Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ Review
I first became familiar with Christopher Nolan years ago when an old friend let me borrow his DVD copy of the film ‘Memento‘. I will never forget the moment I first saw that movie because it was an experience like no other – a twisted story, told out of chronological order, of a man suffering from recurrent short-term memory loss who attempts to solve the mystery behind his wife’s murder. It was Nolan’s first film, and he has since gone on to create an entire cannon of unforgettable films, such as ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’. His latest film Tenet, released September of this year and his most recent since 2017’s ‘Dunkirk’, is his newest addition to his stunning catalog of movies, but does it hold true to everything that makes Christopher Nolan one of the most monumental directors and screenwriters of our time?
A Brief Synopsis
The film follows a secret agent, who is simply referred to as ‘the Protagonist’ throughout, who is tasked with the epic mission of preventing World War III. His quest is riddled with mind-bending, time traveling, violent adventuring that sends him to wondrous places around the world chasing after a man who might just hold humanity’s fate in his hands. And that…. is all you really should know if you plan to see this movie.
The film impressively stars John David Washington (who you may remember from 2017’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’, and I recently learned he’s also the son of Denzel Washington) as the Protagonist, Robert Pattinson as Neil, and Elizabeth Debicki as Kat. At its core it’s a stylish action film with heavy science fiction elements.
Like all of Christopher Nolan’s films, ‘Tenet’ is so much better when you go into it knowing very little about the plot. His movies have a tendency to be a bit confusing and at first viewing may feel a bit sporadic and all over the place. While some people aren’t a fan of this style, I personally find it engaging and, above all, gratifying.
What Makes ‘Tenet’ Worth Watching
Christopher Nolan’s movies have this thing where they refuse to hold the hand of the viewer throughout the narrative; they have a tendency to be shamelessly subtle to the point that viewers might write them off. That confusion you feel can be a bit intimidating when watching Nolan’s work, especially if you get lost somewhere, deep within the narrative and have difficulty catching back up to a place where it all makes sense again. But this is what makes his work so engaging and gratifying – that moment where it all clicks and finally makes sense is a feeling that I find truly unique to his work. As much as I love and watch a ton of movies, his movies tend to take me multiple viewings to truly sink in. It took me 3 times seeing Inception until it all made sense to me, and when it finally did it felt like having an epiphany during an acid trip.
As I would highly recommend this movie and everyone of Nolan’s other works, I would suggest to viewers to never give up on it when it feels a bit hopelessly confusing. Anything where Nolan is a screenwriter will promise you one thing – that the end will always somehow justify the means.
But his knack for crazy, mind-bending storytelling isn’t the the only thing that stands out as unique and original in his movies. While watching ‘Tenet’ I found myself constantly thinking “damn, I’ve never seen something like THAT in a movie before”. And the direction and general cinematography is as impressive as always.
While I wouldn’t say ‘Tenet’ is my favorite Christopher Nolan film, it does possess a bit of everything that fans of his work have come to love and appreciate – subtle yet thoughtful dialogue, experimental play with perspective and perception, and a cerebral story that will engage the existential and philosophical wonder in all of us.
Where and How to Watch ‘Tenet’
Despite being a high budget blockbuster film, it seems it hasn’t been doing too well with box office sales, even though most critics have been giving it glowing reviews. Covid has truly messed up just about every facet of society, including how we view movies. The film was thought to be the film that could save cinema by getting crowds back to theatres, and I totally understand why the studio and marketers would think so. ‘Tenet’ is the kind of action film that I wish I had seen in theatres. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more that I love than sitting in my dark basement apartment, fried on edibles, and eating pizza with my wife while we pick movies like this apart, but watching it made me miss seeing films like this in an IMAX theatre.
If you have the opportunity to safely view it in a theatre near you, I definitely recommend it. Otherwise, a quick Google search will present a few different ways you can stream and/or download it through sites like YouTube and Amazon Prime Video for somewhere around $20. Or you can take the route I went and just buy a Blu-ray copy to watch in the privacy of your home. That is probably the best option if you, like me, need multiple viewings to properly put together a cerebral puzzle like this one.