STORY: A time travelling protagonist rises to the occasion and risks his own life to stop the inevitable catastrophe that could be bigger than World War III and nuclear holocaust. Will he make it ‘back in time’ to save the world?
REVIEW: The world is about to end and the time is ticking, but backwards. Well, for most part. Writer-Director Christopher Nolan’s mysterious magnum opus is a film full of an eventuality that feels quite surreal in the precarious times we live in. ‘Tenet’ opens with a bang as a packed National Opera House in Kiev is invaded and is about to be blown to bits. This is a pre-cursor to quite a few such instances that infuse a dose of action and excitement even when the film’s rather convoluted plot might bog you down. But that said, the overarching idea of its plot is fairly simple. It’s about saving the world from an insanely powerful Russian arms dealer Andrei (Kenneth Branagh), who could go back and forth in time. Now, the idea is to beat him at his own game. But in execution, ‘Tenet’ is every bit the high-concept, make-believe and far-fetched flight of imagination that blends action, adventure and intrigue. And Christopher Nolan manages to use many of these opportunities quite effectively.
Our hero John David Washington (known only as the Protagonist) is explained the concept of ‘temporal inversion’ and sent off on a top-secret mission to save the world. He is joined by his British counterpart Neil (Robert Pattinson), whose origins remain a mystery throughout. The mission takes him places including Mumbai, where he breaks into a wealthy arms dealer’s house for information where his wife Priya (Dimple Kapadia), gives him cryptic leads that cannot always be trusted. But it’s only when he meets Andrei’s estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) that he realizes the full potential of just how complex and diabolical the situation is.
The film’s screenplay keeps underlining and explaining its layered plot about technology that can reverse time. Thankfully, it does so with stunning cinematography (Hoyte Van Hoytema) and action-packed scenes that are executed with a natural flair and finesse. The idea of going back in time where everything moves in reverse, creates a visually appealing imagery. And the original background score (Ludwig Göransson) is so unique and immersive that it builds just the right amount of urgency and tension.
Everyone is quite aptly cast including Dimple Kapadia, who lends a certain gravitas to her enigmatic character of a powerful Indian woman. She would much rather offer her husband’s assassin a drink and pacify him than panic at the sudden break-in. Her role is not only crucial but also quite fascinating in the way she deals with the Protagonist. Robert Pattinson is charming but remains strictly in a supporting role, never overshadowing the Protagonist, played quite effectively by John David Washington. John’s brooding persona and no-nonsense dialogue delivery is impactful. Elizabeth Debicki is honest in her part as an abused wife held to ransom by her chauvinist husband, but could have been more convincingly written. Kenneth Branagh’s character of Andrei is quite the caricature of a Russian Mafioso with a typical accent and snarling dialogue delivery.
Just like most Nolan films, this one too demands full attention from its viewer, yet there is no guarantee you will comprehend the film’s nuanced narrative in its totality. But that doesn’t take away from enjoying the cinematic experience of Nolan’s vivid imagination that is skillfully portrayed on the big screen. The secret to enjoy ‘Tenet’ lies in what a scientist, who is explaining inversion tells the Protagonist, “Don’t try to understand, feel it.”