By Laurie Coker
I remember sitting through Inception and leaving confused and unimpressed. I watched it again and some aspects became clearer, but I never really did love the film. With Tenet, the ride, even in reverse action, entertains and engages completely. Action-packed from the first moment, Christopher Nolan’s thriller, like Inception, bends time and space with twists and turns that boggle the mind. Tenet folds in and out of itself like a finely formulated piece of origami created in the hands of a master storyteller.
The story’s nameless protagonist (John David Washington) gets involved in game of chase that has him and the audience passing through dimensions of time. Nolan knows how to pack a punch and even though some aspects are utterly perplexing. Our “hero” leaps from location to location forward and backwards through time trying to enact a change that will prevent the destruction of mankind. There’s a narcissistic Russian oligarch, Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), who has his hands-on time-warping technology and in order o stop him, protagonist must infiltrate supervillain’s circle by way of Sator’s abused wife, Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). He teams up with in-the-know partner, Neil (Robert Pattinson) and globe and time trot to stop Sator.
While the cast is impressive, especially Branagh, who is completely detestable, it is Nolan’s imagery that mesmerizes. Tenet should be watched on a big screen – HUGE – the bigger the better. Seamlessly he moves time before our eyes – sequences running forward and backwards simultaneously with characters crossing their own paths and back and forth again. The story somehow plays out almost linearly while paradoxically overlapping and weaving in and out of itself. It sounds confusing but it does make sense – although it takes a great deal of suspended belief and concentration on the part of viewers to find a rhythm in the mayhem.
Nolan manages to wow at nearly every turn – fight sequences that jump from one timeframe another, boats, vehicles, and soldiers moving in two directions at the same time, bullets that return to the gun, wild car chases, buildings collapsing and reforming, jumbo planes careening into structures, and monumental explosions fill the screen and it is EXCITING to watch. It is best to sit back and enjoy the visual madness and not to get tied up in trying to figure it all out. I am not even sure seeing it again will help, but it is worth a try – if for nothing more than examining the details of what Nolan does. Tenet earns a B+ the grade book.