Tenet ★★★½

An impeccably crafted film but also a weirdly mechanical one, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet finds the director putting his own spin on the James Bond formula while throwing in some time-traveling elements for good measure. The end result is a brainy, abstract blockbuster that twists and turns its way through one expertly orchestrated set piece after another while arriving at a conclusion that is ultimately gratifying but also a little muddled. Nolan’s screenplay is so aware of itself the main character here is simply named “The Protagonist” (John David Washington), a secret agent who is tasked with unraveling a highly classified conspiracy in order to prevent the next world war. For the first hour or so of Nolan’s opus Tenet feels like it’s all preparation and the movie is dead. Thankfully once the second act is underway the preparation begins to pay off as the action picks up while Nolan’s strengths both as a visual stylist and storyteller begin to shine through. Despite The Protagonist lacking much emotional depth Washington makes for a charismatic leading man and he has great chemistry with co-star Robert Pattinson who is always a pleasure to watch. Nolan still struggles to write strong female characters but he’s greatly aided by Elizabeth Debicki who gives an outstanding performance as the estranged wife of the film’s Bond’esque villian (Kenneth Branagh). Owing to Hoyte Van Hoytema’s first rate cinematography Tenet is a visual treat that fully commands our attention on the big screen, and although I find he’s not always consistent Nolan does deserve credit for being one of the few Hollywood filmmakers we have left making original films on a big budget scale. I only wish Tenet could engage the heart as much as it does the head.

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