2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)
There’s a lot riding on the success of Tenet. After multiple pushbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and writer-director Christopher Nolan’s insistence that it be seen in theaters, many were proclaiming Tenet would bring everyone back to the movies again. I’m sad to say that not only does Tenet have the distinction of being 2020’s most convoluted movie, but it will also Require home viewing so you can pause, rewind, and turn the subtitles on so you can potentially grasp what the blazes is happening in it.
What story I can understand sees John David Washington as a nameless government agent who must keep plutonium out of the hands of a Russian arms dealer (Kenneth Branagh). Sound simple enough? Well, add nonsensical time travel, overwritten dialogue, and a 2 hour, 45 minute runtime, and you see where the frustration comes in.
I wanted to like Tenet. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson are good in the leads (the latter actually showing charisma and emotion for a change and the former continuing his rise), but the dialogue they’re given sounds like pig Latin written by stoned college kids who think they’re “deep”. Kenneth Branagh is good as the villain and Elizabeth Debicki does well as the love interest, but the films’ refusal to explain its overstuffed plot in a way Earthlings can comprehend prevents us from fully engaging with it.
The action, as with any Nolan film, is fun to watch and well-staged, but much of it occurs without properly establishing what the stakes are should our heroes fail. Action without involvement is just noise, and Tenet falls into that trap by its climax. Good performances and some thrilling action can’t save Tenet from a needlessly complex narrative in dire need of rewrites. Rent it if you were interested, skip it if you weren’t. To end somewhat positively, I’m convinced now that Robert Pattinson might make a good Batman, while my parents spent the first half of the film deciphering if that was actually the Twilight guy or if it was his brother with charisma and acting range.
Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violence and Action, Some Suggestive References, and Brief Strong Language