THE INVERTED WORLD — It’s likely been a long time since any of us have been to the theater to see a new film, but writer and director Christopher Nolan thinks it’s time for you to see his latest film "Tenet" on the big screen.
With an initial release date of July 17, "Tenet" was pushed to the end of July due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then pushed again to August 12 and is now fully opening here in Utah on Friday. While it’s exciting to think you can see Nolan’s latest mind-blowing and time-bending thriller in theaters, I want to take a moment to ask for all of us to practice caution as we head back to the theater.
I had the chance to see "Tenet" in the theater so I could write this review for you, but it wasn’t your typical trip to the cinema. I wore a mask, had to sit in an isolated row and made sure to socially distance while I was there. I just want to make it known I’m not saying you should or should not head to the theater, I am saying you need to use your judgment and do what you are comfortable with.
With all of that said, "Tenet" is a film to be experienced in the theater when you’re ready.
The Nolan spy thriller is a trippy roller coaster ride with a lot of ups and some downs, which makes an overall exhilarating ride. You will inevitably walk out of the theater wondering what exactly just happened, but your heart will be racing and your face flush from the tension and action.
Christopher Nolan isn’t known for shying away from action. If you’ve seen "Inception," "Dunkirk" or any of his "Dark Knight" trilogy films then you know the man can craft an exceptional action sequence. It seems Nolan has taken all of the lessons he’s learned from his previous films, dumped a bunch of energy drink down its throat, shaken it up and then thrown it into a raging fire.
OK, so that analogy got away from me, but the action in "Tenet" hits and it hits hard. The fight sequences range from one-on-one to full-blown battle scenes and each is choreographed brilliantly with so much to take in. The action starts from the word go and hits you with a punch to the gut every time it pops its head up again, which is often.
This may be considered a heady spy thriller, but don’t be mistaken — this is an action movie and it’s executed brilliantly.
The cast is strong
Nolan likes to use familiar faces in his films and while we get a few, this movie is largely new names to the Nolan family. These old and fresh faces to the Nolan-verse play brilliantly together, and the chemistry between John David Washington and Robert Pattinson is palpable.
The entire cast does a fine job here. Kenneth Branagh is terrifying as the film’s villain and Elizabeth Debicki is memorable with her turn as Kat. Other quick but notable performances include Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Himesh Patel and Nolan staple Michael Caine, but the partnership of Washington and Pattinson steals the show.
This is a movie where the less you know the better, but know that Washington is both convincing and engaging in his lead role. I think a new action star has been born.
As for Pattinson, let’s just say after this film, casting him as the new Batman makes more and more sense.
The visuals are jaw-dropping
This shouldn’t be a surprise with Nolan behind the camera, but so many visuals in this movie will leave you speechless. While you’re spending some of your time trying to understand what’s actually going on with the plot, you’ll be spending the rest of your time wondering how on earth they managed to get certain shots.
Nolan avoided computer graphics as much as possible, and it makes for some incredible and stunning shots and sequences. No green screens were used in the film, and on top of that there are under 300 visual effects shots in the whole movie.
To put that in perspective, that’s fewer visual effects than most romantic comedies.
That means when you see a building explode, a car flip, or characters simultaneously moving forward and backward through time, it’s really happening on camera. The practical effects and what’s captured in-camera is truly stunning and that alone is worth your time.
It starts slow
I compare "Tenet" to a really big roller coaster. You sit in your car as you slowly make the climb up the track. You can see the top and you’re anticipating that pinnacle and the eventual drop. You’re excited and anxious and your stomach is fluttering even though you have yet to feel that drop.
But when the rollercoaster is too high that climb can sometimes feel borderline laborious. Then, you finally hit the peak and then you’re off for the ride of your life with loops, drops and thrills, which make the long trip to the top worth it.
"Tenet" has some great action sequences to start and some sporadically for about the first half or so. It’s enough to keep you entertained and interested, but it’s not until a specific moment when the world of "Tenet" is opened up to you that you take that big initial plunge on your way to one of the best rides you’ve been on.
While the slow start didn’t ruin the movie for me, there is so much exposition to get through that it almost feels like a film of two halves — the long set-up and then the riveting ride.
It's often inaccessible
Nolan is known for his complex and intricate ideas and plots, but "Tenet" may be his most ambitious yet when it comes to confusing plots. If you thought "Inception" was hard to follow and understand then buckle up, because this is about to throw you for one heck of a loop.
While I feel I understood the plot, there are dozens of things I did not understand. It’s so complex and intricate that you feel lost at times. This movie demands your attention if you’d like to keep up.
I felt that you can still enjoy the movie without understanding every single nuance, but some will be turned off by the weaving timelines and ideas throughout the movie. Just know if you take a bathroom break, you’re going to be way behind by the time you get back.
The sound mixing isn't perfect
While the sound and musical score are in your face and at times brilliant, some of the sound mixing is a chore in "Tenet." What I mean by that is there are times where the music or sound effects get so loud that you cannot hear what dialogue is being said, and you can feel like you miss some things.
There have been a lot of complaints around this online, but I don’t think it’s as bad as many are making it seem. While you do have to strain a time or two to hear what’s going on, there are many moments when unheard dialogue is done purposefully. This is something that will bother some audiences, however.
Is it worth watching?
In an age when everything new seems to be a remake, reboot, sequel or comic book movie, it's refreshing to see something wholly original and "Tenet" is exactly that. This is an original idea and a whole new approach to the spy genre. You’ve never seen a movie quite like this and it will catch you off guard.
There is no source material to go off so the twists and turns really are twists and turns and keep you on the edge of your seat.
In a cinematic era when studios are afraid to give big budgets to original ideas Nolan has broken the mold and delivered one of the most expensive original movies ever made. That means the studio executives had faith in him and his vision and for my money they were right to do so.
If you’re in the mood for something new then "Tenet" is the movie you need to see. Despite it’s slow-ish start and confusing plot and physics this is an incredibly exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking movie that will be a unique cinematic experience.
It’s also a film that demands multiple viewings and I for one will be seeing it again. I’m confident I will enjoy it even more the second time around.
"Tenet" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language. Check KSL.com on Wednesday for a content guide for parents for the film.