Tenet Review: Bond on Steroids
Those aware of Christopher Nolan’s masterpieces are no stranger to the sheer ‘mind-blowing’ that ensues after watching one of his productions on the big screen. Nevertheless, I thought I had adequately prepared myself. Like the geek I am, I had done extensive reading on theories, hidden hints in the trailer that might allude to the plot, and I made sure to clear my mind so that I could focus and report my findings unblemished, undistracted and at the height of my mental efficacy. Welp, you know what they say about the best laid plans eh?
I wish I could describe to you what I witnessed, but I can’t say much on the actual plot without giving too much away, and I don’t believe in spoilers. Even if I wanted to, my comprehension of it is so tenuous I’m uncertain I can accurately tell you what transpired. In that case, I’ll simply go with the basics: if you’ve watched the trailer, you’re aware that Tenet messes around with time. Some of you may be thinking time travel, and I wish it were so simple, but in true Nolan fashion, to call it time travel would be a derisive oversimplification of the movie’s premise. Instead of simple forwards/backwards, to quote Doctor Who, its more “timey wimey” … That probably won’t make any sense until you watch it, but Nolan’s magic is most potent when the viewer has no preconceived notions about the film. Much like Inception (which many thought that this might be a sequel to) its brilliance cannot be described in an arbitrary blurb, only marvelled at in the aftermath of the end scene. All I can say is that this makes the time travel in Avengers: Endgame seem elementary.
I have yet to watch BlacKkKlansman, but I know some felt John David Washington’s acting fell a little flat in that and some wondered if he would crumble under the weight of this epic sci-fi, but he didn’t. I’m glad this was the first role I saw him in because the performance to me was flawless. Whilst he wasn’t the only one in the cast with stellar acting chops (honourable shoutout to the chameleon that is Robert Pattinson) what I appreciated was his ability to demonstrate growth – a lot of Nolan’s work is so good because it is subtle and understated but it can lead to a lot of confusion for viewers. On the contrary, it worked so well here because Washington’s journey mirrored our own – it is by no mistake that his character has no other name than ‘The Protagonist.’ An unnamed CIA operative, we are swiftly immersed in his world of deductions and calculations amidst the never-ending smoke and mirrors causing one to wonder what side people are actually on. By the end of the movie, however, without any overt attention being drawn, The Protagonist’s transformation is almost palpable, evoking the sense that much like him, you too have been forever transformed by the experience.
Although you cannot compare it directly to any of Nolan’s previous works, I believe it’s a clear culmination of all his artistry. The most obvious two are Inception and Interstellar, due to the genre of the film and the visuals which are a clear homage to Cobb and his band of intellectual thieves, but the complexity of the narrative is akin to Memento which is arguably one of his best works to date. The incorporation of secrecy harkens back to the Prestige, and though not identical, the style of the violent scenes remind me of The Dark Knight. All in all, I understand why it took him 5 years to write and even longer to produce. The attention to detail is magnificent for a production of this scale, and now having watched it, the description of “Bond on steroids” aptly fits.
Some are already claiming this as proof that Nolan undoubtedly will excel with the responsibility of directing the upcoming Bond films and I have to concur; from the score to the beautiful aesthetics and the espionage feel that reminds me of a classic spy film, Nolan has firmly reminded us why his flair for storytelling is one of the best in our time.