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Tenet (2020) Review

Time Runs Out.

I haven’t written a review since April of 2020, it’s been a WEIRD year. I’m sure you can understand that. I’m going to try slowly to get back into this movie blog, hopefully with some newer films if I can. Somedays I feel safe about going to the theatre, other days I don’t. But we shall see. I was also thinking about doing some book to film adaption reviews for mostly Stephen King’s work, as I’ve read 11 of his books since May, I can’t get enough. We shall see though. Thank you for sticking with me and for your support! Let’s get onto the review.

“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it”

Release Date: August 27th, 2020
Length: 2H 30M
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
MPAA: PG

“From the visionary director Christopher Nolan” is all movie-goers need to know when watching a trailer for a hotly anticipated movie. Christopher Nolan is probably the most popular director working today, his name carries a lot of weight in the industry. I remember when Tenet was first announced, all we knew was that Christopher Nolan’s new movie was coming out in July of 2020, and thats I needed, and that the studio needed to generate hype. No trailer, no details, not even a plot synopsis. People got hyped on the prospects of a new Christopher Nolan project, and I was absolutely one of them.

2020… do I really have to say anything more? this year has been absolutely bizarre in more ways than one, humanity had a hell of a year with the ongoings of events that have occurred and are still occurring. We’re trying to be safe and trying to stay sane. I’ve done things this year that I didn’t think I’d ever have to do in my lifetime, and I’ve also read 15 books since May (For those who don’t know me, I didn’t read much before this year, maybe a book a year. Then I discovered Stephen King’s bibliography and down the rabbit hole I went. But with 2020, came shut downs and delays. Tenet was due out in July but Warner Bros. moved the date because they wanted a theatre experience, and wanted people to see Tenet how it was meant to be seen – on a giant screen, with a pounding surround sound. Not a straight to VOD release (some people would prefer that for sure). But I was very lucky during this whole 2020 thing to be able to see Tenet twice in IMAX. I thought I’d have to wait a lot longer to see it, and when I had the opportunity and felt safe enough to go, there was no second guessing myself, I wanted to see this movie in IMAX.

Tenet in the broadest of explanations is a Sci-Fi action movie – armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, A protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

Tenet is directed and written by Christopher Nolan. I don’t think I need to say much else other than that. His name carries different weight for different people. Some people absolutely love his work and think he’s brilliant (which includes myself, I’ve been a big fan of his since Memento (2000) and after I saw Batman Begins (2005) I wanted to watch everything he ever put out). Christopher Nolan’s filmography consists of Doodlebug {Short} (1997), Following (1998), Memento (2000), Insomnia (2002), Batman Begins (2005), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Interstellar (2014) and Dunkirk (2017). As I mentioned in my intro, Christopher Nolan’s name carries a lot of weight, you never exactly know what you’re getting into when you start watching one of his films. He sets up his own set of rules and a set of puzzle pieces, with no instructions. Its up to you as the viewer to put the pieces together.

Nolan knows exactly what he is doing as a filmmaker, everything on screen is exactly as intended in his eyes and ears (i’ll discuss more about ears later) and he pushes the boundary of film. If he can help it, he will only use practical effects, very little CGI and green screen. Tenet absolutely looks grounded in reality, and its kind of jarring in some places? because it looks so sharp and clean and theres some set pieces that you’re literally thinking “how did they pull this off?” which is part of the magic of film in my mind. This is through and through a Christopher Nolan movie, and I would say if you liked Inception and the vibe of that film (which is probably my favourite Christopher Nolan film) you’d probably enjoy Tenet, but on a different scale. Inception screwed with your brain, Tenet rewires it.

Tenet stars John David Washington as The Protagonist, Robert Pattinson as Neil, Elizabeth Debicki as Kat and Kenneth Branagh as Andrei Sator. The interesting thing about Tenet is that theres not a lot of character development, you don’t figure out exactly who these people are, they are just there to push the plot and to structure the plot of the movie. (which will throw some people off, and entice others.

