Tenet (2020)

tenet poster 2020 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good cast, sound, and visuals

Tries to blind you with science making the story just average

Movie Info

Movie Name: Tenet

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  August 22, 2020 (Premiere)/September 3, 2020 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

tenet john david wsahington vs backwards

Stop hitting yourself

A CIA agent (John David Washington) finds he has fallen into something he doesn’t understand.  While on a mission he sees something that does not make sense and does not seem possible…he witnesses an object in time running backwards.  With his loyalty tested, he finds himself recruited into a secret cabal of soldiers that have discovered that the present day is under attack from the future.  Teamed with his friend Neil (Robert Pattinson), he learns that a Russian mafia agent named Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) could threaten the fabric of time and stopping him means recruiting Sator’s estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki)…time is fluid, but time is still running out.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Tenet is a science-fiction action-adventure film.  The movie’s planned release was pushed back multiple times due to COVID-19 and was used as an attempt to reopen theaters in the fall of 2020.  The film was met with mostly positive reviews.  It received an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects with a nomination for Best Production Design.

Christopher Nolan has made a career out of cerebral science-fiction films.  People loved and gushed over Inception (I liked it, but didn’t love it), and they talked about how deep and twisting it was (it was manageable if you paid attention).  Tenet on the other hand is so difficult to follow due to the time flow aspect of the story that I just gave up trying to understand and tried to take it for face value.

tenet reverse shooting kenneth branagh elizabeth debicki

I’m going to shoot her backwards or something

The basic idea of Tenet is that items and people can become “chronally” charged from tech that sent from the future.  There is the forward time which flows as day to day time and then there is the reverse time.  A chronally charged gun will fall into a person’s hand from being dropped because it is flowing backwards…the plot involves things flowing backwards and forwards and the rules for people in the reverse time are different for people in the forward time.  Keeping track of who is in what time and what time should do surrounding their actions is nearly impossible (especially on one viewing)…it will hurt your head trying.  Watching the movie, you have to sit and ask if you care to even try to figure it out.

What does work is the cast.  John David Washington is continuing to prove himself as a leading man and has a completely different style than what his father generally brings to a film.  He has been good in what he’s been in thus far and he feels like he will continue to improve.  The same can be said for Michael Pattinson who was initially written off by most as the star of the Twilight films.  Pattinson has a lot of range and here he feels like he’s channeling Jeremy Irons or Michael Caine…while forging his own road.  I’ve always found Kenneth Branagh a bit of a showboat and I kind of wish they had brought in an actual Russian actor instead of Branagh laying it on heavy.  Elizabeth Debicki is building up quite a resume as well and she feels unique and different than many leading women.

tenet robert pattinson ending

What’s happened, happened.

The real draw of Nolan’s film are the visuals and the pounding teeth rattling sound.  Even on an average TV set-up, the movie carries a heavy weight to its volume.  While Inception blew people’s minds with visuals and concepts, the backwards-and-forward time isn’t quite as impressive looking.  It is put into the film seamlessly with characters in the background of scenes running in reverse and explosions happening backwards, but due to the mind-numbing nature of trying to figure out what is happening while watching Tenet, it feels like the effects can’t be enjoyed.

I’m sure that Tenet makes sense if you break it down scene by scene and action by action, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a fun and enjoyable experience.  I feel that Nolan has the right idea with the movie, but he got too wrapped up in what he was trying to accomplish to see the bigger picture of it was something you could watch and lose yourself in.  He tries to blind you with science…but if you stop caring about the science, the movie starts to crumble.  I look forward to Nolan’s releases, and Tenet is good but it wasn’t the movie it felt like it could have been.

Related Links:

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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