TENET Review — a Time Travel Thriller with a Spy Flick Twist

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In her Tenet review, Staci Layne Wilson says director Christopher Nolan shows why he’s the master of sci-fi. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen if you dare.

Writer-director Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) used to be known for his mind-bending, time-twisting brain-busters (think: Memento and The Prestige) – then he scored the Superman and Batman franchises and became widely known for elevating the superhero genre. With Tenet, starring John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) and Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), Nolan has returned to form.

Washington plays an unnamed C.I.A. agent turned globetrotting spy in Tenet. He soon learns that his new mission is so dangerous, he could wind up dead. But not just plain old dead – dead in the past. What would that mean to his future self?

Paradoxes abound in Tenet, but as one character says, “Don’t try to understand it. Just feel it.” During the course of his race to prevent World War III (which will use ammunition that’s just as dangerous going backward as it is going forward), the agent falls in love with the villain’s wife. Can you say: “awkward?”

The villain is played with obvious glee by Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express), who seems to be subtly channeling a classic James Bond villain or two. But Tenet isn’t a tongue-in-cheek movie, and there’s very little levity to the tale. The only real comic relief comes in the impeccably dressed form of the glorious Sir Michael Caine (The Dark Knight) in a droll cameo.

While Tenet is hard to follow at first, it does all come together. My only real sticking point was the complete and total lack of chemistry between Washington and his love interest, played by Elizabeth Debicki (The Burnt Orange Heresy).

There’s no doubt that Nolan is one of the few directors who can be thought of as an auteur, and maybe even something of a maverick in spite of his budgets and awards. Not many other filmmakers these days would be given carte blanche to make such an ambitious film without the security of greenscreen and so little CGI. The stunts – especially a car chase that takes place in two separate yet concurrent timeframes – are truly stunning.

When it is all said and done, Tenet is more about being dazzling than it is about striking emotion. But still – it’s a rip-roaring ride and is definitely worth seeing on the big screen if you dare.

Rated PG-13
2 Hours, 31 Minutes

If this Tenet review makes you want to move time and space to see it, check Fandango for details on where to find it.

In her Tenet review, Staci Layne Wilson says director Christopher Nolan shows why he’s the master of sci-fi. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen if you dare.

 

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on StaciLayneWilson.com

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