Thriller about time not worth eight months


Starring John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh

Rated M

I just watched a film in a cinema for the first time since March – I only wish it was a better film.

Tenet is a well-produced but flat, almost impenetrably dense thriller that squanders its central concept.

An elite agent (John David Washington) must use the reversal of time to prevent the end of the world.

The performances are natural and the characters are simple yet engaging, but the heavy-handed themes and excessive expository dialogue give Tenet a dry, clinical feel.

Tenet is full of Macguffins (plot devices that move the plot forward but have little importance in themselves), from a plutonium shipment to a Goya drawing, and writer-director Christopher Nolan’s over-reliance on objects to move the plot forward feels lazy.

Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), a mysterious woman whose son is held hostage by the villain, is the plot’s primary personal motivator, but suffers a gratuitous degree of abuse and victimisation.

Tenet’s action sequences make only cursory use of the film’s time-manipulation gimmick. Even as the main characters clash with “inverted” opponents moving backward through time, the visual result is a very conventional (but tense and well-composed) fight scene or car chase. Tenet also dwells just enough on its world’s rules to highlight how little sense they make in practice, unlike more sensible time-travel thrillers such as Looper and Timecrimes.

Tenet is a complicated yet shallow marathon of a movie with outstanding production and wasted ideas.

– Seth Lukas Hynes