TENET REVIEW (2020). A film by Christopher Nolan. (SPOILER WARNING)

It’s been a tough year for movie lovers because of the pandemic but I am one of the fortunate ones to have cinemas fully functioning in my country. I got the opportunity to watch Tenet a while back. So, Tenet is a film directed by the visionary Christopher Nolan and stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki in the lead roles.

We all know how creatively groundbreaking Christopher Nolan films are. TENET is one of them, even though, it’s not as perfect as many other Nolan films.

The movie open’s with the lead (referred to as The Protagonist) taking the suicide pill after being captured in one of his missions. He later finds out that it was a test, and is recruited to the TENET
organization. This is where he is introduced to the concept of Inversion, moving backward as time moves forward. This is explained through a bullet. The protagonist’s mission leads him to the Indian dealer who tells him that they sold it to a Russian arms dealer, Andrei Sator, who is serving as a medium between the present and the future. The future wants him to stop time in the past because it’s destroying the future. To get to him, he must use his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). The relationship between them is sour. This is better explained by Kat when talks about a vacation where she saw another woman jumping off their yacht (remember this). This is when from which things went south between them. She can’t leave him because he threatens to have her imprisoned over a false painting. She also can’t leave because of their son. Once he manages to get to Sator, he convinces him that he would steal the plutonium for him to win his trust. We later find out that it was not the plutonium, but rather a part of the algorithm which the future scientist put here. And now, Sator has it and all nine parts. If Sator dies, his heart-rate monitor will drop to zero, and that will set-off the Algorithm, which will end the entire world.

The Protagonist and Neil (Robert Pattinson) work with Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ives – part of the Tenet organization – to stop the Algorithm going off at the Soviet location, Stalask-12. During the mission, The Protagonist goes forward in time with Ives as part of the Red Team, while Robert Pattinson lives the entire inverted as part of the Blue Team. This is called a Temporal Pincer Movement. They have 10 minutes to save the world.

Meanwhile, Sator is sitting on a boat with Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). Sator believes that Kat does not know the plan that is unfolding at Stalask-12, yet she’s fully aware because she also inverted. Sator’s planning to commit suicide, which will set off the Algorithm. Kat distracts him for long enough for The Protagonist, Neil, and Ives to save the day. Then she jumps off the boat. This what the present version of Kat saw which started the demise of her relationship with Sator. Also, during the final battle, there’s a scene where a masked man with a red pin opens the door and takes the bullet for the Protagonist. We later find out that this was Neil who has to go back again after the conclusion to make sure that everything works out perfectly. This also means that he dies.

The men then go their separate ways, but not before Neil reveals that The Protagonist will later set the events of the entire movie in motion by traveling back in time. For Neil, this was the end of his friendship with the Protagonist, but for the Protagonist, this was the beginning. The Protagonist later comes to this conclusion himself after saving Kat from being assassinated by Dimple Kapadia’s Priya.

I was lost for the most parts of the first half. Not because I wasn’t able to understand the story, but because there was nothing to understand. Nolan deliberately made it too complex to understand it in the beginning. But it all came together in the second half. Although, I know many people would’ve left the cinema during the first half. Although, these are the brain-challenging complexities that make us love cinema during a time where it’s been dominated by us being spoon-fed brainlessly simple ideas for far too long. Many people see the complexities as a flaw, but I see it as an asset. Maybe because I have been grown up being forced to watch the 99% garbage which Bollywood makes. Sure, many people won’t understand it the first time, but that’s how a blockbuster should be. These are the kind of movies which once understood, would remain with us. These are the types of movies which assures us that there is still content left in Blockbuster films.

My biggest concern was the exposition dump in the movie. Yes, we don’t understand it in the beginning but it would’ve been better to just go on with the visual brilliance because the story eventually makes sense in the end. That would’ve still happened without the expositions. This affects the narration as it slows it down. Now, many people criticize the character development and I understand why. We don’t even know the name of our protagonist. But we need to remember that this is a story-driven film and not a character-driven film. And to be honest, the character arcs weren’t that bad. Kenneth Branagh did a good job of making us intrigued by the backstory of his character and trying to figure out his thinking. I also liked watching the scenes between his character and Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). You could always feel the tension between the two, and you believed whatever emotions they were acting out. It made you feel uncomfortable for Kat to be around Andrie, but that is the point. The arc that they gave Kat toward the end was great. The dynamic friendship between the Protagonist and Neil was also great. You could feel it building.

The cinematography and production design was great as well. Not only was this a cool concept, but it was an aesthetically pleasing movie to look at. Every angle felt intentional, and it was so cool to see the way Christopher Nolan portrayed time going backwards on screen. The editing was amazing as
well, considering this might’ve been the toughest editing job ever. As for the score, Ludwig Goransson serves as a perfect replacement for Hans Zimmer with a fantastic score.

Tenet is a groundbreaking film full of spectacles and amazing set-pieces. Although the excessive exposition and first half narrative try to pull it down. It’s a movie where everything is connected in a never-ending loop. Watch it if you want your mind to be tested!


STW: 25/30, D: 24/25, C: 8/8, E: 5/5, A: 7/10, PVD: 12/12, S: 9/10