‘Tenet’, is written and directed by the ever-talented Christopher Nolan, creative visionary behind many of Hollywood’s greatest 21st Century films (‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’, ‘Interstellar’, ‘Inception’). Recognised by many as ‘his most complicated film yet’, Tenet is 151 minutes of mind-boggling time-travel, that plays out like a palindrome on steroids.
Starring John David Washington as literally ‘The Protagonist’, Tenet places the audience in a constant state of blink and you’ll miss it paranoia with its complicated narrative. Alongside The Protagonist as a companion operative in the Tenet program, is ‘Neil’, played by industry heavyweight Robert Pattinson. Newly initiated into Tenet, The Protagonist travels across the globe often accompanied by Pattinson’s more knowledgeable character on the program. Unlike Clémence Poésy’s scientist character ‘Laura’, who in the beginning of the film spouts exposition to the audience, Neil unravels the world of Tenet in a much more entertaining manner, this being throughout their missions. The Protagonist quickly learns about ‘remnant objects’ from a future war that possess the power of being ‘inverted-in-time’, such as bullets that were once fired and can fly back into a gun’s magazine. This power, for the majority of the film, is executed brilliantly and plays host to a number of fantastic set-pieces. In particular, the film’s ‘reverse’ car-chase scene and ‘reverse’ close-quarters fight scene are just as thrilling as many of Nolan’s other famous set-pieces.
The story itself, whilst heavily reliant on the inverted objects and their unique uses, works well for the universe Nolan has created. This is mainly accredited to the supporting performance of Kenneth Branagh ‘Andrei Sator’ and his estranged wife ‘Kat’ (wonderfully played by Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki). These two actors set a fantastic platform for Pattinson and particularly Washington to play against, and greatly add to the film’s menacing tone with their crumbling marital state. As Sator’s relevance to The Protagonist and the Tenet program develops in the second and third act, so does The Protagonist’s relationship with Kat, highlighting the screenplay’s cleverness in building these characters’ chemistry earlier in the film. Complementing the suspenseful acting and overall narrative, are the beautiful and interesting locals The Protagonist and others travel to. Nolan’s choice of environments are clearly well-thought, with many locations allowing for huge set-pieces to succeed in their overall purpose.
There is however a glaring issue on the film’s technical side, that dramatically impedes on all other aspects in the story-telling process. To be blunt, Tenet’s sound-mixing is far from spectacular. This is particularly disappointing when the film is compared against Nolan’s catalogue of previous entries. The music is used to such poor effect in so many cases, that epic and smaller moments alike become a game for the audience to discern the dialogue between characters. This is not to say the score itself is lacking, actually, it is awe-inspiring; rather this is a case of Ludwig Göransson’s amazing composition being mishandled in the editing room. The blatant filmmaking misstep leads one to speculate that Hans Zimmer might return to Nolan’s next project.
Tenet is further proof of Christopher Nolan’s brilliance as a writer, director and co-producer together with Emma Thomas. There is no doubt that in the near-future, the film will gain increased fame for its intricate plot and interesting inverted-powered objects/set-pieces. However, for now, considering how encumbered the story-telling is by major sound-mixing issues, it is difficult to assert Tenet’s theatrical release as a runaway success. Perhaps a re-watch with subtitles enabled is needed when the movie hits shelves.
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