Today’s Prayer Focus
MOVIE REVIEW

Tenet

also known as “Merry-Go-Round,” “TENET天能,” “Довод,” “Тенет,” “テネット,” “天能”
MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Spy Action Thriller Drama IMAX
Length:
2 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
2020
USA Release:
September 3, 2020 (wide release)
DVD: December 15, 2020
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

Spies and espionage / secret agents

Spies in the Bible

Teamwork

Time travel / changing the past / quantum physics / seeing the future / time rewind / time loop / alternate timelines

Terrorism / terrorists

Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

Megalomaniacs

Sociopaths

Hatred

Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

Mass murderers

Apocalypse

About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity

What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Dysfunctional marriage

Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
Featuring: John David WashingtonThe Protagonist
Robert PattinsonNeil
Kenneth BranaghAndrei Sator
Elizabeth DebickiKat
Michael CaineMichael Crosby
Aaron Taylor-JohnsonIves
Clémence PoésyBarbara
Fiona DourifWheeler
Himesh PatelMahir
Andrew HowardStephen
Wes ChathamSammy
Dimple KapadiaPriya
Martin DonovanVictor
See all »
Director: Christopher Nolan
Producer: Syncopy [Great Britain]
Warner Bros.
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures. Trademark logo.
Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

“Time runs out”

Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

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).

Content of Concern

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.

Morals

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

And lastly,

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

Closing Thoughts

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.

  • Violence: Very Heavy
  • Profane language: Heavy— • J*sus Chr*st (1) • J*sus (2) • G*d d*mn (1) • H*ll (1)
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderately Heavy to Heavy— • f-word • s-words (4) • B*tch (1)
  • Nudity: Mild— • woman in bikini • shirtless men
  • Sex: Minor— • sexual comment
  • Alcohol: Moderate— Some characters are seen drinking alcohol
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—“Tenet” was surprisingly a pretty good film. My husband took me out on a date night and surprised me with dinner and a movie, and we are glad we went!

There was very little cursing, no sex or nudity or even much in the way of what passes for romance these days. The nearly three hours went by quickly as it kept us on our toes with action-packed sequences and a “mystery” that we had to, along with the main character, figure out. All in all I would encourage you to go see it! **Possible Spoilers Ahead**

Positive Aspects:
Did I mention? No sex. No nudity. Refreshing to say the least.
The Protagonist was portrayed as a decent human being, not out for revenge or fighting just to fight. His motives were for justice, not personal gain.

Negative aspects:
Not much. There was some typical “bad guy bravado” and threats that were worded a bit on the edge, but thankfully not much of it to deal with.
A few curse words, but they were few and hardly noticeable.
Not really negative, but there is a LOT of fighting, etc. …
The “Inversion” mentioned above was a bit confusing at first, but once you figured it out it became unnoticeable.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Kathy W, age 50 (USA)
Positive—It’s interesting what the antagonist sees as sin. Spoiler: Bringing a child into a world you know will end is not sin.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Katie, age 36 (USA)
Positive— enjoy Christopher Nolan’s films. His Batman was the best in my opinion, “Inception” was great and “Memento”… well, that was a delightful mind-bending trip! (I highly recommend, but there is offensive language.) I knew I had to see “Tenet.”

I read Christopher Nolan wanted a James Bond type of feel to the film. As is par for the course with Nolan, this is a thinking man’s film, you have to pay attention. I thought I had figured out one part, was so proud of myself and was waiting to say “AH HA, I knew it” to my husband, but alas, I was not as smart as I thought.

