‘Don’t try to understand it. Feel it…’
Ok… as I write this I have just returned from my first post lockdown trip to the cinema having seen Tenet – the film that will supposedly single handedly save the movie industry. I accidentally had five small bags of sweets, and now I’m all jacked up on sugar, so I will attempt to keep this as brief as possible…
The second paragraph is traditionally the plot paragraph in my reviews – this one is a doozy. So, someone in the future has developed the ability to send inverse weaponry back through time. In the present, these bullets give the appearance of jumping out of their final destination before shooting back into the gun that fired them. This is all very bad for reasons that don’t become clear until much later. An unnamed protagonist (John David Washington) is recruited to try and stop this process, as is his handler Neil (Robert Pattinson). Who recruits them and why is a matter for the future to deal with. Meanwhile, a Russian oligarch (Kenneth Branagh) and his estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) are also in the mix. Everyone is flowing backwards and forwards through time, and while nobody is trying to bang their own mother, or indeed their own step mother (Back to the Future and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure respectively), things are still looking pretty hairy for our fearless heroes.
Let’s address the white elephant – that is passing through time portals and is simultaneously dead and alive – in the room. Tenet is a confusing movie. The plot is labyrinthine and non-linear, and the technical and verbose dialogue does nothing much to help matters. A group sat a few rows up from us decided they had had enough after about an hour and walked out. At that point in the movie I could see why. As with fellow melon twister Donnie Darko, Tenet doesn’t really fully reveal itself until the show stopping conclusion. While this can be frustrating, it is also incredibly satisfying when everything does finally fall into place.
John Washington has been slated in some quarters, but I enjoyed his inscrutable performance, particularly the moments of levity shared with Pattinson – an actor who is currently enjoying the best spell of his varied career. Elsewhere, Kenneth Branagh does his usual genius thing, albeit with a regrettable Russian accent, and Liz Debicki is the unsung hero of the whole damn thing, delivering a performance that acts as the beating heart of what is otherwise a very mechanical film.
Lots of people will not like Tenet. That much is apparent from the reviews, but before anyone starts being a dickhead about it, it isn’t a lack of understanding that will cause people to dislike the movie, it is the fact that you really have to take a leap of faith with Chris Nolan to fully immerse yourself in it. I couldn’t go with him for Interstellar (though I know plenty of people that love that film), but there were moments in Tenet that did reach me.
Think of this as Christopher Nolan’s Tranquility Base – it might not be his best work, but it’s still better than anything his peers are doing, and it might just be groundbreaking. It’s too early to tell. One thing is for sure, anything Nolan puts his name to now is an event. You know you’re going to end up watching Tenet, you might as well see it in a cinema. It’s an experience worth having.