With ideas about time travel and fate versus free will that are complicated enough to seem realistic, “Tenet” presents an interesting story about the present and future coming together around a few key figures.
The plot itself is too complicated to explain without spoiling, but at its most basic form, it is a spy thriller, with many common spy themes and tropes within it. An evil Russian bad guy, a spy well out of his depth but still going strong, a third act battle which is actually a miniature war, and Michael Caine are only some of the spy elements of the movie.
Added on top of that are the sci-fi elements, including overly-complicated scientific references, point of view changes, and whole segments shown backwards.
Together, the spy and sci-fi elements of the movie create a very complicated story. As a result, the viewer must continue to pay close attention, as almost everything is eventually explained throughout the movie, even if one cannot understand it.
The cast of “Tenet” is excellent, with the many stars all perfectly fitting their rolls. One issue, though, are the characters themselves. The characters are stereotypical of spy thrillers and sci-fi movies, and even though the main characters are fleshed out and three-dimensional, everyone shown are characters one would expect to find in either a spy thriller or a sci-fi epic.
One other weak point is the music. While not entirely bad, it is too loud and intense at times to the point it might give the viewer a headache.
The movie presents a unique take to the idea of free will versus predestination with its time travel elements. The movie raises cliché questions about time travel, such as “Has the time traveling changed fate, or was it always fated to happen?”
Where this movie does it better than most is with the spy twists, revealing who characters really are their motivations. Their shifting perspectives going forwards and backwards through time truly hits home; as the movie says, “What has happened, has happened.”
Overall, Nolan scores another hit but not his best. The movie is definitely entertaining, combining the different genres perfectly, with an excellent cast to back it up. Its lack of unique characters and music issues undermines its potential. Viewers will have to pay close attention to take in everything, but all these issues are passable when compared to the overall movie.
This movie should be recommended to anyone who likes Nolan’s work, or anyone who likes the James Bond or Mission Impossible movies, especially the more outlandish ones. As for anyone else, it is still a good movie to watch, and a great one to celebrate going back to the movies.