Film review: Tenet (12A)

PUBLISHED: 09:44 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:44 25 August 2020

Christopher Nolan's Tenet starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington

Christopher Nolan's Tenet starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington


Highgate raised director Christopher Nolan’s long awaited movie is a confusing time travel spy epic with clunky dialogue and less impressive action sequences

Christopher Nolan's Tenet starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington Christopher Nolan's Tenet starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington

Like a kid who picks the wings off butterflies, Christopher Nolan has an appetite for seeking out wild, head-spinning concepts before carefully smoothing off their edges and draining the colour from them.

Early on in this time travel espionage epic, Clemence Poesy pops up as a scientist to deliver the first of many exposition-heavy speeches explaining the film’s concept.

And when she talks about reversed entropy, the detritus of a future world war being sent back to destroy the present, and shows us bullets flying back into guns, for a moment you imagine we might be watching a $200 million William S. Burroughs movie.

But Nolan is a fuddy-duddy visionary and he wants to keep a lid on the weirdness, contain it in giant IMAX vistas of grey muted tones.

Before the screening, we were requested not to give away any spoilers and there’s no danger there as I still don’t know what was going on.

Of course, we’ve been here before with Nolan; 10 years ago to be precise with Inception. During that film, most viewers probably didn’t fully grasp what was happening, but were content with a general go-with-the-flow comprehension of the dreams within dreams reality.

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Tenet’s time travels concepts don’t lend themselves to visual representation so even in the last half hour, the film is still trying to tell you what it’s about because it hasn’t been able to show you.

That could be me being a bit slow, but the film is slack in other areas.

The dialogue is clunky and though the big action set pieces may not be quite like anything you’ve seen before, they are not quite as memorable as the ones Nolan has done before. Debricki and Pattinson are excellent, but Washington is a dull hero.

It’s always nice to see Michael Caine pop up for his obligatory cameo, but Nolan seems to have become pals with Branagh and insists on casting him as a sore thumb.

He was out of place in Dunkirk, but here, in a film where every prop and location and face has been chosen to fit, he gets to splutter and roar his way through the role of a Russian oligarch.

3/5 stars.

Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel and Kenneth Branagh.

Go to for reviews of Hope Gap and Eureka Master of Cinema’s Buster Keaton: Out Hospitality/ Go West/ College boxset.

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