/“Tenet”: Nolan film is a 2020 highlight
"Tenet" movie poster via IMDB

“Tenet”: Nolan film is a 2020 highlight

“Tenet” is the new film by acclaimed director Christopher Nolan who is famous for the films “The Dark Knight,” “Interstellar” and “Inception.”  

“Tenet” stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki.  

The movie has an abrupt and sudden opening. It is fast paced and can be difficult to follow. This pacing is consistent throughout the film until around the third act when things are explained more plainly. It’s important to pay attention for clues and callbacks. 

Characterization is primarily reserved for the main cast and it is mostly limited to motivation. Washington and Pattinson’s characters have an enjoyable chemistry between them that I believe is due to Pattinson’s playful performance complimenting the stoic nature of Washington’s character. 

Debicki puts forth a strong performance and is a stand out in the film, despite the character feeling archetypal. Similarly, the villain feels stereotypically evil and his motivations are questionable at best. 

The alluring plot helps to hide the flaws in the writing of the characters as you focus on the story and action. The films story takes a direction that I did not expect and the element of inversion was a great concept that provided opportunity for engaging action scenes. Not only due to the effects, but also because of the well-executed choreography. 

One of the biggest flaws in regard to the plot is a lack of logical character motivation. The villain’s motivations are not fully fleshed out and the stakes of the film are hard to grasp. The threat is tenuous and the characters are not certain of the outcome of their actions. 

The protagonists are struggling to save reality, but there are no personal stakes. The motivations are limited to what is necessary to further the plot. 

The score added drama to the action sequences in a way reminiscent of Nolan’s film “Inception.” The arrangement is filled with synths and accompanied at times by strings. The synths have a warped and reverberating sound similar to the score for “Blade Runner 2049.” 

This is a fair comparison considering Hans Zimmer did the score for both “Blade runner 2049” and “Inception.” In fact, he was chosen to do the score for Tenet” but he chose to do “Dune” instead, after having worked with Denis Villeneuve on “Blade Runner 2049.” 

The score is composed by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson, best known for his work on “Black Panther,” “Creed,” “Venom” and “The Mandalorian.” The score has an excellent pace and matches the tone of the film well. However, this is harmed by the film’s poor mixing. The score often overpowers the dialogue and adds to the confusion in an already convoluted film. 

The shot composition is fairly consistent. Characters are typically focused and in frame in order to draw attention to the action. The most inventive shots happen during actions scenes, more specifically, ones that involve inversion.  

The action scenes are typically where Nolan thrives, especially in a particular scene involving a hand-to-hand struggle between Washington’s character and a masked man. The only moment I found distracting in the film involved many successive cuts during one sequence that took me out of the film for a moment. 

“Tenet” is a great film and definitely one of the highlights of the year. On a story and character driven level the film suffers. However, the film’s action sequences and originality help save it. While some will get lost in the physics of the film, I believe this movie is another testament to Nolan’s ability to make interesting films while still maintaining general audience accessibility.

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Noah Wortham is the Lifestyles editor for the Alabamian. He is a fourth year English Major with a passion for music, video games and film.