Tenet review: ‘Films as original and audaciously ambitious as this don’t come around very often’

PUBLISHED: 12:17 01 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:17 01 September 2020

Christopher Nolan's Tenet can now be seen at the cinema. Picture: supplied

Christopher Nolan's Tenet can now be seen at the cinema. Picture: supplied

supplied by Campus West

Christopher Nolan’s eagerly awaited espionage thriller Tenet has finally opened at UK cinemas. But is it any good?

Paul Steward reviews the first big blockbuster movie release since coronavirus restrictions were eased.

After a number of COVID forced delays, the much anticipated and much talked about new film from Christopher Nolan has finally arrived in UK cinemas.

John David Washington stars as a CIA operative (known only as the protagonist) who is recruited by a mysterious organisation called Tenet, in order to participate in a global assignment.

His mission is to prevent a renegade Russian oligarch with precognitive abilities from starting World War III.

In order to do so, he will need to master the art of ‘time inversion’, a futuristic new technology which can reverse the flow of time.

If that sounds complicated, get ready, because it is. But it’s also absolutely fascinating.

Nolan has played with the concept of time before. Many of his films including Memento, Inception and even Dunkirk, subvert audience expectations of how a linear story should be told.

But all of those feel like trial runs for Tenet.

The film is set up as an international espionage thriller in the style of Bond, however the time-shifting narrative makes for a totally unique experience.

The fight scenes and car chases, seen multiple times from differing viewpoints and between characters travelling in different directions through time, is the definition of innovative filmmaking, and is utterly enthralling.

As a lead, Washington follows up his stellar turn in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman with another excellent performance, and seems destined to follow in his father Denzel’s footsteps by becoming a fully fledged mainstream movie star.

Robert Pattinson stars as his partner Neil and delivers an equally engaging turn as the enigmatic but capable lieutenant.

Kenneth Branagh takes on the part of the villainous Andrei Sator and is just the right side of cliché, whilst Elizabeth Debicki shines as his wife Kat, a woman desperate to escape the clutches of her overbearing husband.

The films ultra complicated plot will be sure to alienate some, and Tenet is destined to be a divisive topic among movie fans.

As always, Nolan treats his audience as intelligent adults and makes no attempt to pander to them.

In fact, the film revels in keeping the viewer one step behind.

While it’s true the film may need multiple viewings to completely wrap your head around, puzzle pieces that don’t initially make sense do become clearer as the story progresses, and will ultimately make any rewatch all the more rewarding.

Regardless of your viewpoint, Nolan is peerless when it comes to this type of big event movie.

Tenet is high concept, high tempo espionage with a labyrinthine plot and spectacular time-twisting action.

Films as original and audaciously ambitious as this don’t come around very often, and should always be cause for celebration.


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