Kevin Lynch, Editor-in-Chief

It’s fair to say that as Christopher Nolan’s newest project, Tenet is the hot new movie in theaters right now, due in part to the fact that it’s just about the only new movie in theaters right now. It serves as the beginning of a wave of summer blockbuster releases that were delayed due to COVID-19, and I can’t really think of a more exciting movie to lure people back to the theaters with.

Christopher Nolan movies are famous for being intense, mind-boggling cinematic roller coasters with stories that are as creative as they are confusing. Tenet doesn’t disappoint in any of the categories, even the last one, regrettably.

The basic premise involves the Protagonist, played by John David Washington, trying to prevent worldwide catastrophe from a device that would cause a worldwide time reversal while trying to deal with shadowy people who all know more than they’re letting on.

The story is fairly well paced, but that doesn’t help with its complexity. While I hate to be that person to complain about not understanding a Nolan movie, I’d feel better about my ineptitude if I knew it was my fault. The basic “spy” plot of the film is challenging but not insurmountable, similar to Nolan’s other movie, The Dark Knight. However, the introduction of time shenanigans made it so that I was practically afraid to look away for a second in order to feed a Twizzler through my mask.

It’s telling of the film’s intricacy that Tenet’s screenplay took a whole five years to complete. The story is hard to wrap your head around already, but it’s not helped by the fact that nearly every exposition-spouting person in the movie is obscured by either a thick accent, a mask, or interrupting noises. It’s very annoying, and its effects can range from a slight muffling to a full cover-up. I could never even be sure if I had missed a throwaway line or an important story detail.

While watching, the movie just gave me a constant feeling of, “Yeah, that’d probably be pretty cool if I actually knew what it was.” It’s enjoyable, to be sure, but not much fun. However, even a Nolan-hating simpleton such as myself must admit that the plot, from a narrative perspective, is still incredibly cool and intriguing. The idea of controlling time makes for
some very memorable and fun scenes, and the concept is well utilized throughout the film.

All of the performances are great, with Washington and Robert Pattinson’s characters being standouts. Their fantastic on-screen chemistry was what fully sold me on both of their characters.

However, Elizabeth Debicki as Kat, the female lead, was another problem I had with this movie. There’s nothing wrong with her acting or her character, but it feels like every time she and her husband show up on screen together, the movie slows to a crawl. Her role just feels out of place in this high stakes action movie, and as the story went on, she just became a little too predictable to watch.

In all, if you know anything about Christopher Nolan movies, you know what you’re getting into here. While it may seem like I’ve had more negative things to say than positive, all of the film’s best aspects are fairly obvious from the trailers, and I can’t say it wasn’t worth the price of admission for those things alone. While it may be daunting, there’s definitely some entertainment to be had in Tenet.