A man is tasked to save the world with a mission that defies the laws of physics as we know them, given only the word, Tenet.
Like any other Nolan film, Tenet requires an analysis rather than a review. But I’ll simplify things as best I can. A type of film like this requires a humongous amount of time in preproduction. And they have spent that time wisely. That is why from both production and postproduction point of view, the film is immaculate and unlike anything you have ever seen. No matter what I say, it won’t make it better.
The problem lies right off the bat with the script though. The similar opening to The Dark Knight (2008) poses a significant issue. There is a preexisting knowledge on the Joker where you know who he is and what he is capable of. And if you don’t know the full extent, you find out in a brilliant manner in minutes. Then, the film cuts to people you have already met from Batman Begins (2005), and gradually, it escalates keeping everyone in the loop. In Tenet, no one is aware of anyone or anything, and without any ado, Nolan keeps bombarding you with more and more information where everyone seems to start getting it, but the viewer. Fear not, though. The science is fictional – pun intended – so please, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it. You won’t get it if you watch it a second time either. Nolan himself doesn’t really get it (hence, leaving our certain details) but the impressive filmmaking and the delusion that you might get it if you pay close attention compensates. The similarities in narrative can be compared to Interstellar (2014).
For a film that examines paradox, it is interesting how for something that no one knows anything about, no one thinks twice before they instantly and unhesitatingly say what they have to say. Same applies for planning and acting. At the end of one sequence they find out about something, at the beginning of the next one they have already the equipment, they have already traveled round the globe, and have already come up with a meticulous plan.
George Méliès was running the camera backwards over a hundred years ago so, even though from a filmmaking point of view, Tenet is not parthenogenesis, it surely is a unique concept, exteremely well planned, and amazingly executed. If it wasn’t for this goddamn pandemic, it would have easily joined the billion dollar club.
P.S. The indie, and unfathomably much lower-budget version of Tenet is Primer (2004): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/26/primer-2004-drama-sci-fi-thriller/