Tenet ★★★★

Tenet thrusts you in the middle of the action and leaves you to find your own lifeline in a fun and dizzying game of catch-up. At all times, though, it knows what it’s doing. Or at the very least, it’s very good at pretending it does. Every move, every wild direction taken fulfils a purpose, and the rules – overly complicated and given only in snippets – exist for a reason: the fate of the world is at stake and every piece of the puzzle needs to fall in its precise place so that time doesn’t collapse on itself.

Nolan’s characters are here nothing more than pawns, each moving as the plot needs them to. John David Washington’s Protagonist acts as a sort of chosen one. His motivation to save the world is that he feels he’s meant to. He doesn’t understand what he’s become a part of, but trusts that he’s in the right place even as his bonds to his allies progress and regress rapidly before his eyes. Robert Pattinson’s Neil delivers charm and exposition, while Elizabeth Debicki’s Kat carries the film’s emotional weight through her relationship with Kenneth Branagh’s delightfully ridiculous villain.

The concept of time travel and inversion is a character in itself, far bigger than they are, and their purpose is only to exist within it, bombarded by information and making sense of it as they go along. Usually, I prefer the characters benefitting the action rather than the other way around, but when so much is going on and your brain is melting, it hardly matters whether or not there’s more to the characters catching the bullet instead of shooting it. The style is strong enough to make up for (or distract from, whichever way you want to put it) the lack of substance.

Tenet is a puzzle that chaotically arranges and rearranges its pieces. But its chaos is meticulously planned out and it marches on with confidence. Sometimes, being confused is fun, especially when the confusion consists of car rides in reverse and fire that turns to ice.

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