Review: Tenet

After roughly a six-month hiatus, I finally got to go back to the cinema this week. On average, I probably go see a movie in theatres about once a fortnight, so a six month dry spell was certainly unusual.

While we have been legally permitted to go to the cinema for a few months now, the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, particularly in major movie markets like California and New York, has meant that many big-name films scheduled for release in the North American summer of 2020 have been pushed back, while others have been sent straight to streaming platforms or made available for purchase or to rent via video on demand services like iTunes or Google Play.

The film touted by some as ‘the film that will save cinemas’ is Christopher Nolan’s time (and mind) altering action blockbuster Tenet. One of the most ambitious original story-tellers of our time (if not always entirely successful), Nolan’s was reportedly determined to the point of stubbornness that his film be wide-released into theatres, with its studio Warner Brothers opting to push back its release date multiple times rather than release it for viewing at home.

The film’s massive budget (more than 200 million US dollars!) probably accounts for this, with the studio unlikely to make anywhere near that figure back in revenue if not released in cinemas. So with all of this context, I was excited to see if the movie itself was actually any good when I went along last night.

Firstly, Nolan had a point in pushing for the movie to be seen in cinemas: its opening heist scene, set in a Ukrainian opera house, served as an instant reminder of why I, and so many people, still love to go to the movies. The movie is incredibly fast paced and watchable in that sense, if a little long at 2 and a half hours.

The film’s major flaw is in its complexity, or one could argue its incoherence. A two and a half hour feature film is probably not the best place to explore complicated questions of physics like time-travel, and I’d wager that even the most intelligent or knowledgeable viewer is bound to get lost at some point along the way.

In a review for the New York Times, the reviewer noted that some of the best advice she would give to those going to see the film came from a character within the film itself, who, when explaining the time-shifting concept that drives the story, advises its protagonist not to try and understand the concept, but to ‘feel it’.

I don’t mean that facetiously; the greatest pleasure to be derived from Tenet seems not to be in solving the puzzle of its plot, but rather in sitting back, in front of the biggest of screens, and letting its action and adrenaline wash over you.

The stunts are incredible, the locations a quenching reminder of the joys of travel currently denied us all, and the stars are both visually appealing and giving very enjoyable performances.

After a long hiatus, Tenet is a generally pleasurable return to what will hopefully become more cinema-going normality.


Tagged in movies, Review, what messes with your head