Movie Review: ‘Tenet’ Is Action Packed

Review by UK writer Lisa Payne

I will start off by saying that Inception is my third favourite film of all time. It gets better every time I see it.

One the other hand, Interstellar is one of my least favourite films. I think it treats the audience like they are third graders who need everything explained to them.

To say that I have been awaiting Tenet with bated breath would be the understatement of understatements. I am a Chris Nolan fan from when I first saw Memento. It completely blew my mind, partially because I only knew Guy Pearce as Mike on Neighbours and didn’t know he had that performance in him. Anyway, I digress.

Tenet is action-paced from start to finish. As with all Chris Nolan movies, the clues are there. They are practically slapping you in the face. You just have to look or see the movie two or three times. I’ve seen it once…so far.

Tenet starts off disorientingly as a raid is about to take place by some non-named special forces. There are shots, rappelling, and raidy things happening at dizzying speed because we don’t have time to get our bearings. You must pay attention from the start. The Protagonist (John David Washington) looking every inch the snack he is, is part of the team and the dialogue doesn’t really make sense because we haven’t been able to acclimatize.

Fast forward to The Protagonist meeting Clémence Poésy’s scientist who shows him the basics of “time inversion”. With very little other training, he is sent out to prevent WWIII. No pressure! Neil (Robert Pattinson) is very much the Protagonist’s wheel and behind the scenes man. They have great rapport.

There are a lot of references to The Protagonist not fitting in or being out of place. And this is true because you’re entrusting the prevention of WWIII to someone who is learning on the job. At one point, he says to Sir Michael Crosby (Sir Michael Caine) that the British don’t have the monopoly on snobbery, and Crosby retorts let’s just say we have a controlling interest.

There are multiple arms dealers entanglements. Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), sadistic oligarch (aren’t they all) is only reachable through his art appraiser wife, Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). The only parts of Tenet that didn’t sit well with me all involved Kat. She is the victim of Andrei’s cruelty and is perpetually needing to be saved. So when I broke out of the Tenet spell, it was because in my head I was saying to The Protagonist why are you doing this, when all of this is at stake. Minor irritation for me.

Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (loved his character), and Himesh Patel were excellent in support roles.

As with all Nolan movies, the music is integral. Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, Creed and Venom) composed. I loved how at times I didn’t know what was music and what was ambient (loud) noise from the action.

The action sequences are jaw-droppingly beautifully choreographed. Some of which I’ve never seen on-screen before. I am always in awe when this happens, as it happens so rarely.

Like Memento, this is a longer version of Coldplay’s The Scientist video with Missy Elliott’s words thrown in “I put my thang down, flip it and reverse it. Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gnaht ym tup I.”

I can’t wait to wrestle with Tenet again. In theaters in the UK now and the US on Friday, September 4th.

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