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Tenet Movie Review: A Complex But Well-Crafted Spy Thriller

(4.5)

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I’m sure by now most of you have had the chance to catch Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bending movie, Tenet. The film came out digitally last week, and I can’t tell you how happy I was to finally watch this movie with subtitles ( trust me, it made all the difference).

However, if you still haven’t seen Tenet (and don’t mind spoilers), then allow me to bring you up to speed.

Tenet follows the story of a secret agent called “The Protagonist,” who embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III. However, rather than the standard danger of a Nuclear holocaust, he discovers that this time, the world faces global annihilation.

Now, like some of Nolan’s best movies, Tenet has gained infamy for being a bit complex and confusing to follow. The entire film revolves around the concept of time inversion, which is the theoretical ability to reverse an object’s (or a person’s) entropy, granting them the ability to move backward in time. And so, from an inverted person’s perspective, the entire world moves backward while they move forward. While from a regular person’s perspective, an inverted person moves backward while the regular person moves forward.

Are you still there? Yes? Great.

Throughout Tenet, characters use this concept to either go back to cause certain events in the past or gain crucial information.

However, despite its mind-breaking use of Time inversion, at its core, Tenet is actually an amazing Spy thriller. And the film reflects this not only within its plot and but also with its characters. 

Welcome To The Covert World (Spoilers)

One thing I loved about Tenet is how the movie immediately plunges you into its clandestine world. From the very beginning, the film subtly shows us how this shadow world operates and teaches us its rules.

I really enjoyed seeing “The Protagonist”(John David Washington) using key phrases within his sentences to identify allies on the field. And I thought it was clever of the movie to use The Protagonist, as a code name for its main character while referring to the bad guys as Antagonists.

While these concepts are by no means new to the Spy genre, the way Tenet executes them is flawless. And it does so while giving us some of the best movie conversations I’ve ever heard.

Speaking of The Protagonist,

The Protagonist (Tenet Movie Review)

When we first meet him, he and his team attempt to extract an exposed agent during an Opera house siege. However, during the operation, The Protagonist is saved by a mysterious person using an inverted bullet.

This is the first time we see time inversion in action in the movie. And we later learn that the mystery person was actually the protagonist’s ever capable partner, Neil (Robert Pattinson).

The Protagonist (Tenet Movie Review)
The Protagonist (Credit: WB Pictures)

When we first meet him, he and his team attempt to extract an exposed agent during an Opera house siege. However, during the operation, The Protagonist is saved by a mysterious person using an inverted bullet.

This is the first time we see time inversion in action in the movie. And we later learn that the mystery person was actually the protagonist’s ever capable partner, Neil (Robert Pattinson).

Unfortunately, the Opera operation goes south, and The Protagonist is captured and tortured for information. But rather than give up his team, he decides to end his life with a suicide pill.

However, The Protagonist wakes up to find that the pill was a test by the Tenet organization to see if he was willing to give his life for the mission. And after passing their test with flying colors, the organization drafts him into their secret war.

Tenet’s True Story: A Covert War Between The Present and The Future (Spoilers)

Essentially, Tenet is a cold war between The Present and The Future.

According to the movie, at some point in the future, the consequences of global warming become too extreme for humans to bear. And because of this, the people of this timeline face certain extinction. 

After exhausting all other options, the humans of this future come up with a plan to use a special bomb called “The Algorithm” to wipe out the world in the present day. Believing that by doing this, they could destroy the cause of their misery and create an alternate timeline where global warming doesn’t ravage the world. 

However, the scientist who created the algorithm (and discovered time-inversion) believed that destroying the present also meant to destroy the future. And so, she split the algorithm into nine parts and sent them to the past.

This story is the basis of Tenet’s plot, as the Tenet organization exists to ensure that the algorithm is never assembled. And that it continues its journey further into the past.

Andrei Sator (Tenet Movie Review)

However, an arms dealer named Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) teams up with the humans in the future to track down all nine pieces of the Algorithm and resemble them. And over the course of the movie, the Protagonist and his allies try to stop Sator from acquiring these pieces and sending them to the future.

Andrei Sator
Andrei Sator (Credit: WB Pictures)

However, an arms dealer named Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) teams up with the humans in the future to track down all nine pieces of the Algorithm and resemble them. And over the course of the movie, the Protagonist and his allies try to stop Sator from acquiring these pieces and sending them to the future.

But since the humans in the future have access to all past records and frequently use this information to warn Sator of future events, The Tenet team have to accomplish this mission while keeping their names and activities out of the public records.  

So in a sentence, Tenet is a movie about a secret Team secretly trying to stop a secret war. 

Verdict

Summary

As you can probably tell from the review, I really enjoyed Tenet.  While the film is long and complex, it’s also one of the best spy thrillers I’ve seen to date. And if given the attention it demands, the movie will reward you with a fantastic story laced with amazing performances.

Overall
4.5
Comments Rating 5 (1 review)

Pros

  • Excellent Acting
  • Amazing Storyline And Storytelling
  • Incredible Visual Effects

Cons

  • Long Runtime
  • Complex Plot 
  • Requires Multiple Viewing

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User Reviews (1)

  1. Ayodeji Ilerioluwa Shitta-Bey

    NO TRUER WORDS

    (5)

    All fascinating and accurate words for describing this movie. It was just as described, and I really enjoyed every complex twist entrained in this adventurous tape. kudos, and kiitos paljon onnea.

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