Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors working today, and I assume many other movie lovers think the same thing. Whenever a movie of his comes out, it always ends up being some of my most memorable theater experiences. Every film of his leaves me lost in amazement as he delivers original and intricate stories while putting movie magic into good use. Thankfully, Nolan doesn't miss a beat and gives us another one of those movies in the form of Tenet.
To boil down a complex narrative, Tenet is about the Protagonist (John David Washington) who goes on a mission filled with espionage to save the world using inversion, which allows people and objects to move backward through time. We've seen Nolan tackle complex ideas before, such as Inception and Interstellar, so its nothing new for audiences to probably get lost in Nolan's explanations within his stories. It's a little different this time though, as Nolan is able to put the concept of inversion into the simplest of terms. Rather than having the catch of the film be hard to understand, it's the worldbuilding for Tenet that is difficult to follow.
Nolan making his worldbuilding tough to grasp is especially noticeable throughout the first half of the film. It would be tough for the average movie-goer to watch the first half of a 150-minute movie when it was confusing for someone who loves Nolan films as much as I do. But when the second half kicks into gear - and strangely enough when we start to see inversion being heavily used - is when the film smooths out and rewards its audience for sticking it out in the first half.
It was especially hard to follow because the sound mixing caused the dialogue to be difficult to hear. As most Nolan films go, the filmmaker really makes sure to have his scores and his sound effects become a part of the cinematic experience for audiences. The same goes for Tenet, though it feels that he made sure that the sound overtakes the dialogue. It struck me as odd that Nolan did this, as I felt it couldn't have been intentional, or like he somehow forgot to edit the dialogue.
While we know Nolan will always give us complexity, we also know that he will always give us an exhilarating experience, and Tenet is another example of that. Nolan doesn't disappoint in crafting some exceptional, practical action sequences, from car chases to plane crashes. He also seemed to have stepped up his game in hand-to-hand combat sequences, delivering some of the best-choreographed action that I have seen from him yet. It gets even more impressive when Nolan uses inversion as part of the action, which perfectly delivers after waiting a long time to see it used fully.
I've seen many reviews of Tenet criticize that Nolan didn't develop the characters enough. I don't disagree with that argument, but I'm also not surprised. This is a trend that I've noticed many times in Nolan's filmography, so to see the same happen here was not shocking. But, Nolan makes up for that by casting the right actors for the right roles, and Tenet is done the same way.
Elizabeth Debicki is once again terrific (check her out in Widows), though she is used as a pawn throughout the story. Robert Pattinson oozes with charisma as a sidekick (maybe finally convincing the public he is a legit actor), though he is mainly a character who keeps his secrets a little too close. Kenneth Branagh plays a villain so threatening that it makes you grip the arms of your seat, but has to be convincing due to a lack of backstory. John David Washington proves again he is worthy of leading man status, though his character doesn't even have a name other than "Protagonist." So yes, Nolan didn't make riveting characters, but he directed the actors into making these basic characters more interesting than they should be. Not many directors can do that, which is another skill of Nolan's that I respect.
I had no doubt that Nolan would deliver another terrific theatrical experience, and he certainly did with Tenet. It's what Nolan always strives for, and its what his filmography always delivers on, now including Tenet. For a fan of movies and the theater experience, I will always thank him for that.