Time For Tenet

By Paul Hall

Time, as a construct, has always been a linear equation. It’s something that is always moving forward and we never have enough of it. We have afterthoughts and look back at what we may or may not have done differently. But what if someone developed the ability to go backward in time? To see events unfold and correct wrongs — to in essence change reality? Time is just one of the pieces of the new film Tenet.

Director Christopher Nolan has long been known for in-depth and twisted journeys through the mind. His ability to engage the viewer’s mind is a big part of the split in opinions on his work. Do not think you can sit down to a Nolan film and not do some mental processing. And Tenet is no exception.

Our lead character goes nameless throughout the film. John David Washington plays that lead character, and his lack of a name actually works in expressing truly the nameless occupation he has in the film. He’s a government agent for an agency that has him circling the globe on a variety of missions. His character resembles James Bond in a number of ways, from the exotic locales to the interactions with a variety of characters. It didn’t matter what the character’s motivations were, good or bad, he is always cool as a cucumber.

The situations Nolan puts Washington in are explosive and action-packed. We are constantly thinking about what he could be up to in the grand scheme of the plot. As Nolan introduces Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh, the pace never slows. It’s in that pace that we lose ourselves and Nolan gets us off-balance and confused.

That confusion can either be looked at as a good thing or a bad thing, and will lead to some folks liking the film more than others. Myself, I like to have to think. I believe that Nolan is a master at making me think. But in Tenet, I did get a bit confused. I chalked it up to needing to see this film multiple times to really process it and it led me to a “What did I just see?” moment as the lights came up in the theater.

Performances throughout the film are solid and on-point, from Washington’s icy ability to create a character who is nameless, to Debicki’s very real struggle with her relationship, to Branagh’s villainous behavior and Pattinson’s sidekick helping Washington accomplish his goals. The acting is spot-on and even when doing a caricature of their character, they are able to create the right atmosphere.

Despite all the positives, the film as a whole didn’t feel as clean as many of the other narratives that Nolan has delivered. Still, a lower quality Nolan film is head and shoulders above many other efforts that hit theaters. And yet that is also a story with this film. The return to theaters can slightly cloud someone’s judgment. Moviegoers are dealing with concerns about real life, and to think this hard in a theater while under a mask and isolated from other patrons can create a unique bubble. But just maybe, maybe that bubble is about to burst and viewers can enjoy the effort on the big screen in front of them. I did.

After many delays and the interruptions that real life can present, I really believe it is time for Tenet.

Paul’s Grade: B

Rated PG-13
Stars: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Christopher Nolan


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