Throughout the story we follow a man who we call ‘The Protagonist’ (John David Washington), an ex-CIA agent. After an undercover mission turns into chaos, our leading survivor is invited to join a top-secret group known as Tenet. While working for Tenet, it is up to The Protagonist to save the entire world and make brand new discoveries surrounding time. Thankfully, our hero is not alone, and he is joined by Neil (Robert Pattinson), who is equipped with a unique skill set and knowledge.
I have done my best to keep the plot details vague. For two reasons, I am keen to keep this film’s plot secretive, plus it is also not easy to write the film’s story on paper. I cannot deny Tenet has lots going on from the very first opening scene. For most of the movie’s opening, not a lot makes a great deal of sense. Tenet requires its viewers to be patient when it comes to the plot. Many elements are not spoon-fed to the audience, or easy to understand, especially during the first and initial viewing. While the story may seem tricky at first, I cannot deny how much I still enjoyed it. Even if every single element does not make sense, I feel like there is enough here regarding the plot that I had a solid understanding of the film’s journey. The film introduces several mysteries, and while most of these twists are pleasing, I was able to pick what some of these reveals were. While watching this film, I was also reminded of another movie from 2006 (the title which I will not state in this review), which also had similar reveals and twists. This similarity was a slight disappointment.
Visually, Tenet is an absolute stunner. Once again, director Christopher Nolan delivers a film loaded with many sequences that are guaranteed to leave its audiences speechless and surprised. Like the plot, even when an element does not make sense in the moment, it is still incredibly pleasing to view.
As for the audio, the dialogue between characters at times is very rushed. This isn’t necessarily because of the way our characters are talking to each other, but because of the way the film has been edited. This film requires zero distraction when watching as the plot moves so quickly. There was at least one scene that moved so fast I felt slightly confused by the end of it. The audio track is something I have heard many discuss (and complain about). It is no secret that the film’s centre track containing lots of dialogue is quieter than the other audio aspects of the film. I was surprised when witnessing the opening scene to find how loud the music and sound effects were, and that the spoken word was so much quieter than the rest of the audio. Granted, there are moments where characters are wearing a mask or located in a noisy situation, but I do feel the director has created this audio experience for a reason. I had the honour of viewing this film for the first time on the 4K disc with good quality home cinema setup. That being said, there was still one scene which I did re-watch again without subtitles, and no matter what I did, I could not understand what was being said. It is an unusual choice from the director and it is a deliberate decision unlike anything I’ve experienced in film before. I also will state that I did feel the vocal track improving as the film moved along. This could be because of the way the director released the film, or it could be something that I got used to and simply thought the audio had improved over time. I honestly do not know.
Character performances are quite pleasing even though most of them are given little back story. Another positive element which I loved was the film’s soundtrack. The soundtrack is powerful and at times even felt slightly quirky. The soundtrack, like the plot, is something I would suggest viewers pay attention to as it plays a critical part in this film, particularly when it comes to added elements of mystery. Like most of this film, the soundtrack provides a fun and creative experience, again, unlike anything I have heard before. I also found myself playing the soundtrack at least twice the next day after viewing this film, and I have found it to be a current favourite of mine.
Overall, Tenet is a stunning film. Visually this film is flawless as it provides some new and creative action sequences unlike anything I’ve witnessed in cinema. Director Christopher Nolan has made many new and unique choices in this film which will either please or disappoint movie lovers. The plot is undoubtedly complex and heavy. Opinions and thoughts will differ even after a second or third viewing. The film’s soundtrack is outstanding and currently one of my favourites. In the end, can I explain and confidently understand everything I saw in this film upon my first viewing? The honest answer from me is no. But the film has stayed with me, and I found myself processing a lot of details. No matter, I did still enjoy this film a fair bit, and the overall experience here is fantastic.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden