TENET Review

September 19th, 2020

Rating: 7.5/10 (Mind Bending Action Thriller) 

Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Michael Caine 

Written and Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Music: Ludwig Göransson

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema

Editor: Jennifer Lame

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas


Screenshot 2020-05-22 at 11.27.38 AM

The much awaited day is finally here. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Christopher Nolan's TENET is finally seeing the light of day. It was originally scheduled for a July 17th release date before being postoned 3 times. Starring John David Washington in the lead role, Tenet is Nolan's most expensive original movie with a budget of $205-220 million. Does the movie live upto the expectations and is it worth watching on the big screen? Let's find out in today's review.



A unnamed protagonist (John David Washington) is tasked with preventing TENET, a time bending nuclear war that has the power to destroy humanity as we know it.



Robert Pattinson and John David Washington


In his first commercial blockbuster appearance, John David Washington is apt in the lead role. There's a certain charisma and swagger associated with his role and Washington nails it from start to finish with his relentless charisma and screen presence throughout. It would be an overstatement to say he reminds us of his father Denzel already, but John David Washington delivers a sincere and appreciable performance that could potentially catapult him as a commercial movie superstar in Hollywood.

Robert Pattinson seems to steal the show in every movie he's been in since the show stopping Good Time back in 2017 and his character Neil also exudes a level of swag that needs to be seen. Pattinson screentime is limited in a movie that runs for 150 mins and you wish he was there more often but is nontheless an integral part of the story.

Elizabeth Debicki essentially does a full length version of her role from the miniseries The Night Manager and she is superb. The way she yearns for Sator's love and is torn between her professional and personal live is really well done.

It's Kenneth Branagh though who steals the show. He is relentlessly evil and delivers a terrifying performance as Russian oligarch Andrei Sator. For once it seems refreshing a Russian villain isn't reduced to the dumb and angry stereotype that Hollywood seems to overuse and he's a smart and intelligent villain who's always one step ahead of the hero. It always makes for a compelling watch when there's a strong mind game and dynamic between the protagonist and antagonist. 

Aaron-Taylor Johnson makes his entrance very late in the last act of the movie but nontheless makes his presence felt with a vital character. Dimple Kapadia's role is of solid importance but the actresses dialogues are inaubile half the time due to the sound mixing. Himesh Patel is brief and adeqaute.

Lastly, the ever reliable Michael Caine has a cameo that only he can pull off with his inimitable style and English attitude. 




This is the most Christopher Nolan movie ever and it seems the superstar director has combined the themes and narratives from Memento, The Prestige and Inception into one film and the result is Tenet. This is easily Nolans's most brain bending and celebral movie to date with a severely convoluted plot devoid of logic and just a very confusing narrative to follow. But that what makes his movies fun. If in Inception it was about manipulating dreams and creating an idea with the concept of "Inception, or the morse code and 4th dimension concept in Intersteller, Tenet deals with two concepts which are inversion and temporal pincer movements. Both of these terms are highly complex but if you're paying attention to the overall story, then it won't be that hard to understand. But given the complex narrative as a whole, Tenet is a film that deserves multiple rewatches to full understand everything that is going on. The characters, story, setup, technicalties and most of all execution of a story like this reminds us why Nolan is one of the greatest directors of our time. Basically if Christopher Nolan made a James Bond movie with his trademark complexities and direction, the product would be Tenet and it results in a mind bending and scintillatingly entertaining and intellectual movie going experience. It's definitely not Nolan's best but it's certainly engaging nontheless. 



Technical Aspects

The hallmarks of all Nolan's films are the combinations and teamwork of his technical team. They're usually Hans Zimmer for music, Wally Pfister for Cinematography, Lee Smith for Editing and Nathan Crowley for Production Design. Due to Zimmer's busy schedule with Denis Vileuneuve's Dune, the legendary composer recommended Ludwig Göransson to Nolan and the result is MINDBLOWING. The BGM of this movie is UNREAL and literally moves the story forward with mind bending sounds and beats that will literally reverberate through your body. Some scenes are just brilliantly elevated due to the masterful score from Goransson and even though it might seem too loud at times, it only adds to the brilliant theatrical experience you embark on. The convoy scene and airport scene are the pick of the lot for me in terms of BGM. Cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema is UNREAL and simply AMAZING and STUNNING. Nolan prefers to shoot on film and has been filming on 70MM Imax cameras since The Dark Knight and Hoytema has brilliantly captured each and every scene with an amazing color palette with breathtaking visuals throughout the movie. From the stunning locales of Capri in Italy, to a highrise bulding in Mumbai, the convoy chase in Taillin, the climax sequence in a desert or an important scene like the one below with a red and blue color palette symbolizing the time periods in the moment, Hoytema's work in this movie is nothing short of a MASTERPIECE. Tenet is a VISUAL FEAST from start to finish. Editing by Jennifer Lame is superb. Not a single scene seems forced and gives the movie a smooth feeling narrative. Production Design by Nathan Crowley is WORLD CLASS. The sets in Tenet are so good that one wouldn't even know it's a set especially the climax scene where an entire city made of rubble was recreated in a desert in California or the yacht that Sator owns, the restaurant scene in London, and the turnstiles designed for the movie. Just outstanding work. Costume Design by Jeffrey Kurkland is superb. All of the actors looks have a certain swagger to them throughout the movie especially John David Washington in all his fancy suits. Visual Effects are STUNNING especially for the cars flipping backwards and then a building that explodes in the climax. Action Sequences by James Armstrong are AMAZING. Tenet has amazing action set pieces throughout that are bound to leave you in AWE. Production Values by Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are WORLD CLASS. Tenet is a gorgeous and grand movie from the first frame to the last and is worth the budget and risk by Warner Bros. 



+ Super Complex Story

+ Screenplay 

+ Cinematography

+ Direction

+ Performances

+ Music

+ Almost Every Technicality


- Sound Mixing 

- Length

Analysis and Final Take

When Tenet was announced everybody was excited to see what Nolan was going to do next after the Oscar nominated campaign of Dunkirk. He then casted John David Washington and assembled a sprawling ensemble cast of what was described as "Nolan's take on the world of espionage". And the movie is exactly that. Tenet is a very engaging celebral action thriller that makes you think but you will need multiple rewatches to full understand the context and complicated narrative of the movie. 

The movie opens with a STUNNING scene with a Nolan staple by now with a thumping background score that sure to have your body shaking. The dialogues are inadubile during this part whcih is a bit of a bummer but the movie really gets going when during the ariport sequence. What follows is a very Night Manager type story that dipped in brillaint twists and complexisites that only someone of Nolan's calibre can pull off. 

Tenet is easily one of the coolest original blockbusters to have come out in recent times and the cast and crew do their best to make this a visually satisfying theatrical experience. If not for the pandemic, the movie would definitely be a success and it's worthy of seeing in theaters. That being said movie does have it's negatives as the sound mixing is not properly done in that it purposefully makes it hard for you to understand the dialogues. In such a complex film like this, hearing the dialogues is of utmost importance. The other thing is the length and one does feel that Nolan dragged the movie in the last 30 mins and just extended the runtime. Nonetheless, the movie is worth watching in the end. 

Overall, TENET is a mind bending thriller from Christopher Nolan who dips the movie in his trademark complexities. It will take a few rewatches to understand but this is a movie the type of movie that people ask Hollywood to make and they refuse to. Good old fashioned entertainment with an ORIGINAL CONCEPT and it's a movie that SHOULD be watched on the BIG SCREEN. Go for it, time and safety willing.