Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
Spies and espionage / secret agents
Spies in the Bible
Time travel / changing the past / quantum physics / seeing the future / time rewind / time loop / alternate timelines
Terrorism / terrorists
About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity
What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer
John David Washington … The Protagonist
Robert Pattinson … Neil
Kenneth Branagh … Andrei Sator
Elizabeth Debicki … Kat
Michael Caine … Michael Crosby
Aaron Taylor-Johnson … Ives
Clémence Poésy … Barbara
Fiona Dourif … Wheeler
Himesh Patel … Mahir
Andrew Howard … Stephen
Wes Chatham … Sammy
Dimple Kapadia … Priya
Martin Donovan … Victor
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Syncopy [Great Britain]
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Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
“Time runs out”
Who doesn’t love to go to the symphony? Well most people would, except you probably wouldn’t want to be there today, especially since there is a terrorist attack going on. Of course the local police and militia have been called in and… wait… the CIA?? Yes, they call in the big guns, an American man named The Protagonist (John David Washington). Unfortunately, during an interaction with the lead terrorist, Andrei, The Protagonist is killed.
Flash forward a few days, The Protagonist wakes up. No, you didn’t read that wrong, he woke up. You see he didn’t die, not completely. A secretive group saves him in time and tells him that what he will encounter will go beyond anything he’s ever comprehended and that with one word… “Tenet”… his world will be forever changed for good and bad.
The Protagonist is intrigued. As he dives deeper into this mystery, he begins to discover the true mission of these terrorists, *MINOR SPOILER* to use the technology of future races (left behind in the past for Andrei to find) to harness the power of Inversion (manipulating time and motion to flow backward) for weaponry. *END MINOR SPOILER*
The clock is ticking, forward and backward. The Protagonist will need all the help he can get, including that of his colleague Neil (Robert Pattinson), to save the present from the future.
Before I dive into this review, let me start by stating I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s films; from the “Dark Knight” Trilogy to “Dunkirk,” to “Interstellar,” I’ve appreciated Nolan’s style of writing and directing. Much like any great screenwriter, Nolan always adds his own subtle, and not so subtle nuances, to each and every film—themes and messages he hopes will reach audience members that take the time to dig deeper (e.g., Each film in the “Dark Knight” Trilogy had a underlying theme as was mentioned in a previous review). This brings me to the movie “Tenet.”
Frankly, this film isn’t anything wondrous or something that one wouldn’t expect from one as talented as Nolan, and indeed his writing is ALL over the wall: the mystery, the obscure dialog, the underlying messaging, the heavy plot points, and, in this case, the hurried pacing of the plot. However, “Tenet” is unique, in a sense, that while on the surface this might seem like another sci-fi film to some, it really isn’t. Sure, time travel is a basis of the film, but while Nolan has you looking at that one thing, you really should be looking at something else (and to say anymore would be spoiling potential fun for you). Is the film perfect? No, not at all. But there is a nice balance between plot and action.
The bad? Well, the pacing, particularly, at the beginning of the film, moves so rapidly and the dialog just flies by so fast that I and the audience members that were with me were stunned we were able to follow the rest of the film. However, once the pacing slowed a little, I was able to catch my breath and more easily follow the rest of the story.
I was rather let down by the performance of The Protagonist. It was incredibly sullen and monotone, especially in his dialog. His chemistry with Neil (Robert Pattinson) was also, at times, forced. As a viewer, I felt like the actor had given up on the film about 20 minutes in. However, I must say Robert Pattinson gave an incredibly strong performance. It felt like he had to do quite a bit of the heavy-lifting in the film, but it was worth it, as his performance was a mature, subtle yet enjoyable one (a significant growth since the “Twilight” series).
The violence is very heavy. Young orchestral musicians are put in danger when terrorists attack their performance at an opera house. The terrorists are also seen taking hostages during this crisis. We see terrorists shooting at police and local SWAT and some on both sides are killed. A man tries to take cyanide but this is foiled. Men are beaten and smashed in a brawl. Crew on an airplane are knocked out in one scene and the plane is set to crash into an airplane hangar. A man provides graphic details about how to die. A woman tries to kill her husband by releasing his harness from a sailing boat and letting him drown. A husband throws papers at his wife. A man is beaten to death. Another man is bloodied. A woman is hit in, spit on and kicked. Cars are barricaded on the sides in a highway chase and smashed. A car is lit on fire with a man inside. There is a huge militia-like fight sequence with a large amount of violence—bombs, planes, grenades, and other weapons. Through means of an Inversion, a person is sucked into a building and trapped in the walls. A man is shot to death and thrown overboard. Lastly, someone commits suicide.
The central message of the film seems to be that time is so precious that how we manage it, what decisions we make in the time we have on Earth and how those decisions affect others determine the course of the future and those around us.
Indeed, time is precious. So what will we, as Christians, do with our time we have on Earth? Will we waste our time, focus and energy and ultimately….
“…store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. —Matthew 6:19
Or will you and I, as Christians, choose to focus our time, our attention on the works of the Lord…
“So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” —Colossians 1:10
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” —John 6:27
The first thing that I and the six audience members with me asked as we walked out of the theater was, “What just happened?” Three days later, I’m still pondering that question.
“Tenet” is a high-octane sci-fi film that has many, many pieces to put together; whether that is a good or bad thing, I’ll let you be the judge. What I can tell you is that there is plenty of violence, profanity and even some vulgarity (quite unnecessary), and that isn’t something I recommend young children being exposed to. All in all, I wouldn’t say Tenet is a bad film, but it isn’t Nolan’s best. Ultimately the decision lies with you.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.