Movie Review: Tenet

Raghav Raj | Staff Writer

Director: Christopher Nolan

Rating: 5/10

To put it quite simply: Tenet is a mess.

The latest feature film from director Christopher Nolan could almost verge on self-parody if it wasn’t so insistent on taking itself seriously all the time. It takes a bevy of Nolan trademarks — the rumbling score, the intricate plot, the obsession with time — and stretches them to extremes so utterly preposterous that you’re essentially playing catch-up for the entirety of the 2½ hour run time.

Ludwig Göransson’s score, which evokes the bass-heavy Hans Zimmer compositions that soundtracked previous Nolan films like 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2010’s Inception, is mixed horrendously, burying dialogue in theater-shaking synth. Of course, the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, too. The entire first half of the movie is practically exposition, with every word intent on thickening a pretty convoluted plot.

What’s the plot, you ask? It involves an unnamed narrator (played by John David Washington) who needs to subdue a Russian arms dealer named Sator (Kenneth Branagh) — whose weapons apparently warp through time — by teaming up with Sator’s mistreated wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) and trusty sidekick Neil (Robert Pattinson) to also somehow stop World War III. And that’s not even half of it.

There is very little in the way of emotional nuance here (even Debicki’s alluring performance is wasted on a character whose main purpose is seemingly to be tormented), and you come away feeling detached and distant from the film.

Even with the saving graces — the gorgeous set-pieces, the cinematographic flourish, the intricately choreographed fight scenes — this detachment is what you take away from Tenet. For all the tricks Nolan throws at you, it’s a shame that not much really lands.