The following is a spoiler-free review of the Christopher Nolan film Tenet. The review is part of an upcoming movie-related project.
When I was a kid, I had this game called “Mindflex.” The user would strap on a headset with earlobe clamps and it would supposedly measure the intensity of your brainwaves to control the air blown on a little blue ball. There was one basketball mode where you could “aim” the ball by thinking hard about, like, PBJ sandwiches or something.
If I had that headset on while watching Tenet, the little blue ball would have shot across the Atlantic. True to Christopher Nolan form, Tenet toys with time and reality in a mind-bending action film and left me feeling dazed and dazzled.
Tenet centers on a physics-bending program of the same name in which elements, like bullets, are inverted and appear to happen backwards. John David Washington plays the unnamed protagonist with a perfect balance of confusion and competence as his team attempts to stop a billionaire from amassing all of Tenet’s power. The present, future, and even past are at stake.
Nolan works backward chronologically with Memento and warps time in Inception, but Tenet takes the concept to a whole different level. Action sequences pit characters moving forward in time against those going backward. The blasting score and wicked cinematography amplify the intensity (part of what made my IMAX ticket worth a two-hour roundtrip). The final act pulls a lot of the elements together to form a cohesive and winning finale, pulling viewers out of the rubble of the intellectual abyss.
The best way to describe Tenet is a narrative mix of Prisoner of Azkaban, The Matrix and Inception with the clarity-be-darned execution of Us. Sounds like a Riker Scale movie to me.