Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ highly enjoyable


Marlee Mcabee, Volunteer Writer

“Tenet,” the latest film from director Christopher Nolan, was released on September third of this year. Despite many setbacks due to the continuing pandemic, the film still managed to top the box office opening weekend. The draw of “Tenet” is a combination of the cast, the premise, and the originality of the movie itself.

One curiosity of this movie is the fact that the protagonist of the film is never named, and most of the characters are only given one name. John David Washington as the unnamed protagonist has fully cemented his ability to play an action star. There are some emotional scenes which Washington handled gracefully, as well as making the intense action scenes look almost effortless. This is likely, at least in part due to his professional football background. Washington’s rise as a movie star, however, comes as little surprise, given that his father is Denzel Washington. 

One of the biggest names in the film is likely Robert Pattinson, who is still trying to shed his “Twilight” fame. His portrayal of Neil is a delight to watch, with humorous and heartfelt moments both taken in stride. John David Washington and Pattinson have a fantastic chemistry both on and off screen, and one of the many tragedies of this year is the lack of a full press tour for this film. In the few interviews that have been done, Covid-19 permitting, their friendship and genuine affection for each other is enjoyable to watch.

The film itself is a bit of a headache to completely understand. The premise is that some objects can be changed to move backwards in time. Some of these objects have been found that are the detritus of a bomb, and the unnamed protagonist is tasked with finding this bomb and keeping it from going off. Failure to do which could potentially stop the world from ever existing. There is a lot of talk of paradoxes, and it can be dense and difficult to track.

Director Christopher Nolan is by no means a novice to baffling filmmaking, with a repertoire including the oft cited confusion that is “Inception” and the less mainstream but no less mystifying “Memento.” What this film lacks in clarity, however, it more than makes up for in sheer entertainment. There is something inherently fascinating about a car chase in which one of the cars is moving backwards, not to mention the climactic battle with reversed explosions and gunfire. 

Due to the ability to play with time, the timeline of the film is difficult to sort out. Repeat viewing will possibly be needed in an attempt to fully understand the plotline. The film definitely proves the theory that a plot is carried by characters. If the plot were the same but the main characters less compelling, it would not be nearly as well received as it was. 

Another large selling point for this film is the fact it is not a remake or a sequel. In a fall that, all other things equal, would have given audiences another live action Disney remake and Tom Cruise trying to fit back in his thirty year old leather jacket, the appeal of an original story is hard to deny. The fact that the man that brought the world “The Dark Knight Trilogy” and is thought of as responsible for recreating the superhero movie would also give audiences one of the few new storylines of the season is somewhat ironic, it must be said. The pros and cons of Hollywood nostalgia is a discussion for another time, though.

Overall reviews of the film are incredibly divided. Some critics praise it as the film needed to draw audiences back into the theater after social distancing for so many months. Others cite it as Nolan’s worst film to date and not as clever as it thinks it is. It is a polarizing film. Fans either enjoy the action and heart of the film, or despise its complexity and claim it as unnecessary. This is a matter of individual taste and what each viewer wishes to see in a film. However, if one is willing to put aside not having the entire movie explained in detail, it is highly enjoyable.