Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Tenet

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Copyright: Warner Bros.

We’ve not wheeled out the decrepit notions of time travel plot devices in a while, and who better to do it than Christopher Nolan? Actually, I can think of several filmmakers who are better suited to detailing a secret agency uncovering the various broken laws of time travel. Toying with the terrors of time travel in brief pockets of the world, Tenet is the latest big-budget blockbuster blow out from Nolan. Missing this one in the cinema was a blessing in disguise it seems, for the logistical makings and filmmaking marks on Tenet are surprisingly bland and engrossingly frustrating.  

John David Washington makes for a great lead, but his role as a character simply known as The Protagonist bears the stamp of a creatively struggling mind. Would it have been difficult or different to give this man a name? Who knows, an infinitesimal complaint to have with such achingly large inconsistencies taking centre stage. Sir Michael Caine is referred to simply as Sir Michael, names are at the very end of Nolan’s priorities list. These little tidbits do amount to something much greater, and far denser than we should expect from Tenet. Move aside our literal Protagonist and focus in on the downtime between set pieces. Watch as Nolan struggles with his shot-reverse-shot stylings, long shots of boats and vehicles travelling through interesting settings. A dangerously stupid leading man, doing curl-ups at the high-end of a very high ladder, but Washington does the best he can in a bad situation. His presence on screen is a safety net for those expecting any ounce of quality. 

Whilst Washington makes for an admirable lead, the rest of the cast do little else. Robert Pattinson’s introduction to us sees him dressed as David Bowie’s Thin White Duke, a stark reminder that we may never escape the influences of Ziggy. He plays well with Washington, some decent but shaky chemistry between the two is lost to a plodding storyline. Most of the dialogue is stapled together in illusions of brilliance. Scenes intercut with one another, moments that feel miles and hours apart, but holding with them one or two remnants of dialogue that stretch a simple conversation across reality breaking nonsense. Artistic choices let the plot wilt and die, and the choices Nolan makes aren’t interesting. Instead, he brings us an emotionless shell, a monolith and titan-like structure of big-budget tech and blockbuster action, but without a core of interesting filmmaking or characters. 

Would seeing Tenet in the cinema have made it a better film? No. To be deafened in a dark, sticky room that smells vaguely of sadness is no comparison to watching this at home, inhaling chocolate orange slices. Trope-laden nonsense, a thick spoonful of complacency from a director who is championed as The Great Innovator. No satisfying end, nothing that we can look back on and think of with fond memories. Banal twists, uninterrupted exposition delivered with such vile, boring monologues. Bordering on competent popcorn flick, Nolan looks to adapt and fight life’s greatest enemy. Time itself. Our first battle is reclaiming the two and a half hours Tenet steals from audiences.