TENET Movie Review: Christopher Nolan’s Latest Is a Spectacular Puzzle That’s Also a Numbing Head-Scratcher! (LatestLY Exclusive)

TENET Movie Review: Christopher Nolan’s Latest Is a Spectacular Puzzle That’s Also a Numbing Head-Scratcher! (LatestLY Exclusive)

TENET Movie Review: The moment the end-credits begin rolling after my viewing of TENET, the first thought in my (by then) numb mind wasn’t about ‘WTF did I just see?’. It was that Christopher Nolan’s latest marvel came to us at a totally wrong time. It is a movie that DEMANDS to be watched on IMAX screens. And it is also a puzzle that can never be solved entirely in your first viewing. Perhaps, a couple of more views and you might crack the pseudo science that TENET throws at you. However, in the COVID-19 times, we might risk going to the theatres one time, because Nolan demands that respect. But it is highly inadvisable to do so for multiple times. No matter how head-f**ked you are by TENETTenet: Christopher Nolan Is Excited That His Movie Is Finally Releasing in India on December 4, Praises Dimple Kapadia.

Remember being confused by the climax of Interstellar? TENET encourages that feeling from the very first scene to its very last. This one’s a total head-scratcher.

The most difficult part for me is to explain the plot of the film to you without sounding like a total doofus, something TENET ended up making me feel several times. Perhaps I should have taken up Quantum Physics only to understand Nolan and how his mind works.

Anyway, TENET follows John David Washington’s strangely nameless protagonist, who also refers to him as that in a bizarre meta moment. He is a former CIA operative, who after a botched mission in Kyiv opera house, is recruited by a mysterious organisation called Tenet. There, he learns of the existence of weapons that have inverse time entropy, ie. they can travel backwards in time, which makes them very dangerous. The protagonist is told that these weapons came from the future and they could lead to a potential World War III situation.

The protagonist is tasked with finding who is sending the ammunition to the present and who is receiving it. Aided by a fixer Neil (Robert Pattinson), the protagonist first seeks out an arms dealer in Mumbai, Priya Singh (Dimple Kapadia), on whose information, he tracks down an arrogant Russian businessman Sator (Kenneth Branagh) and uses his estranged marriage with his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) as an aid to seek the truth before Time runs out.

Watch the Trailer:

In a lot of ways, TENET is Nolan’s concept of a spy movie, replete with a couple of cool heists, namely the airplane sequence and the freeway chase. Both the sequences have to be watched on the big screen to be relished. At the same time, TENET can also be seen as a spiritual sequel to Inception. If in the latter, it is the dreams that are being manipulated, in the former, Time is being bent.

I won’t even be wrong in saying that TENET works as an antithesis to Interstellar, wherein in the end, it is revealed that it is the future humans who are trying to save humanity by building a new dimension, after we destroyed the resources of our planet. In TENET, the future humans want to kill us for the exact same reasons. Nolan sir, please be clear – does the future wants to save us or not? Christopher Nolan Birthday Special: From Following to Dunkirk, Ranking All His Films From Worst to Best.

Contradictory stances apart, Nolan’s new film is a mind-numbing spectacle that revels in being a high-concept sci-fi thriller and boasts of spectacular action scenes. It is a visual sensation, that draws you in, no matter if you understood whatever is happening on the screen. Especially the final half an hour, where the reverse time entropy goes to crazier levels, as two battalions of the same squad – one normal, one inverted – engage in fighting enemy forces in preventing a global catastrophe. And that’s where the title of the film gets a value boost!

The maverick filmmaker keeps the exposition contained, and doesn’t really make it easier for the viewers to understand the science. Even the quickfire editing only adds to our difficulty in grasping the going-ons. The addition of the much helpful subtitles, however, does little to clear the doubts.

But Nolan did warn us about this, right in the start itself, when Clémence Poésy’s scientist tells the protagonist, ‘Don’t try understanding it. Just feel it.’ That’s a cue for the audience too. And after that nutty interrogation scene involving two Sators, an injured Kat and the captive protagonist, I stopped giving a damn!

While Nolan’s frequent composer Hans Zimmer took a break with TENET, his replacement Ludwig Göransson hardly makes us miss Zimmer’s absence by giving a score that even Zimmer would find difficult to say isn’t composed by him.

And while TENET could be Nolan at his craziest brilliance, it still doesn’t come close to being his best film. I may have a better purview of TENET in my future viewings, the same way I warmed up to Interstellar. But those viewings would only help me understand the film better than to endear it more to me.

Where TENET falters is in creating engaging characters. The actors give their best – even Dimple Kapadia’s wily arms-dealer and expository trope has a significant role. But even with a looming World War III, it is annoying to find that we don’t get to care much about the protagonists, as we are busy in figuring out the scientific mumbo-jumbo. And to think, this is the first time Nolan inserts the theme of domestic violence in his film.

This problem has more to do with how weakly their characters are written, with Branagh, especially, sticking out like a sore tack as the one-dimensional villain with a dodgy Russian accent. Some of the talented actors don’t have much to do. Like Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s army-man, who arrives at the end of the second act and mostly has to look gruff. Or Yesterday‘s breakout star Himesh Patel, who comes more as a filler. Sir Michael Caine and Clémence Poésy are reduced to one-scene cameos.

Maybe it was deliberate of Nolan to not go into developing characters in favour of creating a dazzling sci-fi mind-bender. But when the film only leaves you with questions, without letting you care for the heroes, it is a little tricky to root for it.

The lengthy runtime is also bothersome, with the middle portions, especially, dragging. This was simply not the case with Nolan’s other films, where even with their flaws, we have characters to root for and were mostly engaging throughout. Like for example, in Dunkirk, we may only see the face of Tom Hardy’s British AF pilot properly only a couple of times, but it did leave us with a heavy heart to see him being captured by the enemy forces in the end.

Whereas in TENET, when the protagonist bids farewell to Neil, after discovering a twist in his fate, we see the emotions in his eyes. That emotional feel, sadly, doesn’t transcend beyond the screen, making us care less for the fate of the character. And that’s a bummer.

Also, is it me or is Nolan becoming a tad repetitive with his obsession with nonlinearity and usage of twists? You can guess the identity of the leader of Tenet organisation, much, much before the protagonist figures that out!


– Visual Brilliance

– High-Concept Science Fiction That Would Be Lapped Up By Geeks


– Sci-Fi Over Character Development

– Confusing Throughout

Final Thoughts

There is hardly any doubt that TENET as a film will leave cinema aficionados talking about it for months. But it will also leave Nolan’s fans divided, sometime at conflict with themselves. Like, I was stunned with how Nolan transcends cinematic storytelling with some next-level visual effects and concept. At the same time, I was underwhelmed that it came at the cost of writing and character development, thus creating a conflicted temporal pincer effect for me. Okay, I now see what you did there, Mr Nolan!

(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Dec 04, 2020 11:11 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).

About Charles 50145 Articles
Charles writes for the Headline column of the website. He has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism. He has worked for more than 1.5 years in a media house. Now, he joined our team as a contributor for covering the latest US headlines. He is smart both by him looks and nature. He is very good with everyone in the team.

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