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  • Elise Paris

Review: Tenet.

Hello reader,

Welcome back to my blog!


It’s been way too long since I last wrote a review on here, but it’s been a wild year and of course, the cinemas have been closed for months on end. I definitely think that the long absence of cinemas has only made me more grateful for them re-opening. If lockdown has shown us anything, it’s that people will go to great lengths to replicate cinematic experiences in their own homes. I am convinced, now more than ever, that cinema has a bright future and that online streaming is not going to be the death of it. In a ‘Kermode on Film’ podcast I was listening to recently, Jack Howard referred to film theatres as ‘our church’ and I 100% second this sentiment. There’s something unmatched about sitting in a room with complete strangers, turning off your phone, putting your life on pause and sharing the experience of being whisked away on an adventure. Cinema is escapism, excitement and therapy all at once. I will definitely be making more time for cinema visits in the future (which hopefully means more consistent posts on here!)

So...I went to the Vue on Friday to watch Tenet.

After being delayed three times due to COVID-19, it is now hoped to bring audiences flooding back into theatres across the UK.

Tenet is a story about a secret CIA agent on an international mission that transcends time as we know it, in an attempt to prevent a catastrophic World War 3. It’s a vague synopsis I know, but to go into greater detail would be to include spoilers...not to mention I’d be here all day.

From a technical perspective, Tenet is marvellous. The scale of the stunts and spectacle that Christopher Nolan creates on screen, without the use of special effects is impressive to say the least. Nolan really said ‘fuck it’ and bought a Boeing 747 plane, just to crash it into a building and blow it all up. Perhaps more impressive than this large scale spectacle though, is the detailed presentation of the mind-boggling concept of ‘time inversion’. During many scenes in Tenet, more than one perception of time plays out on screen simultaneously, which I loved watching unfold in front of me. Tenet is a celebration of cinema. The score, which is composed by Ludwig Goransson (breaking way from Nolan’s usual partnership with Hans Zimmer), is pumped full of adrenaline and perfectly accents the drama happening on screen. I also found that some musical sequences sounded almost like they were in reverse, which of course suited the narrative.

The acting was also commendable in this film. Nothing spectacular, but still convincing, well executed performances. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson had a good chemistry and Pattinson was particularly charming in this role. Kenneth Branagh was an adequately ominous, Russian antagonist. However, the majority of characters in Tenet are kept emotionally distant and feel more like chess pieces than fully developed, 3 dimensional characters. Clearly, it was intentional of Nolan to keep the characters at an arms length from the audience, as the protagonist doesn’t even have a name, and his personal desires and needs are not really explored beyond the mission he accepts. I’m not really sure the what the reasoning behind this decision was, and in my opinion, its one of the film’s biggest flaws. While the car chases, fight scenes and action sequences were all technically entertaining, they lacked tension, because the audience are given no time or reason to invest in the characters within these scenes. That being said, Elizabeth Debicki as Kat is by far, the heart and soul of this movie. To me, she felt like the only character with any depth and I found her character arc to be really satisfying. It’s just a shame that I didn’t feel this way about any of the other characters.

Nolan likes to make audiences scratch their heads with his high concept ideas, and this is often a selling point. However, in Tenet, I think the actual idea of time inversion is pretty simple, but its the vagueness of the details and the origin story that makes this plot a hard one to follow. Unfortunately, this means that the stakes of each scene are not always clear and therefore, naturally, we care less about the outcome. Of course, I expect that when I watch Tenet a second time, and I will soon, that I will take a lot more away from it. But truth be told,I think that compared to Nolan’s other films, Tenet is actually lacking in flavour and although I enjoyed watching it, I don’t feel particularly compelled by it in hindsight.

Overall, I really enjoyed Tenet. Is it Nolan’s best work? Not even close. Is it worth going to watch in cinemas? Absolutely, it’s still a Nolan film after all...


Thanks for reading guys,

Stay safe - Elise x


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