Tenet Review

Tenet. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

Christopher Nolan loves to mess with the minds of moviegoers with films like Memento and Inception. He took a break with the WWII film, Dunkirk, but now he’s back at it again with Tenet, a film that deals with time inversion. It stars John David Washington as the Protagonist, who’s on a mission to stop the world from total annihilation. Nolan and his team are to be commended for giving the audience a visual experience, but the lackluster characters and uneven sound-mixing leave a lot to be desired.

Memento dealt with short-term memory loss, Inception had characters entering the mind, and Insomnia had well… insomnia. Tenet focuses on time, but it’s not the usual time travel shenanigans like Back to the Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The characters are still messing with time, but you can’t skip it. Once an object or being is inverted, they have to go back in time the same way they went forward. There’s no fast rewind or fast-forward here. But once it reaches a certain point in time, the typical time travel plot commences with the antagonist, Sator, becoming rich thanks to the future.

Tenet. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

As the Protagonist, Washington is sucked into a new world and has to play catchup to figure out what the hell is going on. How are objects inverted? Where did they come from? Who is supplying them? The Protagonist will be dealing with all sorts of weird events, and it sometimes felt like watching a VHS movie as you search for a specific scene using the rewind and play buttons.

Nolan is great at setting up big, action sequences, and there are plenty including explosions from a plane. Time inversion fights, battles and car chases are fun to watch in the beginning, but once the novelty wears off, it quickly gets old.

Tenet. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

The characters in Tenet feel very bland, and the one character we’re supposed to care about doesn’t have that extra pull. We know that Elizabeth Debicki’s Kat just wants to protect her son, but emotionally we’re not invested. The standout role belongs to Robert Pattinson’s Neil, even though he doesn’t have a lot of screen time.

Kenneth Brannagh plays Sator, the evil Russian boss who has amassed riches thanks to the time inversion. His character is one-note and borders on hokey with no redeeming value.

Tenet. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

If you want to watch Tenet with mainly clear dialogue, Dolby Atmos is one of the preferred versions. If you watch the film with something less than that, be prepared for really loud music and ambient sounds. The dialogue was drowned out throughout the film, making it harder for viewers to follow the movie and its many exposition scenes.

Final Reaction

Tenet shines with its action sequences and the time inversion premise, but it quickly wears out its welcome. We recommend watching the film in Dolby Atmos since anything less will have a bad audio mix. Otherwise, you’ll be struggling with what the characters are saying, especially when the film felt like one big exposition dump.

Score: 2.5/5 Atoms

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John Nguyen
John Nguyen 10442 posts

Assassin, scoundrel, head honcho.