local (Evansville, Indiana) Cinemas seem to be doing a very good job of keeping people spaced out and taking precautions for their customers. Only you can decide what you are comfortable with doing so please judge for yourself and if you do choose to go see a film right now, be safe and wear a mask when possible. Thank you so much for reading.


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