The film took its time getting to the time travel aspects, which was fine as it built the story line. I still didn’t get it for a while, but I think it finally came together and made sense in the end. See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Andrea, age 48 (USA)
Positive—Pretty good review, but I’d just like to point out that it wasn’t Andrei that The Protagonist interacted with at the beginning of the film. They did not meet until well into it. ***SPOILER*** Also, The Protagonist did not actually die. He thought he was taking a cyanide pill to kill himself so as not to give up any information, but it turned out that the pill was just a sedative, and his organisation were impressed that he was willing to die rather than compromise his employers, thus passing a “test.” ***END SPOILER***

Overall I liked the film even though it was mind-boggling.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Strachan, age 32 (United Kingdom)
Neutral
Neutral—This had the potential for being an intriguing hit, like “Inception,” but falls short. Interesting time travel premise, but audio issues with some dialogue, vague storytelling, and a convoluted plot makes it fall short. “Inception,” “Interstellar,” even “Stargate” and “Back to the Future” I, II, and III did a better job of unfolding the story and presenting, representing, explaining the physics, or at least the theory, behind the method of “travel.” Too bad.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Tori, age 50+ (USA)
Neutral—This movie did move quickly and always keep you guessing but just like “Inception,” you had to mentally work at trying to figure out what was going on. So half the time it was very confusing. There was a lot of violence and a lot of loud war scenes at the end for like 20 minutes of it. Few curse words, drinking, no drugs and no sex (surprisingly). It was better then I expected it to be. Just be ready to not relax and have to try to figure out the whole time what was going on. Also, it was just SO unbelievable because its completely impossible what they were saying they were doing, so that part was just stupid and boring. If it wasn’t for the action and constant violence, it would have been pretty boring. The acting was good.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Stephanie, age 45 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…high-concept action romp will leave you ripping off your face mask for air, even as you wonder what it was all about… “Tenet” is preposterous …a deadpan jeu d’esprit, a cerebral cadenza, a deadpan flourish of crazy implausibility—but supercharged with steroidal energy and imagination. … [5/5]
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (UK)
…a palindromic dud… for all Tenet’s technical ambition, the plot is rote and the furnishings tired… I’m not even sure that, in five years’ time, it’d be worth staying up to catch on telly. … [2/5]
Catherine Shoard, The Guardian (UK)
…Altogether, it makes for a chilly, cerebral film—easy to admire, especially since it's so rich in audacity and originality, but almost impossible to love, lacking as it is in a certain humanity. … “Tenet” makes you feel floaty, mesmerized and, to an extent, soothed by its spectacle—but also so cloudy in the head that the only option is to relax and let it blow your mind around like a balloon, buffeted by seaside breezes and hot air. …
Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter
…uneven… an ambitious letdown… I wish “Tenet” exploited its own ideas more dynamically. Nolan’s a prodigious talent. But no major director, I suppose, can avoid going sideways from time to time. …
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
…don’t try to understand it… This is a film that will cause many to throw up their hands in bamboozlement—and many more, I hope, to clasp theirs in awe and delight. … [5/5]
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph [UK]
…a time-twisting puzzle that isn’t worth solving… Every time that “Tenet” stops to speak, it only emphasizes a hollowness within: how enamored it is of its own cleverness. … [2/4]
Ben Flanagan, Slant
…grandly entertaining, time-slipping spectacle…
Guy Lodge, Variety
…a head-scratching, time-traveling James Bond homage… It’s exhilarating, in a “Fast & Furious” sort of way… It helps, too, that the swaggering Washington and the smirking Pattinson make a likable double act. But it all happens so quickly, with such brief explanations and so little breathing space, that the story is tough to follow, and therefore tough to care about. …
Nicholas Barber, The Wrap
…Mostly, “Tenet” is a straightforward caper movie—maximally staged and very, very loud, but flimsy at its heart. …can’t overpower its flaws… the film’s tangle of paradoxes is dense and opaque enough to become uninviting…
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
…A Christopher nolan film you can miss…
Anna Smith, Deadline
…‘Tenet’ is not so much a decipherable thriller as it is an extreme exercise in reverse-engineered narrative incomprehensibility—the cinematic equivalent of a half-baked pretzel, its goopy symmetrical loops superficial yet delicious all the same. We’re never meant to know what exactly is going on at any one moment, but we will be—we must be—entertained by the overwhelming nonsense of it all. …
Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)