Round and Round and Round

Stars: John David Washington, Robert Pattison, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Martin Donovan, Himesh Patel, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh
Director/Scriptwriter: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight” trilogy, “Inception,” “The Prestige” and “Dunkirk.”)
Composer: Ludwig Goransson
Cinematographer” Hoyle van HoytemaWarner brothers
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 150 Minutes 

Director Christopher Nolan is known for the unusual story lines of his films. Nothing is as it seems and when the film begins, you enter a world of imagination, time travel and wrapping space and/or time. By the time the film is over, you feel as though you have been folded in half like an omelet and afraid to leave the theater for what you may encounter outside.  Such is “Tenet,” in which someone develops a device for inverting time. The dictionary definition of “tenet” is that it is a belief system. In the film, “Tenet,” can mean believing in what you do and/or in the group that does this. Religion is not required. Be aware of some of the stunts in the film that, visually, can take you unaware.  Are you beginning to feel folded, yet? 

"Tenet"  stars John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington) who is known as “The Protagonist” here.  The movie starts with action and in an opera house in Russia. Military-types shoot people and send gas in to control the rest. In the meantime, someone in the crowd has something someone else wants. Shots are fired…but the bullets go backward and someone is there to collect them.  Protagonist, who is there, is captured.  There is torture and then, something happens.  Now, his boss (Martin Donovan) thinks he is ready for the big time…to go after an outfit called “Tenet.” And so, it goes, with Laura (Clemence Poesy) as the person with the weapons for Protagonist (think James Bond here) and bullets that go back into the gun after firing.  This can escalate in the wrong hands with nuclear weapons.  From here Protagonist meets Neil (Robert Pattinson, soon to be the new “Batman”) and they go after Sator (Kenneth Branagh) who grew up in Russia and wants to build his own empire, along with wife Katherine “Kat” (Elizabeth Debicki). There are also Priya, a helpful Tenet agent, and Michael Caine for assistance.  No one is whom they seem in this film, and motives are usually laced with ego.  If you like word-search puzzles, this film reminds me of one. As your eyes get used to the design on the paper, you can pick out words.  So, it is with “Tenet;” as you start to notice little things, you begin to see a pattern, or is it? 

It takes concentration to wend your way around Christopher Nolan’s script of “Tenet,”  and a touch of “Inception,” too. The audience may feel played out by 90 minutes and hope that time goes faster to last in their seat until 150 minutes.  There are enough escapes, explosions and chases to satisfy the action-movie-goers.  Deep-thinkers may take notes for a discussion later. Bullets going backward? Cars going forward and then backward? For the special effects fans, oh, there is a good deal here to devour. Director Nolan is good at that (“Dunkirk”).  But if you are checking out special effects, you may miss the plot and then, again, maybe that is OK. I thought the plot was intricate and intricate to the nth degree. Going to a movie is escapism and relaxation, but a film that wends its way around time, backward and forward, needs some space, and filling it with more intricacy doesn’t always work. 

As for acting, John David Washington does a good job as the Protagonist, thrown into something he wasn’t aware of and has a puzzled expression that is just right for the part. On the other hand, Robert Pattison has a quip or two; that fits in and is unexpected.  Always good to see Kenneth Branagh on the screen, and this time as the villain. Elizabeth Debicki as Branagh’s wife, Kat, has to go between caring mother and what to do next? Her facial expressions tell all. 

Be aware of some of the stunts in the film that, visually, can take you unaware.  Are you beginning to feel folded, yet? In the end, and walking out of the movie theater, if you lost your good pen this morning and couldn’t find it, but come home and it is on the kitchen table, maybe “Tenet” has begun. Or maybe, not?  If the pen starts writing by itself, you will know. 


Copyright 2020 Marie Asner