WOULD THAT I had the intellect and time to better understand the weird and wonderful world of quantum physics. It’d be, without doubt, worth the time. Without doubt the reward for such understanding would be an unique insight into the nature of how our reality actually functions. TENET (or spelt backward, TENET. Gosh ain’t that clever) is a movie that dramatizes the idea of ‘time inversion’, where the linear world of time that as we experience it, is only one reality. As the theory goes, when entropy collapses, time can move backward or something.
If it’s worth the time and effort to try to understand quantum theory; the big questions with TENET, is, is it worth your time trying to understand this film? Would your appreciation and wonder of the world, or even of, say basic tenets of human behaviour, be appreciably increased? A more interesting conundrum: since time inversion reverses time, can I get my money back? I know I can’t get my time back.
Only a quantum review of TENET can do it full justification without spoiling it for everyone…a Nolan-esque multiverse review: where I‘ve both seen it, understood it and so loved it. And one where I chicken out of going to the cinema, didn’t see it and feel that had I done so I would have loved it (It’s Christopher Nolan after all; the poor man’s Terrence Malick); or one where I did see it, couldn’t be arsed to understand it and felt disappointedly underwhelmed by the whole experience
Call it the Schroeder review
The plot is a sort of Dan Brown metaphysics story with the meta left out: A really bad man with a pretend Russian accent (Kenneth Branagh) is planning on destroying the world unless our protagonist, the charismatic John David Washington, called The Protagonist, (because…see below) and his buddy Robert Pattinson (surprisingly good), both wearing great suits, stop him. The only way they can do this (natch) is to go forward or sometime backward in time. The present can only defeated by roping in the future. Or Branagh’s ‘wife’, Elizabeth Debicki (wasted)
And the forward backward time inversion executions are often stunning: buildings that explode and de-explode while people are running forward and backward to and from them; an imaginative car chase that’s happening on the two temporal places simultaneously; and some clever twists that semi explain what’s going on, or went on or will go on.
But it’s difficult to get engaged with a group of characters when you have no idea who they are beyond their role as bodies to drive a plot forward (hence the Protagonist lacking a name/identity/human characteristics?); and it’s impossible to get excited by the drama and tension of a plot when cause and effect are so tangentially related and when the story is so confusing you can’t really grasp who’s doing what to whom and why.
The reviews keep referring to this as a James Bond -like movie. If I were Barbara Broccoli I’d sue them for libel.
TENET writer/director: Christophe Nolan (version, Batman) with John David Washington (BlackKKlansman) Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga), Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki (Widows). Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema (Ad Astra, Dubkirk). Composer: Ludwig Goransson (The Mandalorian). Production Design: Nathan Crowley (First Man, Dunkirk)