Friday 18 September 2020


Beyond Memento, I’ve never been a fan of Christopher Nolan. I know, I know, that’s pretty blasphemous. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike his work – there’s certainly a place for it – but I’ve just never found much enjoyment in the pretentious pseudo-intellectual filmmaking style that is so evident in films like Inception and Interstellar. While Tenet was marketed so heavily and delayed three times due to the Covid-19 pandemic over the last few months, I felt pretty fatigued by the whole thing before even seeing it. And now that I’ve seen it and had time to think it all over, it’s time to discuss it.

I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free as much as possible, but of course, basic details will be littered throughout. If you want to see the film totally blind, close this review and come back when you’ve seen the film.

Now that the hype of the Tenet has died down, we can finally state that…Tenet is far from Nolan’s best. The film follows a secret agent (John David Washington) as he manipulates the flow of time to prevent World War III, with the help of his handler (Robert Pattinson). I’m not going to divulge any more plot points because although the film has been out a little while now, I don’t want to be the sort of person who spoils a Christopher Nolan film – mainly because I’m afraid to feel the wrath of the fanboys. But rest assured, there’s more to Tenet than meets the eye. Narratively, at least. But in terms of execution? Ehhhh.

Tenet is not a bad film. There’s a lot to like here – whether the stellar central performances from Washington and Pattinson or the astonishing visual effect sequences, Tenet is a film that certainly feels like a product of quality. I certainly can’t knock Nolan’s ability to make spectacle cinema. But the po-faced delivery of the preposterous narrative just made the 150min runtime feel like far more of a slog than it should’ve. The film feels self-indulgent and tedious, and the near-incoherent narrative that ‘demands repeat viewings’ just feels like a gimmick more than anything. I wasn’t engrossed or excited by any of the story, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it just felt like something I’d seen before. There’s a reason why the fan rumours that Tenet was a sequel to Inception felt so believable – because it feels, at times, like the same film. 

I get that my response to Tenet might have an element of bias to it, coming from someone who hasn’t particularly enjoyed a Christopher Nolan film for almost a decade. But this isn’t me ripping Tenet to shreds – as mentioned, there is a lot to like. The visuals are stellar and the film does feel like an ‘experience’ on the big screen. But after all, is said and done and the hype fades away, and we are watching the film on Blu-ray from the comfort of our homes, people will realise that it’s just not all that great. The film just feels like it’s trying to win Christopher Nolan bingo as it ticks the boxes of all the cerebral self-indulgence we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker’s work. 

Sam Love

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