Round Table: Tenet

After several delays, Christopher Nolan's Tenet (2020) was finally premiered in Russia on September 3. Our editorial has already checked out the movie. Here is what we think.

by Naya Guseva, Sandra Kuznetsova,
Violetta Efimova, Bella Kortel, Ivan Kuznetsov


Naya Guseva
Tenet is the pinnacle of Christopher Nolan's technical skill. Specifically technical because the plot here is not the main point. The director has collected everything he could in the new picture – the play with time, which has reached a new level, his own James Bond – John David Washington, and even an almost complete rejection of special effects: who else can boast of the destruction of the Boeing 747 for the sake of shooting?

The non-linearity of the plot is the Tenet's weak point: it seems that Nolan spent 200 thousand dollars to show the viewer how stupid he is. But at the same time, he showed all his talent and squeezed everything he could out of the team. The scenes were not inverted – the actors really had to play the scenes of hand-to-hand combat backwards. The golden cast also complements the entourage: Robert Pattinson as Neil, who is neither a master of physics nor an alcoholic art historian, or the heroine of Elizabeth Debicki as Kat who is willing to sacrifice everything to protect her son. Unfortunately, all the characters are unveiled – we know nothing about the main character, except that he is a Protagonist in the whole story (and we will learn it only in the last two minutes of the film). What kills even more is that the motive of the main villain – Russian, naturally – seems floating and stupid. Destroying all the humanity from the future with nine very expensive components is a too fancy way to destroy everything because "all people are moral freaks".

If we evaluate Tenet as a cinematographic performance, it gets the highest score. As a composer, Ludwig Joransson pulled the trigger and did a great job – when the action scene needed a techno rave, Joransson gave it (personally I have been listening to the soundtrack for a week without stopping).

Tenet is not not a bad movie, it's just not for everyone. If the picture is as important to you as the plot, or even more important, it is for you. But if you're not ready to spend a day after watching the film trying to understand the physics, chronology and three lines of the story, it's better to pass by.
Sandra Kuznetsova
Nolan is known for his non-linear storytelling. However, if in The Prestige (2006) or Dunkirk (2017) it was an artistic device with the overall integrity of the plot, and Interstellar (2014) is generally the most understandable and linear one of Nolan's films, then in Tenet non-linearity is shown in the plot itself which makes it very difficult to understand the overall picture. No one expects the oddities to start at the beginning of the film which will have to be remembered considering how they can get lost in mind (if you can notice them at all) if the viewer is watching the film for the first time.

There was a piece of the beginning of the scene where Neil was bringing Kat up to speed. Honestly, I would have listened to Neil's explanation.

There is still a big question with the motives of the characters. We don't get an answer to the question of why this all is happening.

Personally, I understand Nolan's insistent interest in the time-space connection, but the execution is confusing itself. In general, if Nolan wants his films reviewed, he should make great films, not obscure ones.
Violetta Efimova
A protracted anticipation fueled by endless shifts of the release date turned into a protracted action movie with endless unclear moments. No doubt Nolan has a very specific idea of his own that he's been elaborating for six years, but sometimes it seems to be too convoluted for an ordinary viewer's perception. Though there's no need to say this is what makes up the director's usual set – an intricate futuristic concept, a starry cast and the highest quality of the best technologies. (Almost) everything is great on this list – including Robert Pattinson's performance of a brutal guy that might make some of his devotees take leave of their senses.

But the truth is that Tenet can't be regarded as an absolute must-see movie praised by the most of the audience. It's way too peculiar than you may think and whether to watch it or not – totally up to you and your personal tastes.
Bella Kortel
After watching Nolan's film Tenet, we are once again convinced that the main thing in the film for the director is to convey one idea, not a meaning or a moral. In this case, the general concept of the whole picture is time inversion. The viewer collects a complex constructor from a time frame throughout the film and tries to understand at least something. And with childish joy, the viewer notices details that somehow help to navigate in time-space, as if you feel that you are smart because you have caught the elusive, understood the incomprehensible.

Of course, like many action movies, Tenet contains typical cliches: there are pretentious speeches before a shot, typical fights where the protagonist defeats a crowd of opponents with just two hits, and a classic car chase where one car must turn over for the epic moment. But all these templates can be forgiven because the action scenes look colorful and detailed. Even the most sophisticated viewer will not argue about the beauty of the picture. Millions of budget are well-spent, for example, the stunning scene of an exploding plane is worth a lot. And, of course, expensive actors are one of the best investments in the picture: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki.

The film is worth watching, at least for understanding the game with the time inversion, but the film is not worth wasting two hours because this idea could be placed in an hour and the remaining time can be spent on revealing the characters we know practically nothing about.
Ivan Kuznetsov
If you think that Tenet is just another movie of Christopher Nolan you are probably right. It is. However, it's much weaker than Inception or Interstellar. It can only boast a couple of large-scale scenes and mediocre fights. The plot is trivially simple and there is no drama in it. Tenet is a tough movie to watch. Not only it is tough because of frequent time shifts and inversions, but also because most of the characters lack motivated actions. You don't really get a chance to empathize with the characters some of whom don't even have a name. Nolan has fallen hostage to the tricks he used dozens of times which haven't worked out in Tenet. The movie just doesn't feel like a typical exaggerated blockbuster intrinsic to Nolan. It just doesn't feel epic.
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