The superlative writer/director Christopher Nolan produces another exciting, clever, jaw-dropping masterpiece with TENET.
Hailed as the saviour of cinema as we know it seems a bit of a big ask for any film but certainly Christopher Nolan‘s new blockbuster TENET could do it. Of course, I’ve already celebrated this visionary writer/director’s latest “event” film when its first trailer was released. But now that it has actually opened in cinemas and some brief kind of normality has returned by going to watch it, you realise how much you’ve desperately missed going to the movies. We’ve had a rollercoaster of a year so far and so you really need a rollercoaster of a movie to match it. Let me tell you, TENET is that movie.
John David Washington (following up his ace performance in BlacKkKlansman) is The Protagonist, an enigmatic CIA operative. He’s also our guide as we journey into the shadowy world of international espionage and time travel. Yes, that’s right, time travel. You see he’s tasked by a mysterious organisation to track down the extremely dangerous Russian arms dealer Andrei Sator (a wonderfully reptilian Kenneth Branagh) who wants to start World War III. But Sator seems to have a gift in that he is in communication with the future and it’s this element of being able to reverse the flow of time which proves the most mind-bending aspect of Nolan’s sci-fi thriller, which some have called a kind of sequel to his fabulous 2010 mystery Inception. I suppose it could be but you don’t need to have seen Inception to enjoy the amazingly clever fusion of intricate story-telling and epic, mind-blowing action on display here and for which Nolan seems to excel.
To get to Sator, The Protagonist needs two people – Sator’s increasingly estranged wife Kat (a marvellous Elizabeth Debicki) and the very charming British operative Neil (a fantastic Robert Pattinson). It’s this quartet of constantly intriguing characters which form the core of the story and our interest as the film’s events unfold in both real-time and alternate timelines. And of course, at key points, there are the jaw-dropping action sequences which you’ve glimpsed in the trailers – cars flipping over and driving backwards (!!), a massive cargo plane crashing into a terminal (!!!) – but there’s so much more in store as Nolan twists and turns the narrative in ever-more thrilling scenes.
I loved TENET and cannot wait to see it again. It really is one of those movies you have to watch more than once – or twice – as it’s so maze-like that there’s always something new to discover and enjoy. I also think it’s that heady mix of great actors – you’ll see Nolan alumni Michael Caine and Martin Donovan, as well as Clemence Poesy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Dimple Kapadia and Himesh Patel in the supporting cast – working with an imaginative film-maker at the height of his powers. I must mention that he’s collaborating again (following Dunkirk and Interstellar) with that master cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who makes every scene a wonder.
Choosing the line spoken by Dimple Kapadia’s Priya as the title of this review seemed fitting because we so needed Christopher Nolan’s film this year. What better way to escape to the movies than with his latest masterpiece? I’m already looking forward (or should that be backward?) to his next cinematic triumph.