John David Washington’s filmography consists of BlacKkKlansman (2018). I really like John David Washington, I thought he was excellent in BlacKkKlansman (2018) and when I saw that he was going to be the lead in Tenet I was extremely intrigued. He is still a relatively new actor (at least in my eyes) but he absolutely exploded onto the scene and has the potential to become a very successful and highly sought after actor, but that makes sense when your father is one of the best actors in the world – Denzel Washington. But he’s not living in his fathers shadow, he is casting his own and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Robert Pattinson’s filmography consists of Good Time (2017), and The Lighthouse (2019). I’ll be absolutely honest and say that I used to think Pattinson was a one note sparkly actor, I haven’t watched the Twilight movies (and I don’t think I ever will, its not my cup of tea). It wasn’t until Good Time when I determined that Robert Pattinson is actually a spectacular actor and its been really interesting to see the projects he has picked over the last little while. But being in a Christopher Nolan film? thats a completely different level entirely. I thought Pattinson did a good job in this movie, and I honestly can’t wait to see his portrayal as Bruce Wayne and Batman in The Batman (2021? maybe).

Elizabeth Debicki’s filmography consists of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (2017), The Cloverfield Paradox (2018). I honestly do not remember Debicki in any of these films but I’ve also only seen them all only once so if I rewatched them maybe I would notice her. I thought she did a good job in this movie too.

Kenneth Branagh’s filmography consists of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and Dunkirk (2017). I’m not super familiar with Branagh’s acting, but from what I have seen so far he is definitely a capable and good actor. He was actually pretty menacing in this movie, and he really chewed the screen when he was on it. I really enjoyed his acting in this.

Overall, the acting is good but as I mentioned earlier thats not really what this film is setting out to accomplish. The actors are there in service to the plot. John David Washington is literally “The Protagonist” he has no name, just a title (maybe could even be a rule if you wanted to stretch it).

Ludwig Goransson composed the score to Tenet and deserves recognition for that. He also composed the score for Black Panther (2018) in which netted him the Academy Award for Best Achievement In Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score). Christopher Nolan usually collaborates with Hans Zimmer his films, but he was busy composing the soundtrack for Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune (slated for 2020) boy am I ever looking forward to that. Goransson really did a great job with this soundtrack though, I downloaded it off of Tidal and have been listening to it frequently in the past day or so, and it’s just intense and super interesting and I think really fits with the overall theme of Tenet which is time and the manipulation of it. Theres some parts where it almost sounds like the soundtrack is played backwards… and it just is super interesting.

The weirdest part or the most questionable part for me about Tenet in general is the sound mixing. There were parts in this movie where the score would completely or mostly drown out dialogue, and when I heard it the first time I thought my ears were playing tricks on me, but then I turned to my friend and said “are you having trouble hearing this?” and she nodded. We were both confused, and it didn’t really ruin the movie for me but I just found it odd. I’ve read a few articles that said it was intentional (I assume it is, because Christopher Nolan wouldn’t let that slide). If its intentional, then its an interesting choice but it makes you pay more attention to the film on a rewatch.When I saw the movie again 2 days later, I definitely still noticed the audio issue, but I picked up more of what I missed. I’ll be intrigued to pick this movie up when it comes out on home release and watch it with the subtitles, so that I can further understand what I missed.

I walked out of the theatre the first time kind of in a daze which usually happens to me when I watch something I like. I’m overwhelmed with the story or the movie itself, set pieces stick out in my head, the usual. After a Christopher Nolan movie, especially one as complex and complicated as Tenet, I try to break it down and ask whoever I went with what they noticed and we have a conversation about it and try to put the puzzle together, piece by piece. With rewatching, you get more pieces and thats half the fun of a Nolan film, just when you think you may have a grasp or an angle on the film, someone or something, an article perhaps says “did you notice this?” and all your thoughts about the movie are thrown at the window and you’re back to square one. Which may turn people off his films all together, but I for one love his films and the concepts he comes up with.

Tenet is a good movie, well worth the wait in my eyes, and I definitely can’t wait to watch it again to put more pf the pieces together. I’m not sure if I’ll return for a third watch in IMAX. I’m not counting that out yet, but this is a film that begs to be seen more than once and if you’re comfortable with going to a movie you should see Tenet in the way it was meant to be seen.

I give Tenet a 4.5/5.

This movie could go to a 5/5 after I see it with subtitles or for a third time and pick up more, so I may update this in the future. I’ve been flipping back and forth day to day if it was a 4.5 or a 5 and today I feel like it was a 4.5.

Until next time, stay safe, stay sane in 2020.

-Andrew

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