Imagine a James Bond movie with a twist of science fiction and a complicated redefined time-travel told backwards. Christopher Nolan once again attempts to explore the concept of time in great details in his latest blockbuster “Tenet.” The film has a complex, mind-boggling and complicated plot that shouldn’t be appealing enough for viewers to consider risking their health for the film since it is only available on the big screen.
Even though only select theaters are currently showing the film, the world is still in the middle of a global pandemic.
The plot revolves around an unnamed CIA agent (John David Washington) who is recruited to an organization called Tenet. The protagonist is trying to save the world with the help of the tenet forces and an British intelligence agent Neil (Robert Pattinson) from an upcoming World War III with an unknowable enemy.
The weapon of this possible war is created in the future with a technology that allows objects and people to “invert,” reversing their entropy. This causes them to move backwards through time. To demonstrate this, a scientist presents him with bullets that fire in reverse.
This technology is an algorithm to invert all of time, created by a scientist from the future. After realizing the irreversible destructive power of this creation, scientists decide to encode this algorithm into multiple different physical artifacts and scatters them around the world hoping that no one ever finds them.
The Protagonist and Neil track down these inverted objects to find the source and stop him from setting off a doomsday weapon that will reverse entropy for the entire earth and result in killing everything on it.
The movie touches on the Grandfather Paradox, a paradox about the consequences of inconsistencies caused by time travel. It is believed to be first introduced by René Barjavel, a French author and a philosopher in the 18th century. The paradox states that if a person travels to a time before their grandfather had children, and kills him, it would make their own birth impossible, and if they are not born then they cannot travel back in time in the first place. Therefore, changing the past may cause something completely different than what they might be expecting.
In an interview regarding his new movie with Edith Bowman, Nolan explains that the catalyst for the movie is the idea of swapping the direction of time.
“It was the image and the notion of a bullet stuck in a wall being pulled out of the wall and back into a gun,” Nolan said. “But that was something I already used as an image.”
The idea of a bullet jumping out of the wall and going back into the gun is metaphorically executed in “Memento,” another one of Nolan’s films. It was a metaphor and played with time as a structural concept, but “Tenet” actually attempts to turn this into a concrete one and tackles it in a physical way as the characters and the story have to deal with the reality of these manipulations of time throughout the entirety of the film.
Just like Nolan’s previous works, ambiguity is a big part of “Tenet” but this time the extensiveness of it brings a negative to the film. The lack of character development in the film creates weak relationships throughout. The protagonist does not have a name and we know nothing about him other than the fact that he is on a mission to save the world. The supporting characters are also given very little backgrounds. Majority of the movie consists of explaining the complex concept but it is hard to grasp what is happening when the only thing you have to rely on is the intentions of these characters.
As we can see in his earlier films, ambiguity is good when it is productive and not arbitrary. For the ambiguity to be meaningful, it has to resonate with the audience. They should feel that there is an underlying truth the filmmaker believes even if you are not willing to state it. Just like the spinning top in “Inception”. The point was to show that the character does not care anymore, does not know anymore and he is lost in it. The idea is to make the audience feel and to think about the concept of time.
Typical espionage/spy films are based on the idea of international travel and unimaginable glamour. Through these movies the audience is able to go places that they would never be able to go in real life and experience extraordinary situations. “Tenet” brings all of that to the big screen with a twist of science fiction component. This concept allows audiences to look at spy fiction elements in a different way.
“Tenet” definitely tries to be more than an average espionage/spy film. Generally, films under such a category include a combination of exciting escapism, technological thrills, exotic locales, a hero and a villain. Nolan uses intricate details to challenge the audience’s expectations from these kinds of films. He takes away the familiarity the audiences hold onto and presents them a more thought-provoking plotline.
Every spy movie has an iconic character and John David Washington fits perfectly for the role. Washington, other than being an incredible actor, is also an athlete. He was a professional American football player. His athletic side was exploited to the maximum level and was able to bring essential physicality to the role. Creating an iconic spy figure is not an easy thing and the physicality is a huge part of it. His ability to be able to fight and run and really bring in energy and freshness to the screen is something we haven’t seen in a long time.
Pattinson and Washington are also a very dynamic duo that brings the movie to another level instantly.
Their acting skills make the movie more bearable.
Although Nolan created an incredible work of art with “Tenet,” it still misses the wow factor that comes from the satisfaction of seeing a film that leaves you speechless.The fundamentals of the concepts are so broad that the humans within the film get lost sometimes.
The movie is 3.5 out of 5. Indeed, it is a film that’s made for the big screen.
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