When you bring up a film by someone like Christopher Nolan, there tends to be two camps: those who think Nolan is a skilled filmmaker, but a hack storyteller and those who think Nolan is one of the best in the game, and that his catalog is one of the greatest of all time. With his newest film Tenet, the reactions are just as divisive. Nolan has always been known as an extremely ambitious filmmaker, both in style and theme. Often involving theoretical (or completely made-up) science, or unique narrative structure, Nolan seeks to make films that will have audiences scratching their heads, serving as true spectacles with an unbelievable amount to unpack. For some, none of the flashiness or action can distract from the perceived ridiculousness of the concepts, but to pull a quote from Tenet, “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” Tenet is a visceral thrill ride that is wholeheartedly meant to be experienced. With exotic locations, grandiose action spectacles, and an iconic score, Tenet is an impressive deconstruction of the action genre where the details don’t really matter.
When you boil it down, this could have been any old spy thriller where a cut and paste protagonist is trying to stop a madman from destroying the world. Beyond that, you take what you want. I happen to find the concept of inversion fascinating, but I can understand how for some, it may just be another case of Nolan Science. Either way, if you can check your disbelief at the door, Tenet has so much to love. From a filmmaking perspective, Nolan is still operating at an elite level. Expanding upon his previous films, it’s clear that Nolan has a skilled hand at directing action and it’s on display here, now more than ever before. Tenet starts out at 100 miles per hour, and that’s only a taste of what’s to come. This film truly gets better and better up until the finale where Nolan delivers one of his greatest scenes ever. If you are a fan of Nolan’s other films, it’s a pretty safe bet to say you’ll enjoy this one, but if Nolan isn’t your cup of tea, there are some other great reasons to see this movie.
Let’s start with our protagonist: John David Washington, who is quickly becoming my new favorite action star. Between this and 2018’s BlacKkKlansman, Washington has shown that he is more than capable of leading even the biggest of films. When I look back at the classic spy characters (Ethan Hunt, James Bond, Jason Bourne, etc.), this role will certainly be one I bring up. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t also mention Robert Pattinson, who continues to prove that he is so much more than that glittery vampire. Another bright spot, and maybe my favorite aspect of this film, is the amazing score from Ludwig Göransson. This is Nolan and Göransson’s first collaboration, and when it was announced that Hans Zimmer wasn’t scoring the film, it was quite the shock, but this is honestly a match made in heaven and one I’d love to see again.
In many ways, this film is incredibly Nolan-esque, but in others, it’s unlike everything else he’s ever done. This film feels more like a blockbuster than any of his previous films, and that’s certainly not a bad thing, it just speaks towards its universal appeal. In a year with no Marvel films, this could have been the biggest movie of the year, crushing the summer box office, and solidifying another hit for Nolan. Needless to say, things didn’t go nearly as planned.
To say there was hype surrounding this movie is a bit of an understatement. There is nothing else in this world like seeing a Christopher Nolan movie for the first time, and Tenet is no exception. From the moment it was announced, it instantly became one of the most anticipated films of 2020. Enter CoronaVirus. Covid-19 changed our way of life in so many ways and has likely altered the fate of the film industry forever. Films are being pushed or shelved, theaters are struggling to stay afloat, and the film community has become far more comfortable watching movies on their couches. Nevertheless, Nolan was determined to release his film in theaters, which in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the best idea. Unsurprisingly, Tenet underperformed at the box office, taking in only $50 million domestically, compared to its lofty $205 million budget. While those numbers are disappointing, it’s more upsetting to think about how many people were simply unable to see this movie. It almost feels as if Tenet is getting the festival treatment, where a small group of people have seen it, but most are just patiently waiting until they get their chance, hoping to avoid spoilers. While the wait has been long, Tenet is absolutely worth it.
Since the opportunity to see this movie in its intended format has passed, the home video release of Tenet is finally here. It may not be IMAX, but this is a movie that will thrive in this format. Tenet is a film, like any of Nolan’s, that demands to be watched multiple times. Included on the home release is over an hour of special features that are essential for a film like this. While Nolan’s plans were shaken up, the home video format will still give you the full experience. Between its massive rewatchability and extensive special features, Tenet makes the perfect pick up this holiday season!
Tenet will be released physically and digitally on December 15th.