It is unsurprising that the last time we got a movie this grand and complex was Inception, Christopher Nolan seems to have no fear of leaving the audience challenged, confused and at times completely floored. And Tenet is BETTER than Inception. Yep, I said it.
The only dent in Nolan’s armour for me was Dunkirk, the straightest story that Nolan has tackled and yet the only one that I felt no personal connection or emotional feeling from. And yet here we are with a Rubik’s cube tied up in Pinhead’s puzzle tied up in a box with Schrodinger’s cat and it touched me more than any of the previous Nolan classics. For once, the trailers did not give away everything that was in front of you. The mystery of Tenet, the word and the film unravels very slowly and methodically but there was not a second in the two and a half hour run time where my brain was not spinning and trying to work out what was going to happen next, or should that be what had already happened? You’ll learn to see things you might have ignored and you are rewarded when an hour later they play an important part in the intricate story.
You might worry that Tenet revolves only around the effects and time manipulation but in fact, the film is stacked with great performances throughout. Obviously Michael Caine is always worth the price of admission, but don’t blink or you will miss him here. Likewise Branagh is one of the very best and here he gets to go total Bond villain and eats up the screen as the crazy Russian with a plan bigger than himself, hell, bigger than the world. I’m being very vague with these descriptions as part of the joy of Tenet is the fact that no one is who you might initially believe and all fit delicately in the overall puzzle. Think of one of those hidden picture deals, where you stare for an hour trying to reveal a sailboat. This is the filmic equivalent. Except here, the entire puzzle makes perfect sense once you have all the pieces. You will come away breathless and astounded at what you’ve just seen. One brilliant reveal after the other.
For my money, the film belongs to Elizabeth Debicki as the wife of the powerful Branagh, a mother tolerating some terrible abuse just to protect her son from the ways of the world. She’s magnificent and if there is no Oscar in her cupboard come 2021, I will eat my proverbial hat. Also, Robert Pattinson. Fantastic. He’s the sidekick character, but plays it like he is the best James Bond since Timothy Dalton, utterly beguiling and brilliant. John David Washington plays the central character far quieter than these excellent performances but this is to his credit. He is essentially the audience, being shown behind the curtain and a little unsure whether to step forward or backwards into normality. This forwards/backwards dichotomy is at the heart of Tenet – would you stop the world to save those you love? Would you risk destroying the present if it gave your loved ones a safer future? If you could return to one second of your life to change things, would you? Would you?
So, Tenet is a super intelligent tentpole movie that commands your complete attention, it might be too much for the popcorn and chatting through the film audiences but if you are looking for a perfect mix of Bond escapade and Oscar epic then, congratulations Christopher Nolan, Tenet is it.