Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ is a masterful take on a spy flick

John David Washington (‘BlacKkKlansman’)and Robert Pattinson (‘The Lighthouse’) star opposite each other in this refreshingly action packed film. // Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Our Take: 4/5 Stars

Since long before Ian Fleming put pen to paper, the spy genre has been a staple of literature and film. There is something about the secrecy, excitement, and danger of espionage that has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations. But with twenty-five James Bond films and six Mission: Impossible films to date, the individual installments can run together, and the plots and devices can become repetitive and dull.
Nowadays, it takes something special to create a lasting and truly unique addition to the spy thriller. Turns out, Christopher Nolan’s newest project, “Tenet,” is just that special something.

Set up like any other spy thriller, with a botched mission and a whole lot of secrets, Nolan’s film quickly sets itself apart from the others in the genre, and establishes itself as a film that stands alone. It is a true Christopher Nolan film in that it is only comparable to the celebrated filmmaker’s other endeavors, a unique and visionary work of art that has a lingering effect long after the credits roll.

The story of “Tenet” follows John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”) as “The Protagonist,” an ex-CIA agent employed by a mysterious agency called Tenet. The Protagonist has been tasked with finding and destroying a weapon that can invert the flow of time and cause the apocalypse.

It is a refreshing change from the usual nuclear holocaust that accompanies spy thrillers, and Nolan’s dedication to scientific reality crafts a thoroughly thought provoking and entertaining story. Not only is the premise unique, but the story and writing are worthy of such a great setup. Nothing is worse than a film that has so much potential, but tragically falls short of expectations.

Through Nolan’s use of nonlinear storylines and mind-bending stories, he walks a fine line between great success and being overly erudite; however, he does so repeatedly and without faltering. Nolan surrounds himself with an incredible cast and crew that churn out great performances with great direction and chemistry.

John David Washington shines in a performance that even his father, the legendary Denzel, would be proud of. Joining him are Robert Pattinson (“The Lighthouse”), Elizabeth Debicki (“The Great Gatsby”) and Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”). Each member of the star-studded cast gives an inspiring and charismatic performance.

Each aspect of the film — from the writing, cinematography and direction, to the editing and acting — perfectly melds to form, not just a movie, but a cinematic experience. The film is enthralling and mesmerizing, with fast paced action and a constant crescendo of intrigue and thrill that viewers simply cannot look away from.

This film, however, is not without flaws. “Tenet” exists in a vacuum of space, and details outside the time period are allusions at best, meaning that the audience receives only bits and pieces of the future ramifications of the events within the film. The lack of concrete details are painfully tantalizing.

“Tenet” also shies away from establishing any emotional connection between the events of the film and the audience. While the characters do endear themselves to the audience through witty dialogue and excellent acting, they are little more than names and faces, with no backstory to connect them emotionally to the audience.

Christopher Nolan is a modern-day auteur — a filmmaker that controls a large portion of the production process, such as writing, production design, directing, cinematography and editing. Although it is more popular outside of the big budgets and studios of Hollywood, Christopher Nolan is not the only filmmaker to bring this independent filmmaking concept to the world of blockbuster cinema. But he is arguably the biggest box office success of them all.

Nolan’s attention to detail is impeccable, and it is incredible to watch the film and to realize just how easy it would have been to slip up, how any tiny continuity error could have destroyed the illusion, and thus the power, of a truly remarkable film.

Only Nolan’s mind could create such a work. His dedication and extensive control over all aspects of production is the cornerstone to making the whole thing work. He is a visionary filmmaker, truely an auteur; only a man with a vision as strong as Nolan’s could have created the action packed delight that is “Tenet.”