Tenet has finally arrived for on demand home viewing, which means it is finally time to review Tenet! Or maybe I have already reviewed Tenet! Maybe my review of Tenet has drifted back from the future, to materialize at just the right moment—now!—and I can close the loop of Tenet, a movie that has always and will always be happening to me, in some reality or another! Tenet is and always will be and never has been and probably shouldn’t do! Did you think Avengers: Endgame was a mindf-ck with all its timey-wimey shenanigans? Avengers: Endgame doesn’t know sh-t about time! Avengers: Endgame walked so that Tenet could run!
John David Washington stars in Tenet as “the protagonist” because this is a very subtle movie that also values its characters. LOL just kidding this movie is a giant cartoon mallet bashing you over the head and not one recognizable human being occupies this story. JDW is Very Handsome and has a Great Beard and wears many Fine Suits. Tenet might be about Very Handsome Men with Great Beards wearing Fine Suits. He begins the film in a raid on a symphony and he’s in the CIA or something. He saves someone: exciting! Someone saves him: thrilling! There is a mysterious figure: who could it be?! But wait! JDW is caught! Oh no! He dies, kind of but not really!
Since JDW was willing to die rather than compromise his mission, he gets sent undercover—maybe?—on a special mission to investigate a place or a thing or a person called “Tenet”. JDW meets with Michael Caine because Michael Caine exists to advance Christopher Nolan plots. JDW also gets to upgrade into those Fine Suits. Good for JDW! What is “Tenet”? Nobody knows! Someone might have explained it at some point in the film, but the sound mix is as bad as advertised and you can’t hear sh-t on the dialogue track. I strongly advise the use of subtitles! But even then, Tenet won’t really make sense because this isn’t so much a “movie” as it is an “exercise in compulsory technical challenges for Christopher Nolan”. Nolan challenges himself to execute a series of complicated action sequences, but he invests very little in the actual story, which means a lot of things happen for no discernible reason and there’s a climate change excuse tacked on at the end.
And no, it doesn’t help if you just let the stupid wash over you! Because Tenet is also BORING! It’s not a matter of “fighting the movie” or trying to decode the timeline or anything like that. It’s about movies being stories in which recognizably human characters behave in ways consistent with their characterizations, but no one has any characterization so there’s no real motivation for anything that is happening except that the future is trying to kill the past because climate change! Invoking the greatest existential threat facing humanity does not mean your movie suddenly has significance! That’s just a cheap shorthand cop-out to fill the space where intent should be in your story! This is the worst script Christopher Nolan has ever written and it’s not even close!
The only time Tenet isn’t boring is when Robert Pattinson shows up, delivering lines with an insouciance that suggests he knows how stupid this movie really is (having made four Twilight films, he probably does recognize tomfoolery when he sees it in a script, and Tenet is full of tomfoolery). Unfortunately for JDW, Pattinson steps all over him in every scene they share, and it is largely because JDW is approaching Tenet as if it is Important Movie Saying Something Important and Pattinson’s approach is more, “I get to wear this Fine Suit and sport a Natty Scarf and they let me do Insanely Dangerous Stunts! Fun!” Tenet could have used more people sharing in Pattinson’s extreme “dumb fun” energy. Tenet is also slightly less boring when it Lets Elizabeth Debicki Be Tall, such as a scene when she is So Tall that she can unlock a car from the backseat. Elizabeth Debicki Being Tall is always worth watching, though her character and her performance feels heavily recycled from The Night Manager. Also! Kenneth Branagh has a hilarious Russian accent, but this movie is so boring that isn’t as fun as it should be. Bummer!
Anyone who insists Tenet is Important or Otherwise Notable is probably trying to sell you something. Beware! Tenet is intermittently entertaining, mostly for action sequences—the restaurant fight! The cheese grater! The HOT SAUCE LINE! That’s the best line in the movie!—and Robert Pattinson and occasionally Tall Elizabeth Debicki. That seems like a lot of reasons to watch this movie but that’s about 15 minutes of a movie that is nine years long! Tenet is extremely stupid and also boring, a bad combination! If you want to watch a dumb fun action movie that is not boring just watch any Fast/Furious movie! That’s what Tenet is, really, just fancy Fast/Furious with all the fun sucked out! And this was supposed to save cinemas?!
Tenet is now available to purchase on digital 4K, DVD, and Blu-Ray. It will be available to rent on demand from January 5, 2021.