By Chris “Boogie” Brown
(AllHipHop Features) “Tenet” is the latest film by Christopher Nolan who over the course of eleven films, has proven himself to be one of the greatest directors working in Hollywood today. Known for his love of helming thought-provoking concept films based on time, fate, space, and multi-dimensions, “Tenet” is his most complex and challenging film to date. The best way to describe “Tenet” is that it is an espionage thriller anchored by a heavy science fiction concept that Nolan has regarded as inversion. If you’ve ever wondered what a Christopher Nolan-directed James Bond film would look like, “Tenet” is your answer. If I had to compare this movie to any of his previous works, I would say “Tenet” will remind you most of certain themes from “Memento” & “Inception” but is far more ambitious and complicated in nature.
For this reason, “Tenet” may be a film that viewers will either love for it’s heightened cerebral approach or reject because of the mental investment required to digest the material. Much of the film’s plot is told through heavy exposition and character dialogue during interactions that demand your complete and full attention. Nolan does not simplify matters and chooses to throw viewers right into the story without a clear understanding of the who’s, how’s or why’s. However, this is the type of film that rewards patience as things begin to make sense about halfway through as we comprehend the bigger concept unfolding before our very eyes. Once you realize what is happening, your mind will want to race back to previous scenes to extract the clues you didn’t realize where there. However, there is no time for that as Nolan continues to throw a barrage of concepts, ideas and information at the viewer that all tie into the final act of the film. I would say this is not a film for passive viewers as the bonus is truly on the audience to keep up with Nolan here. He does not do any spoon-feeding or hand-holding with “Tenet”. Be prepared to work.
From a pure filmmaking perspective, “Tenet” is a visually stunning and technical achievement on every level. Aesthetically speaking, seeing the film unfold is like watching poetry in motion. From the use of colors, shot selections, scenery (Tenet was filmed in seven different countries), to the immaculate fight choreography & action set-pieces that are both breathtaking and head-scratching to watch. Many of the high powered action scenes (featuring a mix of practical effects and CGI manipulation) are filmed using both wide tracking shots and closer handheld shots that place you right in the middle of the action. All of the thrilling action takes place over the backdrop of a pulsating score by Oscar Award-winning composer, Ludwig Gorranson (“Creed”, “Creed II”, “Black Panther”, “The Mandalorian”). Ludwig’s engrossing score completely matches the tone, feel, and mood of the tension in the scenes. Believe me, this score is like another character of the film altogether. Amazing!
As far as the casting, John David Washington (“The Protagonist”) is fantastic in this role and carries the movie on his shoulders with the nuance of a seasoned veteran. I’ve only been familiar with his work from HBO’s “Ballers” and Spike Lee’s “Black KKKlansmen” but Washington more than holds his own as a leading man here. He has the charm & charisma to play the part and handles the physicality needed for the role extremely well. In addition, Robert Pattison also continues to expand his range in challenging roles giving an excellent performance as “Neil”, an operative agent who works alongside Washington to complete the objective of their mission. Together, Washington and Pattison have great chemistry on screen and play off one another very organically. All the rest of the supporting cast such as Elizabeth Debicki (“Kat”) and Kennegh Brenagh (“Sator”) provide great performances across the board as well.
If I had any criticism of the film, it would be that there isn’t a lot of character development for Washington’s character here as Nolan thrusts us right into his plight and mission from the opening scenes of the movie. I would say the same applies for Pattison’s character as well. I know certain aspects about these characters are kept mysterious for a reason, but I feel that if we had been given more of a back story on each, the audience could relate to the characters on more of an emotional level. Other than that, I would say that at certain moments of the film, the sound mixing can be problematic. There are certain moments of dialogue that can’t be clearly understood either due to the score or sound effects smothering the conversations. This was an issue in some scenes in “Interstellar” & “Dunkirk” as well but appears to be a technique that Nolan purposely uses for his own reasons.
Overall, “Tenet” is an amazing film to behold that acts as an engaging and engrossing Action-Thriller featuring the concept of time manipulation. While it could be viewed as unnecessarily complicated, fans of Nolan’s work will be inclined to rise to the challenge of researching, discussing, dissecting and analyzing the film for full clarity as we’ve done many times before with his previous films. Because of the complexities of the story, it may require repeated viewings to completely grasp the plot, catch the details in the exposition, and understand how the brilliant concept of “Inversion” truly anchors the film from start to finish. While I wouldn’t call “Tenet” Christopher Nolan’s best film, I will say that it is his most ambitious effort and further solidifies his standing as one of the greatest directors of our time.
This one comes highly recommended with the caveat that you be prepared to utilize those brain cells for the full length of the movie in order to keep up. However, if you remain patient and stick with it, the answers will eventually come and the reward is surely worth the wait. Whether it’s at the Theater, on VOD, or eventually on Blu Ray/4K, die-hard cinephiles absolutely need to see this film!