New films have been in short supply but ESP’s movie reviewer Gavin Miller was keen to grab the popcorn for this much anticipated big screen release…
Thank you Christopher Nolan!
It’s great to be back at the cinema with a screening actually having more than a handful of people in the crowd – with at least thirty congregating for the very first Tenet screening at Peterborough Showcase yesterday (Wednesday) morning.
And there’s a lot more expected over the weekend as the first (and only) big-budget movie of the summer has been released from Nolan and co post-lockdown – despite them probably taking a hit when it comes to the worldwide box-office cume.
So fair play to them.
And even though it’s not his best film – it’s a mind-boggler that at least says the blockbuster is back. So let’s hope Covid-19 is kept at bay and worried studio execs ‘pull the trigger’ and start releasing their delayed cinematic slate.
If ever the term ‘too clever for its own good’ was apt – it may apply to Tenet.
There’s much ingenuity – a trademark of Nolan films (The Dark Knight Trilogy and Interstellar) – at play, but boy this is one ‘busy’ sci-fi action-thriller.
It makes his ten-year-old critically-acclaimed Inception look simplistic by comparison.
So let’s have a go with the plot. This is John David Washington’s (son of Denzel in case you didn’t know) movie and his first major lead after impressing in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman – as he stars as the main protagonist, erm, known as The Protagonist.
The CIA operative is recruited by a mysterious organisation called Tenet to participate in a global assignment – that literally unfolds beyond real time to try and avert an event even worse than World War III. In fact it could end everything as we know it.
To do this he must team up with the likes of Robert Pattinson’s (about to start as the new Batman) Neil and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s (Avengers: Age of Ultron) Ives along the way to prevent Kenneth Branagh’s ruthless Russian oligarch Andrei Sator from manufacturing said event – after mastering the art of time inversion.
Which basically means the ‘entropy’ of objects have been reversed by newly-developed technology and can move back through time – which The Protagonist has to quickly get to grips with. In the process he finds a confidante in Sator’s wife – Elizabeth Debicki’s (The Man from UNCLE) Kat – who is trying to prevent her controlling husband from taking their son away from her.
Unfortunately Nolan keeps you on your toes to such an extent that it’s hard to take in exactly everything that is going on from just one sitting with all the complexities. It’s the type of film that could eventually reach ‘classic’ status – and get better with every watch as you learn more – but right now you just know it’s head-scratchingly impressive. Maybe. Because it’s Nolan.
Washington makes for a competent lead, and Branagh probably steals the show on bad guy duties, but despite multiple breathtaking set-pieces, Nolan pushing the limits may alienate some of the audience in the process – by the sheer wealth of ideas at play.
The ‘mumbling’ issues seen in some Nolan films – highlighted with Matthew McConaughey in (the still better) Interstellar – do rear their ugly head again with a lot of talking via masks, but the noteworthy musical score goes some way to making up for it.
Like a quote from the film states: ‘this is bold, at least you didn’t say it’s nuts’ – and that sums up Tenet perfectly. It pushes the boundaries of cinematic filmmaking to the limit, but whether Nolan can push it much further than this is open for debate, as that could literally blur the lines between an enjoyable or ‘bonkers’ experience.
As it stands he sticks to his beliefs and this just about stays the right side of the fence to impress once again – even if it’s only a middling effort in Nolan’s movie-making pantheon. After one viewing at least.
But one thing is for sure – it’s great to have the blockbuster back.
ESP Rating: 3.5/5
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clemence Poesy, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel & Michael Caine
Running Time: 2 Hrs 30 Mins
Director: Christopher Nolan