Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
In a twilight world of international espionage, an unnamed CIA operative, known as The Protagonist, is recruited by a mysterious organization called Tenet to participate in a global assignment that unfolds beyond real time. The mission: prevent Andrei Sator, a renegade Russian oligarch with precognition abilities, from starting World War III. The Protagonist will soon master the art of "time inversion" as a way of countering the threat that is to come.Written by
When casting for the female lead, director Christopher Nolan nearly passed on Elizabeth Debicki because he thought that she was an American. He was looking for a very British characterization, and after seeing her in Widows (2018) he was convinced that she was from the States. So when his wife and producing partner Emma Thomas suggested the actress, she had to inform him that Debicki wasn't American (she is Australian). See more »
For the same reason that the sunscreen would make Sator slide more-easily, Kat's feet would also slide while trying to push him. See more »
The Warner Bros and Syncopy logos are respectively shaded red and blue, the colors used in the film to represent normal/inverted time. See more »
The British Warner Bros. subsidiary removed 9 seconds of footage (showing Sator kicking Kat during a fight) from the theatrical version to secure a "12A" rating (an uncut "15" was available). This version was later released on home video in the UK. See more »
Christopher Nolan does James Bond -- with time travel!
I have a huge amount of respect for director Christopher Nolan. His recent films Inception, Interstellar, and Dunkirk are three of the best things I've ever seen on film and I automatically want to see whatever new production he comes out with. So, I'm just back from the theater having seen Tenet for the first time (I'm pretty sure there will be a second and third time) and in one sense I have no idea what rating to give. At a minimum it would be worth at least 6/10 for its technical quality alone. But it might be 10/10 for the quality of its fiendishly intricate storyline, which leaves your head spinning by the end. But it' s not without a few problems (see below). So, OK -- 8/10 it is.
Among Nolan's previous works I'd say 'Tenet' owes the most to 'Inception' for its complex, ever-shifting, multilayered plot. For Inception it was the Russian-doll dreamworlds within dreamworlds. For Tenet, it's playing with time and time reversal (as you see from any trailer or synopsis out there). We've had any number of time-travel movies before, and one sure thing they're good for is setting up paradoxes, but the way Nolan deploys this on screen is at times genuinely and startlingly new (as just one example, there's a car chase on a busy freeway where one car is speeding backwards but time-reversed, so from its POV it's racing forward, which is why it can travel that fast driving backward ... and there are many more scenes that I won't spoil.) There are things here we've never seen on screen before.
In the barest of bare-bones summary, the plot is all about a hunt for The Algorithm, something that enables this messing with the timeline The uber-evil Andrei (Kenneth Branagh) aims to use it to start WW III, or even (in a total burst of nihilism) ring down the curtain on all of reality. The shadowy team called Tenet aims to stop this. Keep up with it if you can. On the surface, it's an excellent James Bond imitation. Exposition scenes are followed by thunderous action, rinse, repeat -- pretty much from start to finish. How confused you are at any given moment depends (like Inception) on how many questions are running through your mind: why are we in THIS location now, who's doing what to whom, and what precisely are the characters after? The overall impression, though (again, like Inception) is that there IS substance underneath the high-octane surface and that repeated viewings and study will bring it out. We'll see.
So the production quality is, as usual for Nolan, first-rate. There are big, bravura scenes (wait till you see the big opener in a concert hall) but plenty of close, person-to-person ones to balance. One thing that might be a little jarring is that the scene-to-scene transitions are extremely abrupt and extremely frequent, and I assume that's deliberate -- there's no time for viewers to think even if we want to. But I'll accept that as a feature rather than a bug. The overall flow isn't necessarily helped by the music score (by Ludwig Goransson), which is epic but also insistent and omnipresent. Too much of a good thing. Lots of the personal scenes would just have worked better for me with no background score stepping on the dialog.
For the acting: I thought John David Washington (as The Protagonist) was OK but rather wooden, and he's on screen most of the time. I kept visualizing Will Smith in the part instead -- but maybe he'd have taken over the movie too much and that's not the result Nolan wanted? I don't know. But I liked Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki quite a lot. They both have substantial, essential roles and they have more nuance and humanity than anything they've done before. Kenneth Branagh still can't do a good Russian accent (though to be fair, not many native-English actors can) and although he's fine, I think as an actor he's much better suited to Shakespeare or Hercule Poirot. There's a big cast of smaller roles (among which is the always-welcome Michael Caine), adding to the difficulty of keeping up with what's developing.
So there it is. I'm looking forward to figuring out more of what's under the hood of this thing.
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