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Opening Date
27 Aug 2020
PG13 Brief Coarse Language & Some Violence
150 mins
English with Chinese subtitles
Action, Drama, Thriller
Christopher Nolan
John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh
The project is described as an action epic revolving around the world of international espionage.
By Rachelle  30 Aug 2020
Don't try to understand it.
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The long-awaited TENET has finally opened in cinemas but not a single second of time spent waiting for it would prepare you for what you’re about to witness. The conception of this film took director Christopher Nolan almost over a decade and it wouldn’t have been the mammoth masterpiece it is if it weren’t for every single individual involved with bringing it to life, from frequent collaborator cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema to first-time collaborator Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson and his cast John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Caine, Himesh Patel, Clémence Poésy and Martin Donovan.

John David Washington stars as The Protagonist, a CIA operative who fails his mission to save a high-ranking American during an opera-house terrorist attack in Ukraine. After downing a suicide pill, he wakes up to Martin Donovan gently informing him that the mission was a loyalty test he passed and that the palindromic word “Tenet” is now his new code word and mission. (This may be the only time we hear the mention of the word.)

The Protagonist then hires a British intelligence agent, Neil (Robert Pattinson) to help him track down the materials needed for the inverted bullets used in the assassination. They travel from an arms dealer in India, Priya (Dimple Kapadia), to another arms dealer in Russia, Sator (Kenneth Branagh), who has blackmailed his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) to remain in their unhappy marriage, and who has ties to time inversion.

The duo try to free Kat and her child from Sator’s abusive grip, while also preventing him from securing a weapon that could start a time-inverted nuclear holocaust.

TENET is what one would call a beautiful mess. A labyrinth puzzle-box that has so much yet still leaves you with more questions. It’s impressive enough to leave you dumbfounded, believing it to be great work despite (probably) walking out of the cinema with a headache trying to brain it all but when boiled down, could just be seen as a simple story finding the most complex ways to do the simplest things. The plot of the film has so many expositions that it’s almost a miracle if you could keep up with your first viewing. Christopher Nolan has a knack for playing with time in his work so it should come to know surprise that TENET has just that, and more.

The director not so subtly adds a couple of meta jokes in his script that not only teases his viewers but also trolls them. He makes Clémence Poésy’s character say, “Don’t try to understand it” to the Protagonist when her scientist character rambles on for the first time about inverted bullets and the concept of inversion. But midway through, the Protagonist will tell Neil to “Try and keep up” as he tries to explain the science of it all. Nolan thinks he’s clever for planting these words in plain sight it’s almost insulting.

One of the more prominent standout points of the film is Ludwig Göransson's score. He more than perfectly paired the frontward and backward imageries with his crafty skills of mixing the style of Hans Zimmer (Nolan’s usual go-to composer) with his own. There are some unfortunate sound mixing moves that leave the dialogue muddled behind his score though its unclear if that’s intentional or not.

I don’t think Christopher Nolan specifically intended to make his films this hard to grasp but if that is the case then its a pretty genius money-making move to have his viewers pay to watch them more than once. It’s fine if you come out of it not understanding a thing, but if you did then good for you. 
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