Christopher Nolan, popularly hailed as the master of cerebral filmmaking, is back with yet another trippingly trippy trip of being forwards and backwards in time. Tenet, after a great hue and cry, finally hits movie theatres in India and the excitement is a worthy merit of its existence.
Tenet follows the story of a Protagonist tasked with a secret mission of saving the world from an enigmatic threat with unique quantum forces at play. Like Interstellar (2014), the survival of humanity is at stake in Tenet as well. With men in suits negotiating with an unforeseen future, a parent-child bond at the heart, and an ending that will have movie lovers debating it for another decade, Tenet carries all the epistemic markers of a proudly Nolan film.
A slick spy-fi with a classic James Bond plot, audiences have a much more to unravel in Tenet than any other science fiction movie from this generation. With each set piece measuring up to nothing short of a spectacle Nolan goes with all guns blazing which makes Tenet a uniquely satisfying ride and at the same time a delightfully convoluted mess. The more technically sophisticated the plot becomes, the less coherence the screenplay has. The disarrangement is felt so much that even the globetrotting does not come together without any haste. A complex mixture of complicated storytelling with a popular genre, Tenet is both compelling and confusing at the same time. Even so, the film’s contrived nature never butchers its momentum as the blisteringly fast pace puts us already in the middle of something before we know. This makes Tenet feel like an extended third-act of an even larger film which does not exist.
It goes without saying that just like any other movie by Nolan, Tenet is visually stunning, thanks to Hoyte van Hoytema’s marvelous cinematography. The visuals are supported by a thunderous techno-electronic score by Ludwig Göransson which elevates the experience even further but truth be told, the grand instrumental and orchestral symphonies of Hans Zimmer are missed.
However, Tenet’s story isn’t as expressive as its other elements and lacks a narrative finesse. With Tenet, the concept doesn’t seem to support the story or the genre it has picked for itself to outgrow. While with Inception (2010), the story and a heist-movie genre perfectly aided the development of the concept, with Tenet, Nolan tries to tell a very vague story by bringing together some loose ends of a heavy headed concept called ‘inversion of time’. The tangled narrative based on a twisting core will keep fans engaged as much as it will push them away at the same time.
Underneath the cinematic razzle and dazzle pleasures, Tenet lacks heart, and the unique blend of spectacle and emotion that have always been the distinguishing traits of a Nolan blockbuster. The characters in Tenet appear close to heightened replicas of stock characters, used as props at the disposal of a larger concept. Nonetheless, Tenet promises great pomp and show, with spectacles ranging from flipping cars, gunfights, buildings blasting in reverse and a huge aircraft crash, spread across the sprawling locations of Estonia, India and Oslo. Nolan’s focus clearly is on making a visual, rather than an emotional impact. It’s loud and chaotic but an ultimate thrill ride.
Tenet will bother viewers even on a second watch as the lack of character depth or a comprehensible storytelling will compromise its repeat value. It is difficult to root for a world being destroyed or saved, if one cannot understand the ‘how’. But it deserves to be watched at least for once. Risking a hefty 250-million-dollar budget, respecting the sheer art of making big scale experimental filmmaking, practically filming gigantic action sequences, combining spectacle and intelligence and keeping faith in the movie going experience, Tenet is daring not just in its scope but also in its pursuit. A Christopher Nolan movie playing by Christopher Nolan rules except for the climax. Tenet just ends without any musical montage or a spinning top.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.