Tenet, by Cameron J. Czaja

For those who don’t know, Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors working in Hollywood at the moment, and I always look forward to his films. When I heard about Tenet, I was ecstatic because of how it looked and the unknown plot that made me curious. It was my most anticipated film of the Summer, but thanks to COVID-19 my anticipation dwindled because I wasn’t sure if I would get the chance to see it in a theater. Fortunately, after a month and a half delay from its original release, Tenet has finally hit theaters much to my delight. 

My anticipation for Tenet had risen again because I actually had the opportunity to experience it a few days before its initial release (at least here in America). Not counting the rerelease of Inception (2010), Tenet was the first film that I saw at my local movie theater and the first IMAX in over six months. I was also amped because I feel like my movie-going lifestyle is slowly getting back to normal, minus the face mask and social distancing. I did have a moment where I was worried that the movie wasn’t going to play because after the IMAX introduction before the movie it went to a black screen for a several minutes. This prompted me to start praying and pleading with God for the movie to start soon with no issues. Thankfully, my prayer was answered because a minute later I saw the Warner Bros. logo and I was set for some Christopher Nolan cinema. Was Tenet worth the hype? As usual let’s find out.

Usually during this part of the review I would describe a good chunk of the plot, but Tenet is no ordinary film and its plot is rather complex. Instead, I’ll just give you guys the premise which follows a protagonist (John David Washington) as he joins a secret organization (I.E. Tenet), and his mission is to prevent a nuclear holocaust. What separates this from other espionage films is that time manipulation is the plot device here and that’s when the complexity of the plot really kicks in. 

When I was watching Tenet I was sure this was going to be a perfect film. However, as the movie went along my thoughts on it being perfect slimmed and when it was over I couldn’t deny the fact that it was not as I thought it was going to be. I did enjoy it a lot and I want to see it again, but there were some flaws in it that I couldn’t Ignore.

There’s a line that a character by the name of Newt (Robert Pattinson) says, which was “Sounds complicated,” to which the Protagonist replies “Well, try and keep up.” Keeping up is something that you need to do if you want to fully understand Tenet. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy film to understand the first time around. Whether it’s the time manipulation or the random moments of exposition, there were moments that I had difficulty understanding everything to where I just gave up on trying and just went with it. Those aspects of the film were still enjoyable, but I feel like it could’ve been better. I think the problem here was that Christopher Nolan has high ambitions for Tenet, but couldn’t find the right balance of pacing to make it fully enjoyable. My opinion of this could change after multiple viewings, but as of right now it stands on being a complicated film. 

The one thing that Tenet does one hundred percent right is the visuals. Because the film focuses on time manipulation, there’s no shortage of creative and unique shots. There are moments of great fight choreography and movements that were stunning but didn’t feel gimmicky, which was my biggest fear going into it. If there’s any reason to not only see on the big screen but in IMAX it’s for those shots. Not to say it wouldn’t work on a smaller screen, but when I watched it in IMAX it was something that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. I can see why Christopher Nolan fought so hard to get this in a theater rather than going straight to streaming. Maybe I’m just going overboard with my praise because it’s the first new IMAX film that I’ve seen in six months, but it’s something that wowed me even after I saw it.

Aside from the visuals, one aspect from Tenet that I enjoyed was how relatable it was from a faith perspective. Specifically, there was something in the film that caught me off guard but in a good way. It was when, during an intense moment, the Protagonist questions the villain of the film, Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), about morality and how God will judge him. It’s probably one of the best moments of the film not because it’s something that I would say in a situation like that, but it’s a wake-up call to those who lack faith and need to think twice about their decisions, which is something we need to focus on time and time again.

Even though Tenet wasn’t the film that fulfilled my anticipation, it’s still something that I was fascinated by and admired the ambition that Christopher Nolan brought to the big screen. I do want to see it again for two reasons: one, just to get a better understanding of the plot itself and admire the visuals; two, to see how this connects with my faith a lot more than I initially did. As mentioned before, I think after multiple viewings I’ll get a better understanding of the film, but as of right now it’s a flawed but fun visual film that’s worth the visit in a theater, as long as you’re comfortable going to a movie theater at this moment.


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