Tenet: Groundbreaking, mind-bending, never-seen-before action
It’s been a long wait, and despite the uncertain times, Tenet is the first major release to hit the theatres post-pandemic. In pure “action Nolan” style (think the two Dark Knight), the film begins with a muscular, no-bullshit action sequence that takes your breath away. You could read it as the statement of a director who wants to remind his audience that he knows very well how to impress.
John David Washington is the protagonist of a story that, initially, seems to be almost ordinary. In short, there’s a global threat of a third world war. But it’s not nuclear, it’s temporal. The Inception filmmaker employs his classic tricks – slow but menacing camera movements; massive aerial IMAX shots; aggressive scoring – and 30 minutes into Tenet we start to wonder if the director’s intellectual novelty is fading. But these turn out to be pieces of a much, much bigger puzzle.
In a way, this movie is the summa of Nolan’s career so far. It’s a return to the backward reality of Memento, with the force of the Dark Knight. It packs Interstellar‘s dilemma between protecting humanity and your own family – as well as the idea of communication through time – and the mind-bendingness (yep, it’s now a word) of Inception. To top it off, sprinkle it all over with the sharp coldness and war combat of Dunkirk.
There are a couple of moments when the editing is off. For a film of this magnitude and complexity, maybe Jennifer Lame lacks the expertise of frequent collaborator Lee Smith, who was already committed to 1917. This could pay off in the long run though: after all, Hoyte van Hoytema jumped on Nolan’s wagon when Wally Pfister was busy trying his hand in the director’s chair, and look what he’s been doing ever since.
The performances of Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh are praiseworthy: constantly intense but never over the top, hitting the viewer’s emotional chords at the right time. If there’s a clock for that, Nolan is surely always carrying it on his sets.
Finally, Ludwig Göransson gives continuity to the musical world that Hans Zimmer has created, adding an edgier, more electronic touch that combines perfectly with the spirit of this picture.
Tenet asks some existential questions, but it doesn’t pretend to be able to answer them. Sometimes it hides behind the fact that certain concepts are just a paradox. But it’s believable enough to let you focus on this incredibly entertaining and beautiful piece of cinema. It cannot be fully understood after one watch, so don’t try to figure it all out; or even try to play a pseudo nuclear physicist to criticise weak points. Just sit comfortably and enjoy groundbreaking, mind-bending, never-seen-before action. This is by far the must-see film of the year and a hell of a ride.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Tenet is released nationwide on 26th August 2020, also in IMAX as it was intended to be seen. We suggest not to watch the trailer and see the film on the largest screen available in your area