Christopher Nolan’s 11th feature film adds another mind-bending plot to his canon, but is this plot executed to the best of Nolan’s ability? “Tenet,” directed by auteur Christopher Nolan, had enormous hype behind it due to his widespread adoration and the delayed release of the movie because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nolan has a unique reputation in Hollywood for making big-budget films with original ideas and no restrictions in an era where studios usually dictate creative direction. Nolan proved himself with his successful adaption of “Batman” to the big screen, as well as trippy but entertaining blockbusters, like “Inception.”
“Tenet” is about a man — only referred to as “the Protagonist” — who must go on a journey of espionage to save the world from an apocalyptic threat. It is a sibling to “Inception,” but while “Inception” lays down the rules of its dream concept quite clearly, “Tenet” leaves a lot more unsaid. The movie begins at a breakneck pace that never lets up. The Protagonist jumps from country to country, talking to different people and going on missions. The concept of time that this film tackles is explained more thoroughly throughout the film’s duration. Nolan demands patience from the viewers with these elements, because once the third act begins, your patience pays off. Leaving the theater to discuss these concepts and then thinking about them for days after is what makes Nolan one of the best directors.
The film unfortunately has many issues involving characters, however. Trying to remember names is a struggle in itself and the dialogue between these characters only involves important plot exposition, besides the character Kat, who is the heart of the movie. She has an emotional plotline that is infused with the main plot and villain, but it is not even close to the emotional depth that Nolan has hit in past movies like “Interstellar” or “Inception.” With so much exposition, the characters come off cold and hard to root for.
Ludwig Göransson’s score is intense and raw, but it feels like Göransson was doing his best impression of Nolan’s usual collaborator, Hans Zimmer. The sound mixing was questionable because Nolan put the dialogue really low in the mix so it’s hard to hear what the characters were saying. One scene in particular is on a boat, and the scene was so loud that not one word was audible during it because of the louder water effects in the mix.
The action is amazing. It feels gritty, but it also uses Nolan’s time concepts to make it really memorable. An action scene in an airport is brilliant and shows that Nolan can always be relied on to deliver a fantastic theater experience. The acting is great, despite the script not giving the actors much to work with.
“Tenet” is probably the most inaccessible film he has made so far, which makes it special. Even in his 11th movie, he is pushing the boundaries with thought-provoking blockbusters. There are some critical problems with the movie’s characters and sound, but thinking about the incredibly complex plot and the awesome action makes me want to go watch it again, but maybe with subtitles this time.