'Tenet' Review: Nolan's ambitious sci-fi film on steroids featuring Robert Pattinson, David Washington is a dud
The complex and convoluted story may be stellar and visually amazing but it is still flawed and only impressive in patches
Spoilers for 'Tenet'
'Tenet' screams Christopher Nolan from the outset. The complex and convoluted story may be stellar and visually amazing but it is still flawed and only impressive in patches. There's no second-guessing the fact Nolan's spent a fortune in making the film and then had his rant against Warner Bros. But that said, every frame's got the moolah filled to the brim. Be it crashing an actual Boeing that just defines the sheer lunacy, yet the commitment to keeping things authentic, or dumping gold bars on a tarmac, 'Tenet' is literally money splashed around.
'Tenet' is perhaps Nolan's most ambitious sci-fi project on steroids. The plotline is all about a time-bending— a highly-intellectual concept coupled with a solid, promising cast and blitzkrieg action scenes that leaves the Nolan-ites happy. For just another layman wanting to watch this, the flick demands sincere attention, which by the way, might not be the only requirement. 'Tenet' asks for too much and that means viewers probably sitting through an exhausting, never-ending phenomenon.
Laymen, read this as a Michael Bay movie with brains, sort-ish.
Nolan wastes no time in throwing things shifting gears. An attack ensues at a symphony performance in Kiev where one of the agents sent in to acquire a high-profile asset is known to viewers as "The Protagonist" (Played by John David Washington). The only predictability is the mission going full-tilt failure as he is captured and tortured. To end himself from the misery, he chews through the cyanide pill. All this eventually ends up to be a test of his loyalty that he's passed in flying colors.
And onto the next assignment. This one's capable of setting up global warfare when he's introduced to the alien, mind-numbing concept of inverted objects. Basic rules of physics and common sense have taught us that objects move forward through time. In this case, it is reversed as the object, seemingly with a mind of its own goes back in time. Now, the dire concern is, what if this is object happens to be a nuclear weapon? With the top-secret mission, he sets off tracking more of the inverted objects.
The Protagonist partners up with an enigmatic character, Neil (Robert Pattinson). Judging by the futuristic slacks Pattinson's Neil shows up in, one wonders if he's trying to hide that ripped musculature he's building for 'Batman'. The linkup forms a major part of the story as Neil is a man of extraordinary talent, has some solid connections, and essentially, the Protagonist's go-to man. Assisting them is Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) suffering a strained relationship with her husband, Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), the man behind it all.
There's something very Bond villain-like in Branagh's Sator. An uncanny resemblance to Alex Dimitrios from 'Casino Royale', except, Sator isn't a pawn. He's a criminal mastermind. Kat is his Solange, and while there's no seduction of sorts, something Bond is a natural at, the Protagonist manages to add her to his team that intends to take down Sator, who with his Russian accent and snark manages to induce the chills a villain should.
In its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, 'Tenet' fails when it comes to balancing the action with dialogue. There's quite a lot of time spent on detailing out the five Ws and one H. And despite all that, there's still enough fog that the movie fails to lift. Somewhere there, Nolan gives out too much and that makes the grandiose play seem a Rubik's cube. It almost felt like Nolan made this for film studies— a topic that would spawn ample theories and become a subject of discussion.
By the time the film actually ends, the narratives and the multiple acts seem hazy. The final action sequence is where Nolan brings out the much-anticipated action in the film. And though he struggles to strike the balance, the cast led by Washington is a saving grace. After 'BlacKkKlansman', and now 'Tenet', he's cemented his role as an actor who can shoulder films that pack a wallop and require someone to effortlessly pull off complex characters.
Pattinson, by this time, is a household name, and safe to say, he's moved away from that whole era of "This-dude-is-from-Twilight'. He's honed his acting chops over the years and while he may be a supporting character in 'Tenet', he still plays his role to absolute perfection. There's that cameo from Michael Caine that would please fans, but otherwise, 'Tenet', for all the music, the tight editing, the wide cinematography, and the action; leans dangerously close to a dud. Or shall we say, can pretty much be called one.
'Tenet' is running in movies near you and will release on VoD on December 15, 2020.