“Tenet” Review: Christopher Nolan delivers visually exceptional movie, lacks clear narrative

by Mohammed Modi, Reporter

One of Hollywood’s most celebrated filmmakers, Christopher Nolan, who directed some of the most critically acclaimed movies of the past two decades such as “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” put out his 11th feature film, “Tenet.” Along with an all-star supporting cast, “Tenet” follows John David Washington’s character, who goes by “The Protagonist,” and travels through a twilight world of international espionage in a spy thriller with a time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III.  

“Tenet” is the first major blockbuster movie to be released amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and is one of the first films to put movie buffs back in their favorite cinemas seats. It is also the most important (at concerning the film industry) as many people claimed this to be financial suicide. Depending on the commercial success of this movie at the box office, this will determine how films will be released during these trying times.

Where this movie succeeds is in the grandioso visuals cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema brings, which leave you breathless as the camera spans through picturesque  environments. The supporting cast gives noteworthy performances— especially Robert Pattinson, who plays Neil, a slightly rascally character who operates within what they refer to as this dark world of operatives in different secret services.

“Tenet” dives deep and plays around with the concept of time, or as they call it, “inversion,” with a very ambitious yet complicated plot, which, if anything, brings the movie down in quality. Nolan is known for not treating his audience as people who can’t grasp complex philosophical ideas, but rather for encouraging heavy thinking in his films. This is one of the points at which “Tenet” fails. This movie’s plot and story is all over the place and so confusing to the point where you forget where the story takes place. Along with the story comes a lackluster script which doubles down on Nolan’s obsession with “over complexity.” The audio mixing is the worst aspect about this film. You cannot understand the dialogue because it’s overshadowed by the dramatic score (which is great) and sound effects, which takes a lot away from the accessibility of the film.

“Tenet” is technically marvelous and conceptually fascinating, but it is emotionally distant. We know so little about each character, particularly our lead, that Nolan seems to be deliberately keeping them at arm’s length. What Nolan accomplished to put on the frame is amazing, but he fails to show his masterclass of storytelling and character development making this film a let down, especially knowing the auteur. For Christopher Nolan fans, this movie definitely has his name written all over it and if you enjoy most of his films you’ll have a good time with “Tenet.” There’s definitely a great movie within the film, but the final product doesn’t live up to Nolan’s potential.

 RATING 6/10 

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.