Moving through time in “Tenet”
Despite the partial closure of theaters, it seems that Hollywood is no longer holding out on new releases. “Tenet” is one of the first movies to come out in theaters since their mass closures. I took the risk to go on a quieter night and left happy about both the viewing experience along with the film.
As a big fan of mysteries and complex ideas, Christopher Nolan is not afraid of keeping his audience in the dark until at least halfway through his films, and this is precisely what makes them so fun to watch. His newest movie,“Tenet,” is ambitious and introduces unique ways of editing and shooting that push the boundaries of filmic execution.
A nameless secret agent — played by John David Washington — discovers new technology that allows objects and time itself to be inverted. He discovers that this technology could potentially start WWIII and is tasked with learning more about it.
As the movie progresses and the main characters discover the truth about what’s at stake, the plot becomes increasingly complicated. Upon finding out that this technology has the potential to bring forth the end of the world and the universe itself, our nameless protagonist hires Neil — played by Robert Pattinson — to help him stop the shadowy figures plotting world destruction.
The new technology turns out to be the movie’s main science fiction element. The movie knows its core idea is difficult to grasp as a side character utters, “don’t try to understand it, feel it.” It is through the progression of the plot that the viewer will slowly begin to understand how it works. My interpretation of it, to put it as simply as possible, is technology that allows people to move backward through time or, put even more simply, if the rules of physics adhered to “opposite day.” The technology element also allows Nolan to work with reversing film footage.
The movie only briefly explains how this technology works. However, the explanation proceeded so quickly, one could only remember so much thus leaving the main idea better understood by watching the movie. With much of the dialogue and pacing in this film being brisk with quiet voices, the music and other sound effects have the tendency to overpower them. As a result, the audience is left in the dark for some of the scenes with heavy dialogue.
The visual style of Nolan is definitely present in “Tenet.” An urban feeling with somewhat muted colors, followed by attractive people in suits and dresses. Nolan ramps up the visual landscape by using beautiful locations from across the world ranging from the beautiful coasts of Amalfi to the bustling cities of Mumbai. The film is pure eye candy.
Accompanying the visuals is a soundtrack by Ludwig Goransson, whose back catalog includes an Oscar for his work in “Black Panther.” The film’s score did not disappoint. Action scenes have bass-heavy synth numbers while the scenes in between are accompanied by dramatic swooning strings.
However, while everything looks and sounds fantastic, the emotional depth of the film leaves more to be desired. The main characters in the film had little to no backstory whatsoever. The protagonist literally refers to himself as “Protagonist” and remains nameless. This made me feel less attached to the characters and when it came time for the climax I didn’t feel as emotionally impacted as I felt I should have been.
Christopher Nolan is known for making movies in IMAX. In a past interview with AMC Theatres, he has publicly stated, “It’s an incredibly immersive experience and on IMAX I think the audience is going to get the best version of that … ” If you can safely make it out to an IMAX theater to see “Tenet,” I would highly recommend you to do so.
“Tenet” is a film that asks viewers to come on an action-packed, time-defying mystery. If you are looking for a movie with a deep emotional impact then perhaps you might want to look elsewhere. If you enjoy movies with grand chest-pounding action set pieces then this film is right up your alley.
Star Rating: Three and a half stars out of five
- Grand action set pieces that are not only gorgeous to look at but also extremely exciting
- Unique and entertaining use of the movie’s science fiction elements
- Soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson is amazing and helps carry the intensity of each action scene
- Dialogue mixing made it very difficult to hear what characters are saying
- Movie was very fast-paced during important scenes that made it difficult to understand what’s happening in later scenes
- Movie felt dry when it came to emotional scenes