Tenet sets itself apart; for a multitude of reasons. COVID-19 delays, and being the first big blockbuster to come back into theaters. But Tenet also sets itself apart in its visual effects, and scope of project accomplished. The film is written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and is headlined by John David Washington, with costars Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debecki. Tenet forces you to pay attention every second. If you aren’t, then the plot encompassing inversion (not time travel), can confuse you to no end. I can almost guarantee I’ll appreciate this film more as I watch it again. But there are some absolute bad things in this movie.
The first thing up is the sound design and architecture. The soundtrack as a whole is gorgeous. Ludwig Göransson did a fantastic job. But whoever chose how loud the soundtrack is in certain areas needed to really revisit the movie again. There’s about 40% of the film where you cannot or can just barely hear the actors talking. The actors also wear masks part of the time, and that can contribute to the problem. Christopher Nolan really works magic with the plots he develops, but understanding them is almost entirely dependent on hearing or focusing on the actors. There were times in the movie where all I could do was wonder why the music was so loud when there’s an integral part of the movie about to happen. It’s incredibly frustrating.
The last issue I have with Tenet is the fact that it lingers on the surface details of its characters besides one. There are no requirements for character development in a film sure, but some of Nolan’s best films to me are where I am so emotionally involved in the characters and why the story affects them the way that they do. This is a non spoiler review, so I will skirt some details. But Washington’s character is simply called The Protagonist, and could have used more development to entice me more in the plot. There is a relationship built up between him and several other characters. But tell me why he’s here. I need more background, with him, and with Pattinson’s Neil. Some flashback sequences, even at the end of the movie would have helped lead into that bond.
The film is beautiful though. The cinematography is stunning, and the way the inversion sequences are shot is incredible. I really am hopeful we’ll see some behind the scenes looks into creating those scenes. Nolan’s work is always visually stunning, and Tenet is just another film to add to the list. The plot of the movie is mind boggling, but absolutely intriguing. If the sound design wasn’t terrible, I’d say it leaves you on hook from scene to scene, but unfortunately I got pulled out of the movie several times because of it. There are some places I would have rearranged in how the story was told overall, it would have helped the exposition, and eased the audience in better, but overall, Tenet has a very good plot.
Debecki’s Kat is by far the most developed character in the film. Overall she’s played beautifully, Debecki plays her with such fervent emotion, I really bonded with her. Washington and Pattinson: what a waste of a perfect buddy cop type relationship. But they’re both in their element, and it shows. Washington needs to lead more Hollywood films, and Pattinson. Well Pattinson is the Batman after all. The cast is splendid, as is the norm for a Nolan film. Everyone has a role, and they were all picked for the perfect role.
Tenet is one to watch. To see if box office money can go back to where it was before COVID-19. While it’s not one of my top Nolan films, the cast is absolutely superb, and the film is a wonder of visual effect marvels. And while the biggest screen might be desired to get the full effect of splendor, what the film really needs is a better sound design, and multiple viewings to accomplish a full understanding of plot that requires intent focus.