Visionary director Christopher Nolan brings his latest cinematic puzzle to the screen in Warner Bros. Tenet. Fair warning Tenet, is a film that demands the audience’s attention from the moment the score starts. The film opens with an undercover CIA agent known only as The Protagonist (John David Washington) amid a SWAT mission.
The Protagonist fails his mission and learns that he has passed the test while his team is dead. The Protagonist is given a new task by his boss with the one word Tenet to help him along the way. Throughout the mission, The Protagonist will come cross paths with his “handler” Neil (Robert Pattinson), a damsel in distress Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), a mysterious arms trafficker Priya (Dimple Kapadia), and of course, our villain Andrei (Kenneth Branagh). All of them play a key in The Protagonist’s task of saving the world.
That’s all I’m going to say about the film’s central plot, and the less you know about Tenet walking in, the better. In the lead role of The Protagonist, John David Washington continues to build on the natural charisma first displayed in his breakout role, 2018’s BlacKKKlansman. As we all know, Washington has a famous dad, but he never attempts to imitate his father. Instead, Washington possesses a charisma with everyone in the cast as he primarily has to carry the film.
One of the highlights for me was seeing Washington interact with Robert Pattinson. Both men rise above the standard buddy cop tropes from the eighties. In contrast, Washington’s scenes with Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) are also handled well. Nolan avoids any kind of romance between the two. Instead, he chooses to focus on The Protagonist’s goal of saving the world, while assisting Kat along the way who has her own troubles.
Finally, Washington holds his own against our villain Andrei (Kenneth Branagh). Instead of the men engaging in fisticuffs, they play a wits game, trying to stay one step ahead of each other. The supporting cast all shine as well, in particular Elizabeth Debicki. The Australian actress brings a calm and endearing aura to her role.
Following Washington’s performance, I would have to say the performance I enjoyed the most was Robert Pattinson as Neil. Due to his work in indie films, I’ve always respected Pattinson’s acting talent. Truth be told, I was never bothered by in appearance in the Twilight saga as I understood why he chose to appear in the films. With Neil, Pattinson brings a British charm to the role and even shows off some athleticism. Hopefully, mainstream moviegoers will begin to take him seriously after this role.
Nolan’s direction, of course, is top-notch, as always. The auteur, who has long been a theater champion, quickly gives audiences their money worth during the film’s numerous action sequences. A foot chase sequence mixed with hand to hand combat involving The Protagonist and Neil is worth the admission price alone.
Nolan spent five years developing the film script, which shows in Tenet’s complexity. I’m sure that it will cause division and confusion amongst my fellow critics as well as moviegoers. While director Christopher Nolan will make a commercial film on occasion (i.e., his Batman trilogy or The Prestige), the director prides himself on requiring audiences to think. It’s not a Nolan film if the audience doesn’t have discussions amongst themselves well after the movie is over. In that regard, he succeeds once again.
Tenet won’t be for everyone; however, if you are a fan of Nolan and willing to make the trip to the theater, I recommend seeing the film on the biggest screen possible.
Final Grade B+