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Tenet review

December 04, 2020 11:09 IST
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Tenet is both incredibly obfuscating and feverishly magnificent, says Sukanya Verma.

'Don't get on the chopper if you can't stop thinking in linear terms,' warns a character in Tenet.

This is not merely a line but a prerequisite to enjoy Christopher Nolan's latest rollercoaster in trippy science and convoluted scenarios.

Every single film by the film-maker is looked forward to with bated breath but an Indian movie star's presence hyped up Tenet to an altogether new level.

While Dimple Kapadia more than keeps her end of the bargain, Tenet is both incredibly obfuscating and feverishly magnificent.


Its display of scientific intellect purely based on fantasy physics and love for jargon is almost arrogant and unconcerned if the viewer has successfully processed all that enormous information thrown at them or not.

Tenet demands complete attention where even a blink can cost you a detail.

As gruelling the nature of his work can seem, this coldblooded creativity is why Nolan is hailed as an auteur.

Tenet's 'feel not think' momentum gets a lot of things right even if it goes a tad overboard in overselling the technicalities of time-travel.

Add to the commotion, Ludwig Göransson’s background score does more to drown the mood than bring it out.

Imagine an incessant version of the industrial sound you heard in War of the Worlds every time the Tripods surface.

Its thumping beats work better during the breakneck action.

Speaking of which, there's tons to marvel about its grand set pieces (shot for highest impact by the gifted Hoyte van Hoytema) given Nolan's penchant for authenticity where actual planes blow up into buildings and cars are regularly smashed and tossed about.

From cold war and climate change to grandfather paradoxes and time travel, the hectic, high-concept narrative evokes everything from James Bond and Terminator to Nolan's own < ahref= target=new>Interstellar and Inception.

There's no easy way to describe the going-ons without sounding gobbledygook but just know a guy who calls himself The Protagonist (John David Washington), his wingman (Robert Pattinson) and a 'cavalry' (headlined by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) frequently travel backwards in time and save the world from an apocalypse authorised by the future.

Every now and then, The Protagonist gets his tip-offs and knowledge about the present-past thingamajig and algorithms for nuclear reactors from a Mumbai-based dealer diva (Dimple Kapadia) while he develops a soft corner for the traumatised wife (Elizabeth Debicki) of a gruff Russian rascal (Kenneth Branagh) at the centre of all evil.

The whole hero to the damsel-in-distress rescue from the vile monster speaking in an Eastern European accent is a predictable if also the only emotional arc amidst Tenet's heavy-duty hypothesis. But Nolan's distant treatment of relationships refuses to realise its tender potential.

He reserves his passion for places not people.

Globetrotting between postcard Mediterranean mansions and bleak military mines, Nolan makes a couple of brief stopovers to amchi Mumbai as well.

Disappointingly he cannot resist reinforcing our archaic image of exotica by throwing in a bunch of men in bandhani turbans flanking Dimple and John David as they ferry across the Gateway jetty.

All the same, it's rather hilarious to watch the desi cops belatedly arrive at the scene of crime in stereotypical Bollywood fashion.

Dimple Kapadia is simply majestic and sounds like she has discussed time inversion and Oppenheimer references all her life. Her chemistry with Washington evokes an air of M and Bond sans one's austerity and other’s rebellion.

John David Washington's vulnerability comes in handy to highlight his impulses in ways Nolan's unsentimental writing cannot whereas Robert Pattinson’s charisma and enigma contributes to Tenet's rare moments of warmth.

Nolan regular Michael Caine's token presence is high on wit and charm but Branagh's Thanos-like nihilism and estranged ties to the pretty albeit perpetually mopey Debicki somewhere lose their edge in the big-scale chaos.

Tenet makes a big deal out of posterity.

It may not be the first or fourth movie one recommends of Nolan's to future generations but whenever they do catch it, it will be sure to give them a good time.

Reversed or real.

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