Tenet ★★★½

Original Title: TENET
Year of Release: 2020
Genres: Sci-Fi Action Thriller
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Main Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Martin Donovan, Dimple Kapadia, Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine

Tenet is easily the most highly anticipated film of 2020, not only for fans of Christopher Nolan, but fans of cinema in general: having such a big cinematic event welcoming you in a dark theater is a joy I never thought I would experience, yet here we are! First movie I've seen in a theater since February 28th, and it felt so great to be back there (though the audience wasn't too keen on keeping their damn masks on, sadly).

How is Tenet? Is it Nolan's biggest film? His best? One of the greatest ever made? The simple answer is no. The film has both the best strength and worst weakness of Nolan: the writer-director is highly ambitious with his filmmaking and delivers a story with set-pieces unlike anything you have ever seen, yet brings a lot of that down due to an over-reliance on expository dialogue that likely takes up more than half the runtime.

The first reviews weren't joking: following the dialogues in Tenet requires multiple note-taking and insane attention to detail, because there is a lot going on, and most of it ends up being quite muddled. Characters come and go just to say what our Protagonist has to do and where he has to go, little to no time spent on giving them proper characters and ultimately feeling quite disposable. The actors definitely elevate the material in this case: John David Washington truly is a star in the making and with more charisma than the role probably had on paper, his chemistry with Pattinson the emotional highlight of the film, and Debicki has a thankless role that is quite prominent but lacks agency that could have made her more interesting, while Branagh is a sadistic villain that is ultimately less interesting than originally expected.

Writing this review, I can already feel the rating dropping, from 4 stars to 3.5. Trust me, I really wanted to come out with a perfect score, touting this as the cinematic event of the year, but it sadly isn't. I was quite amazed by what Nolan accomplished here with its set-pieces, truly his most ambitious yet, using a seamless blend of practical and visual effects to create some unforgettable moments of action (the car chase and corridor fight were the highlights for me). However, in a 2.5 hour movie, they are quite few and far between, and even though I was never bored and consistently engaged during this, with the climax really having me tensed up and the bass in Göransson's score shaking my soul, it still didn't deliver the exhilarating feeling I had during Inception and Dunkirk.

Overall, Tenet boasts terrific production value, action scenes, a solid cast, and a earth-shaking soundtrack with visionary effects and direction, but the script crushes over its own weight, needing more emotions and less science, making for an enjoyable romp that is only going to stick with viewers for its visuals rather than its characters and themes. One of the better disappointments I've had in the movie theater, if that even makes sense. Kind of looking forward to rewatching it, as it might either improve or lessen the enjoyment of its narrative.

Story: 6.5
Directing: 8
Cinematography: 8.5
Acting: 8
Sound: 9
Visual Effects: 10


Violence & Gore: 7
Sex & Nudity: 3
Drugs & Profanity: 3
Intensity & Horror: 4.5

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