Tenet is a scifi action thriller written and directed by Christopher Nolan. The movie stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh. The story of Tenet involves a secret agent (Washington) who has to save the world from a nefarious plan involving time manipulation executed by the villain of the piece viz. Branagh.
Movie buffs will no doubt recognise strong parallels between Tenet and Nolan’s other scifi action thriller, Inception. Like Inception, Tenet revolves around a clever scifi concept, which requires detailed exposition in order for a viewer to fully appreciate the story.
In Tenet, an organisation from the future has discovered scientific means to imbue objects (and people) with “inverted” entropy, thereby causing the same to move backwards in time. This unnamed and unseen future organisation is working with Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Branagh) in the present to bring about the end of the world.
That is basically Tenet in a nutshell – quite straightforward. However, what can get confusing and difficult to follow is the manner in which this time manipulation is used in the story. Unfortunately, this requires that the viewer pay close attention to all the details Nolan inserts into the narrative in order to understand what is going on. The risk is that in the event that the viewer is not able to follow the plot, then the engagement level will drop and then suspension of disbelief – which is critical to a scifi movie like this – may be stretched to breaking point.
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This is especially so in the final act when all the characters in the field of battle look alike and it’s almost impossible to tell characters apart. Sure, there are subtle clues but once again, full undivided attention is needed and that can be quite taxing on a movie goer.
The other problem with Tenet is with its main character (Washington), who is unnamed in the movie and rather annoyingly refers to himself as “the Protagonist”. The Protagonist might as well be a cypher because his character is barely developed in the movie beyond being a plot device to move the story forward. Is Nolan trolling us perhaps?
Don’t get me wrong. Tenet is an enjoyable movie to watch, even more than once, but more for its unique plot elements – gimmicks – than anything substantial. At least, Cobb (from Inception) had a potent motivation for his actions – to be reunited with his children – the Protagonist is quite the blank slate and apart from the altruistic motive of ‘saving the world’, there’s not much to hang an entire story on.
So, if like me, you enjoy a movie that keeps your mental processes in knots while you turn off any emotional connection to the characters, then Tenet is the movie for you!
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