Review « Tenet » by Christopher Nolan: “Be Kind, Rewind”


Tenet (No Spoilers) came out on DVD 24th December 2020.  A-lot has already been said about this film. Be it about the tensions between Nolan and the studios or the disappointing box-office numbers during a pandemic. 

Significant focus was given to discussing the science behind the film. Tenet, like most Nolan movies is what can be called a “smart” movie. The problem with “smart” movies is the number of reviews trying to be “smart” about it. There’s nothing more off-putting than a bunch of people “breaking it down” for you. It sucks all the fun out cinema. Because, at the end of the day, it’s the amazing and the extraordinary that moves the audience. It is the impossible and the things we don’t quite understand that make films and Tenet in particular worth watching.

A good old action film

Movie snobs have been quick to latch on the science facts/fiction that drive the movie but if you remove the “Tenet” from Tenet, you are left with an excellent action movie. Heists, spies, martial arts, guns, giant explosions, car chases, a fearless hero, and a ruthless villain: you’ve got it. Think, Casino Royal, Die hard or Mission Impossible but “Nolan”. His signature style shines bright in this movie. Circular, layered plot structures keep our heads spinning but the eyes remain anchored by the sleek, crisp, sophisticated images. The overall look of the film is sharp and pristine: it’s beautiful.

A tailor-made cast for a carefully crafted story

If people still had doubts after BlacKKKlansman (Spike Lee) that John David Washington might be a one-hit-wonder, with Tenet he definitively proved that he is NOT. John David Washington carries the film from start to finish brilliantly. There is a minimalist quality about his performance that suits the character perfectly as well as the movie. Kenneth Branagh is shockingly good as the main antagonist while Robert Pattinson surprises us in this role which seems cut especially for him. Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy 2) delivers ice-cold rage impeccably.

John David Washington Tenet

Is Tenet really that complicated?

No, it isn’t. Incredibly entertaining is what it is. And yes, you’ll want to watch it several times but not so much because it is obscure and complex but really because it is a lot of fun. It is tempting to think that Nolan is a genius because he makes films so weird and complicated that the audience have to rewatch them several times to understand what is happening. However, the truth is simple: Christopher Nolan makes fun, exciting films. He clearly is a cinema lover himself by the way he shows complete mastery of the action film genre. What he does in Tenet is: he gives us more. Tenet is excellent because it takes something we have never seen before and puts it in a shape we all know and love: the classic action film.

What to think about Tenet?

Don’t think, just watch it. Watch it over, and over again. Tenet is a film for film lovers. Take for example First Time Reaction videos on Youtube, why are they so popular? It’s because the best thing about movies is to be amazed, to be surprised, to be shaken out of our expectations and preconceptions about films. We watch reaction videos because we are chasing that feeling we got the first time we watched Darth Vader tell Luke his secret in Star Wars or when we discovered who is Kaiser Soze in Usual Suspects.

Leave film-critics and overthinkers to their self-indulgent “Tenet explained” and join the movie-lover’s club. Because with a film as good as Tenet there really isn’t anything more to write than: Tenet is great.