Time is relative. Relative to everyday life but also relative to Christopher Nolan's filmography; piecing together a fractured timeline in Memento, cheating time in the mindblowing Inception, bending time and travelling through wormholes in space in Interstellar, and the ticking clock as time ran out to save the stranded soldiers in Dunkirk. His latest, Tenet, forges a narrative based around time and the results really are quite something to behold.

Armed with only one word, Tenet, the Protagonist (John David Washington) sets about on a mission to fight for the survival of the entire world. It's a journey of international espionage and a mission that will unfold in time, just not as we all know it.
Tenet comes with a whole heap of expectations with the fact that it is the latest from Christopher Nolan but combine that with the notion that it will be the film a lot of people return to the cinema for since the Coronavirus pandemic shut them down earlier in the year, and it arrives with even more of a fanfare. Expect the unexpected from Nolan with every film he makes but with Tenet he takes it to new extremes because it really is next level stuff in terms of innovative filmmaking.

Getting into the plot of Tenet too much would make my head spin more than it did when I was walking out of the cinema but I can say that once I had the time to walk away and really think about it, Nolan really has created a film that challenges its audience to really think about what they are watching. There's plenty of exposition throughout however, you still have to pay plenty of attention to the details or you could find yourself in limbo. 

It's another Nolan film that plays around with time but Tenet does so in a way that I don't think anyone would be able to say they've seen before. The action sequences are simply breathtaking, flowing both forwards and backwards in time, sometimes even at the same time. The ingenuity of it all is astounding and the idea of trying to choreograph fights and car chases backwards hurts my head enough yet alone actually executing it flawlessly, so there has to be a special mention to the stunt teams involved. 
Tenet is led by a magnetic performance from John David Washington, who is quickly becoming one of the most exciting screen presences around. His physicality in such a demanding role really shines through as does his undeniable charisma, giving his father Denzel a run for his money in that department. Robert Pattinson has forged an incredible career for himself after the Twilight series and as the blandly named Neil he brings a lot to a character who could just be seen as very throwaway, saving the heavy hitting for when we see him cracking skulls in The Batman next year. 

Elizabeth Debicki is the best of the supporting cast as Kat, trapped in a loveless marriage and held against her will by her villainous husband Andrei Sator, played by Kenneth Branagh, who thankfully doesn't ham it up as much as when he played the villain in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the man everyone forgot was in the film as a military commander and it's good to see Himesh Patel doing so well for himself after years of playing the nerdy Tamwar Masood in EastEnders

I didn't find myself taking to Ludwig Goransson's score so much throughout the film, obvious similarities to some of Hans Zimmer's work on previous Nolan films holding it back. The one major complaint I have with Tenet, and I feel it was always going to eventually happen in a Nolan film, was that there were a few moments where it was just too loud and dialogue was being drowned out by an incredibly uneven sound mix. 

That being said, Tenet marks a return to the cinema in quite triumphant fashion. It's big, loud and easily Nolan's most ambitious film to date, crescendoing to yet another emotional, if rather subtle this time round, finale that will make you sit back in your seat and feel like you've just had a cinematic experience like no other.

Verdict: ★★★★½


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