“Tenet” was released in July 2020, and was written & directed by Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight Trilogy, “Inception,” “Memento,” and other popular films. It stars John David Washington as the Protagonist (his character was purposely given no real name), Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh. The plot is very confusing, but the movie is kind of about secret agents stopping World War III and Branagh’s character “Sator.” The film is basically an excuse to use what the film calls “inversion,” which is the term used to describe something or someone moving reverse, or even back in time.
I want to preface by explaining my opinion of Christopher Nolan. While he’s definitely a talented and visionary filmmaker, I still think he’s overrated. He made great films like “Inception,” “Memento,” and “The Prestige,” but I don’t think he made enough of them to earn the spot next to directors like Spielberg, Kubrick, or Scorsese. I wrote about this before, but I found his interpretation of Batman in “The Dark Knight” to be extremely disrespectful. “The Dark Knight” is a fantastic film and Joker movie, but as a Batman movie, it’s one of the worst cinematic interpretations of the character. Additionally, Nolan hasn’t made a great movie in a decade (“Inception” was released in 2010). 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” 2014’s “Interstellar,” and 2017’s “Dunkirk” were all very flawed movies. He increasingly went for style over substance after each of those three films, and he did it again with “Tenet.”
Starting with the positives, the acting in “Tenet” is great. Washington was a very likeable lead, as was Pattinson as “Neil,” the Protagonist’s partner. Kenneth Branagh, while underwritten as a villain, still gave an intimidating and intense performance. Elizabeth Debicki, who played Sator’s depressed wife, “Kat,” was also good in the film. I also loved the movie’s score from Ludwig Göransson, who replaced Nolan’s usual composer, Hans Zimmer. The score was intense and sounded like it was playing in reverse, so it suited the film’s premise very well. The visual effects, which were almost all practical, were really cool and revolutionary. Nolan’s direction was great too. He has clearly gotten better at directing action sequences over the years, and many action sequences in this film are phenomenal, even some of Nolan’s best.
I have two main problems with the film: the writing of the “Kat” character, and more importantly, the confusing plot. Kat was supposed to be likeable and sympathetic in the film, but I just didn’t like her. In fact, I hated her. Her only purpose was to be used as a device by Sator to threaten the Protagonist. There were multiple times in the film where Sator threatened to kill her, and I never cared. Kat cried and complained in every scene she was in, so she was super annoying. I wondered why Sator didn’t murder her already since she was such a nuisance to him. She even tried to kill him in the middle of the film!
As stated before, the plot is incredibly messy and underdeveloped. The film does a satisfactory job of explaining the rules of “inversion,” but the story, character motivations, and little details like who the Protagonist works for weren’t really explained. At no point during the film did I comprehend the story, and that is a gigantic problem. A film being confusing and underwritten doesn’t mean it is “intellectual” or even “complex;” it just means that its script is sloppy and careless. Even the cast didn’t know what the story was! In fact, behind the scenes Nolan had to constantly explain the story to everyone because only he understood it.
“Tenet” is an ambitious film that lives up to its goals on a technical and visual level, but its storytelling is messy and difficult to follow. Unfortunately, “Tenet” isn’t a step in the right direction for Nolan.
Why I don’t like “The Dark Knight” as a Batman movie: https://reel-opinion.com/2020/08/30/the-dark-knight-is-not-a-batman-movie-overrated-movies-1/