It’s quite rare nowadays to see a blockbuster film that is not a sequel, prequel, reboot, remake or some other continuation of a franchise.
However, when we do get one, chances are that it comes from the creative Christopher Nolan, who just loves to deliver films with mind bending concepts to get us thinking.
Tenet is his latest films and by far his most polarizing.
I have seen multiple different reactions, from people loving the film for its creativity, to people hating it for being overly confusing, both of which are valid standpoints.
It is very easy to get confused in Tenet and this happened to me multiple times, until the film itself inverted and everything fell into place.
The film follows John David Washington’s character, simply known as the Protagonist, who is recruited into a secret organization that wages espionage using a time distortion technique known as inversion.
To say anything else would be spoiling too much because, right from the opening, every single bit of detail we get is important to the story.
And be sure to pay attention because if you lose one piece of information then you may become lost entirely.
I know I was lost on what happened in a couple of scenes, until I looked up their meaning after seeing the film.
While this confusing use of exposition may be polarizing to some audiences, I think it really pays off in the end because of the last 45 minutes.
Even though I did enjoy the film up until that point, I was mostly just along for the ride and not understanding what was happening.
Those final 45 minutes recontextualized the whole film and made the confusing experience I had before this point worth it.
What helped me stay engaged in the film, despite being almost totally lost as to what was happening for most of it, is the fantastic action, pure spectacle, great performances and stellar score.
Tenet has some of the best action scenes of the year, helped by the meaning added to them in the third act, and the spectacle of plenty of the shots is jaw dropping.
As for the performances, everyone does a great job.
Washington is compelling as The Protagonist, even though you don’t know much about him for most of the film, Elizabeth Debicki is entirely relatable as Kat, and Robert Pattison gave probably my favourite performance in the entire film as Neil.
As for the villain of the film, Kenneth Branagh plays Andrei Sator in a great performance but for an antagonist that is solely serviceable.
Now, though, we have to get into the issues of Tenet, which do hold it back.
Definitely the biggest of these issues is the sound mixing.
The music and sound effects are blasting so loud at times that it is almost impossible to hear what the characters are saying and, when you need to hear practically every line of dialogue to understand what is happening, this is not a good thing.
The sound mixing is particularly bad during a sailing scene, and one pivotal scene where the music is booming and some characters are even speaking backwards while other characters are speaking normally.
It was very disorienting and really took me out of the film.
At least Ludwig Göransson’s score is amazing to listen to.
Also, despite the film being saved by its third act recontextualizing everything, I still cannot deny that a lot of people are going to be put off by the confusing first two acts.
Still, despite its flaws, Tenet is a great film that is worth seeing for the pure spectacle of inversion alone.
It is one of Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious films but also sure to be one of his most divisive.
One thought on “Tenet Review: Inverting Confusion.”
Awesome film !