Tenet Movie Review: A Christopher Nolan Film That Challenges Your Perspective About Everything and Anything.

Photo by IMBD

When portraying a world in which the possibility of mind-bending theories connected to time and space come alive, it can get pretty messy. This is especially true in Christopher Nolan’s newest film, Tenet. Riddled with frenetic scenes, clever editing, and powerful dialogue that’s accompanied by the movie’s unique sound mix, Tenet is presented through a non-linear chain of events – typical for Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi movies. However, unlike the portrayal of time and space in his previous movies, Interstellar and Inception, Tenet travels both back and forth in time, even simultaneously. 

In Tenet, the audience is viewing a world where the future has declared World War III on the present because of the profound effects of climate change created by them. To cast this revenge, they invented a technology called “inversion” by which objects and people are able to time travel by reversing their entropy, the measure of an object’s energy unavailable to do work, and its reaction to disorder. 

We see this technology in action at the beginning of the movie when the main character, who is referred to as “The Protagonist,” is completing a mission for the CIA. During this mission, a false-flag terror attack occurs at the Kiev Opera where The Protagonist looks for a MacGuffin. In the midst of the chaos from the attack, The Protagonist is nearly killed by a henchman but is later saved when a mysterious figure in black kills the henchman with a backward traveling bullet.

However, despite being saved from his death, The Protagonist’s cover gets blown, and is then kidnapped by the other Henchmen. He later ingests a cyanide pill to avoid giving up his secrets but Nolan then reveals that the suicide pill was a test by the CIA to see if they could trust The Protagonist with his newest mission, Tenet. The Protagonist is then taken to a remote facility and is introduced to the concept of inverted objects. As he begins trying to grasp the seemingly impossible idea of time traveling, The Protagonist and the audience are exposed to a terrifying question: What if a nuclear weapon could be sent back through time, just like the inverted bullet

Thus, the dream team is born. The Protagonist teams up with a mysterious partner named Neil in an attempt to track the Russian arms dealer, Sator, who manufactures the inverted objects. To get closer to this madman, The Protagonist uses Sator’s wife, Kat, to secure a meeting so he could find out where these objects are being created and how. While doing so, it is revealed that Kat is blackmailed by Sator over a fake painting she sells him, and as long as Sator holds it, she is forced to remain in their abusive relationship. The dream team then attempts to steal the painting in a maximum secured facility. While doing so, they come across two mysterious figures in black, exactly like the one who saved The Protagonist at the beginning of the film, in the vault, and are confronted by an intimidating, eerie machine. We later learn the machine is called a Turnstile, which allows people to invert themselves and travel backward in time. This Turnstile becomes one of the most critical aspects of the movie, as through it we see Sator placing the fate of the world in his hands. 

Later it is revealed that Sator is a part of the future, hungry for revenge on the present. As we see this hunger grow more and more fearsome, he devises a plan to invert any and every living thing on Earth. Kat then tells the dream team he is suffering from terminal cancer and explains that his motive behind his insidious plan is “if he can’t have it, no one can.” Correspondingly, she explains that Sator will want to go back in time to find a happy memory to end his life in – a summer in Vietnam with Kat and his son. As a result, now it is left to the Protagonist, Neil, and Tenet’s army to save the world by traveling back in time to that same Summer in Vietnam. Once they arrive in the past, which is now their new present, they split into two teams – red and blue, with the red team being inverted, moving back in time, and blue remaining normal, moving forward. 

In these final 30 minutes of the film, we further see Nolan’s passion for time-twisting high concepts and classic action. The audience is forced to think in a non-linear way while trying to orientate themselves with the mind-bending fight scenes. And while some argue that it’s these concepts that make the film too complex to even appreciate, I find it is exactly the spark needed to differentiate itself from other films. It is with this narrative that Nolan can present a world in which people might have never felt they could have imagined before. We are exposed to an endless amount of concepts, questions, and possibilities, that even if you found them to be distasteful, one thing is certain – the way you view the world after watching Tenet will change. Whether this change is caused by the science in this film or the valuable life lessons presented, Tenet is truly a brilliant movie that should be on everyone’s “Movies To Watch List,” especially since I never told you whether the Tenet mission successfully saved the world.