Any film that considers the fate of the world at stake as its core plot might not seem original in this day and age, but to present it in as unique a manner as can be will always be a daunting task. And likewise, few films will have faced higher stakes than Christopher Nolan's latest offing, Tenet, which is both daring and ambitious on all counts. One who's viewed as a visionary filmmaker in recent times, to consider making a film that is out-and-out original amidst the superhero blockbusters, with a budget that equates on the lines of a superhero film in itself will be the first intimidating challenge and Nolan rises to the occasion once again. If there's one thing that has come to be known about Nolan and his films throughout his career, is his fascination for the concepts of time, time travel, reality and point of view as evidenced in his works such as Memento, Inception, Interstellar and now, Tenet. A gargantuan big-screen spectacle, Tenet reminds us what makes the cinematic experience - special.
Christopher Nolan's Tenet, which was stated to be in ideation for more than a decade, is a thrilling adventure through earth-shattering action, mind-bending physics and exemplary conceptualization. Nolan wastes no time in kicking off the proceedings in Tenet as it starts off on a bang - literally! The first scene sets the wheels in motion for the narrative and it is non-stop action right from the get-go, with the filmmaker reminding us at the turnout of the end of the first big action set piece how all things and events are connected to one another and the attention of the viewer is of prime importance at all junctures.
The story starts off with a CIA operative called Protagonist (note: A Protagonist and not THE Protagonist) played by John David Washington, who faces a near-death experience at bullets that are "unfired" at him, eventually taking him to an organization below the depths of the underground figuring out the person/people behind the tech "fired" at him, that is ages away. He comes in contact with Neil portrayed by Robert Pattinson, who has a tongue-in-cheek reply to a majority of the questions thrown at him and a calculating mind for the challenges that come his way.
Together, dressed in fine suits, the duo become globetrotters and set off to face a threat unlike any ever before - inversion - that meddles with time and reality. The Protagonist and Neil then meet Priya Singh, an arms trafficker, played by Dimple Kapadia and Elizabeth Debicki as Katherine Barton aka. Kat, the estranged wife of a Russian oligarch, Andrei Sator, played by Kenneth Branagh, who is the antagonist capable of communicating with the future.
Without completely going down the spoiler territory, if one has to explain in short how inversion works, it is the reality as we experience where we see objects and their entropy (a lack of predictability) as they progress forward in time. That said, objects found in their material are inverted, which leads to them moving through time in a backwards state. As complex as the theory may seem to be, it is compensated in the visuals, which one must pay attention to at all times to get the gist of every minute detail. John David Washington's Protagonist and Robert Pattinson as Neil along with Elizabeth Debicki as Kat form an alliance to take down Sator before he takes down the entire world along with him in lighting the match that will engulf the globe in a raging fire for World War 3.
The action, which takes place and at various places and times, forwards, backwards and sideways, is mind-boggling and spectacular. It's the kind of action that will make you want for more, but also leave you exasperated towards the end, and Nolan has without a doubt left a massive mark on the front.
Of the cast, John David Washington as the Protagonist shows us the real world stakes in his actions and emotions at every possible moment. Robert Pattinson as Neil exudes a certain kind of aura of calm yet wonderment, while Dimple Kapadia as Priya keeps us hooked till the end and springs in a surprise as a key player in the overall plot of the film. Elizabeth Debicki is all class from the start to the finish - be it in personification or performance, while Nolan regular, Michael Caine, makes only one short appearance that pushes the pedal of the story in full-throttle.
Kenneth Branagh as Sator shows us the rage he tries to suppress, but also comes off as a fallen human, who is consumed with the age-old vengeance and wanting to take down everyone along with him.
The widely-publicised Oslo airport sequence, which includes a real 747 being crashed into an airport hanger, is also something that requires a special mention. Although the entire sequence might come off as an eye-candy spectacle, it is significant in the latter part of the film, when it is a matter of life and death and not just an action set piece. The execution of inversion at this sequence shows us why every minute of the film is connected to the entire narrative and is something Nolan has invested a lot of time in devising. Adding to the making, the filmmaker needs to be praised for not making it a VFX sequence and instead opting to do it with practical effects.
Tenet is a perfect return to cinema for film lovers who want everything in a single package - action, real world-stakes drama and a plot that makes you question the entire narrative over and over again to leave you bewildered with more wonder. However, it comes at a cost of the audience not compromising their attention as it is the single-most crucial step to following the story and not being left confused, which is easily possible for a plot that is capable of being as such.
Verdict A highly-recommended film for audiences if they want to be left thinking for more and a visual extravaganza at its finest!