When the news was announced that Christopher Nolan was making a new film people were excited. The director of Inception, Dunkirk, Interstellar and a couple of the recent Batman films brings along with whatever he is doing plenty of prestige as his films are rarely a disappointment and usually in the picture when it comes Oscar time.
The buzz about the film only grew as release date grew near and trailers came out. All had the visual style and mysteriousness about them which are trademarks of the writer/director. We heard whisperings about Nolan having mulled over the central plot points for over a decade then having worked on the script for five years or so. Interest piqued even more. Then (I hate to bring you back, but…) COVID hit and the theatre release of the film was delayed. Three times! Finally it came out in August of 2020 making it the first big film released into theatres since the beginning of the pandemic.
It has earned close to $400 million worldwide and yet still did not make money because of the huge budget. Then there was how all felt about the film which featured an impressive cast made up of Kenneth Brannagh, Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, Michael Caine, Clemence Poesy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Elizabeth Debicki. Critics seemed for the most part impressed, especially when it came to visuals. Always thinking large scope. Nolan and his oft cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Let the Right One In, The Fighter) filmed Tenet in 70mm and IMAX.
As for the public…hard to say. Most could not tell you how they felt about it. Bottom line was they did not understand it. Large portions of the film just sailed over people’s heads. This includes a lot of rather intelligent folk. You do want a film to challenge you, not spoon feed you, but you do, bottom line, have to understand what is going on to fully enjoy it. Was it a case of a film being too smart for its own good?
The story features one of Nolan’s favourite subjects – time travel. Here our protagonist is an unnamed CIA agent (John David Washington – The Book of Eli, BlacKkKlansman), who is recruited by a mysterious organization and given an assignment called Tenet. It involves a global operation requiring time travel. Simply put he must attempt to stop Russian Andrei Sator (Kenneth Brannagh – My Week with Marilyn, Valkyrie), a man able to see into the future, from starting World War III. In order to do so the Protagonist is going to have to master the art of time inversion.
Nolan is a filmmaker you can always count on for making sophisticated films. Never easy and always large in scale. He never does what is expected, takes the easy way out or compromises. Credit has to be given for making an intelligent action film. You have to respect all that and his talent. At times watching this film it might remind you of your own most jumbled of dreams. You will feel in a state of not quite conscious throughout. Fighting to come to the surface, but never quite making it. Definitely a film which requires several viewings to take it all in. Or at least some of it…
-Looking at the World in a New Way: The Making of “Tenet”