Christopher Nolan’s Tenet started making headlines last year right after it was announced. Boasting of an ensemble cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Sir Kenneth Branagh, and Sir Michael Caine, Tenet was slated to initially release on July 17, 2020. Unfortunately, the ongoing CoVID-19 pandemic put the entire movie industry to a screeching halt, pushing the dates of some of the most anticipated movies to a later date.
Quintessentially Nolan-Esque, Tenet‘s first teaser left the viewers awestruck with a completely new science-fiction concept. Having deftly handled the concepts of time and space in Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Inception, Tenet‘s first teaser trailer also hinted another tampering with time. Initially thought to be another time-travel heist, the second trailer confirmed that Tenet would be using a new sci-fi concept named time inversion.
Having a budget of $225 million, Tenet is one of the most expensive projects produced by Warner Bros. this year. But with the current pandemic ravaging major movie markets, the conundrum of releasing it on HBO Max or waiting for a worldwide release when the situation normalizes has been the cause of sleepless nights for the executives at Warner Bros.
However, Christopher Nolan has been quite vocal regarding the unprecedented growth of the online streaming industry which is rapidly taking over cinemas and theaters worldwide. As a result, Tenet‘s release date was changed thrice, which ultimately led to higher marketing costs. Fortunately, Tenet will finally be released on 26th August 2020 in the United Kingdom, followed by releasing on 3rd Septemeber 2020 in the United States. Prior to its release, the movie had a few extremely private screenings in a few countries. With the first reactions pouring in, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet doesn’t seem quite promising.
Tenet‘s elevator pitch is a highly secretive agency that hires an agent to prevent World War III from happening which is looming over our heads. John David Washington plays the role of the unnamed protagonist who must prevent World War III from breaking out in the future. Aided by Neil, who is played by Robert Pattinson, the duo set out on an adventure across time.
Christopher Nolan has never shied away from tinkering with the concept of time, which most adept directors try their level best to avoid. Having adroitly handled the concept of time across the vast space in Interstellar, Nolan has stepped up in Tenet to race against time, both in the past and the future.
Previously rumored to be attached to a James Bond movie, Chris Nolan has put some of the classic Bond film characteristics in Tenet, which includes high-octane action sequences and a diabolical Russian oligarch played by Sir Kenneth Branagh.
However, having teased the concept of time-inversion in its trailers, Christopher Nolan elucidates the concept quite late in the movie, which is quite an uncharacteristic move of the visionary auteur. As the movie keeps talking about how inverted objects can potentially obliterate the entire universe, the movie seems to be quite distracted by its fascination with Bond-style montages. Packing both Washington and Pattinson as a duo, the lack of an 007 agent is compensated by a tough, dedicated government agent (the Protagonist/Washington) and a nonchalant English handler with a weakness for alcohol (Neil/Pattinson).
Known for introducing mind-boggling ideas, Chris Nolan might have outdone himself in Tenet by introducing numerous concepts that deserve another post to explain them in detail. From bullets sealing up instead of blasting open things to the Protagonist moving forward when everyone else is traveling backward, the concepts need days to register themselves properly in your head. Already tasked with the burden of preventing the third world war, the movie’s multiple subplots could have been avoided to make it a much more seamless experience. With expensive and realistic fight sequences, Tenet might have tried to bite way more than it could chew. As a result, the movie collapses upon its own weight at times.
Having always pushed the envelope, Nolan’s time inversion concept makes a few scenes repetitive, resembling a palindrome. Tenet also pays a visit to science-fiction’s one of the most enduring and recurring concepts: the Grandfather Paradox. To prevent the vision of the Russian oligarch from coming to fruition, the Protagonist travels both forward and backward in time.
Coming to its talented ensemble of actors, the movie weirdly falls flat. John David Washington, who had received widespread acclaim in BlacKKKlansman, seems to have lost his usual charismatic self. Even his chemistry with the Russian oligarch’s wife, Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), feels far from dazzling. Riding high on his Batman role, Robert Pattinson is an entertaining watch. However, his character’s taste for alcohol does not exactly help in creating an impactful impression.
In a summer without summer blockbusters, Tenet is undoubtedly a respite from binge-worthy shows and movies on streaming platforms. Yet, the movie’s premise as a science-fiction thriller focuses a lot more on grand fight sequences teeming with a Bond film appeal. Nolan’s genius sparks across the movie at times, which includes the mind-boggling fight sequence involving the Protagonist showcasing the time inversion ability.
But sadly, Tenet collapses under the weight of its own expectations, unable to leave a lasting impression on your mind. Unlike Nolan’s previous works like Inception or The Dark Knight, Tenet focuses much longer on scenes that are irrelevant while cutting short on scenes that could have added the required depth to the movie. Maybe, it’s time for Christopher Nolan to partner up with his brother, Jonathan Nolan, once again if he wishes to stay at the top of his game for another decade or so.