After a few delays, Christopher Nolan's Tenet finally debuted in theaters today in hopes of saving cinema. While other big budget releases keep getting pushed back indefinitely, Warner Brothers decided to put it all on whether or not people would flock to the cinemas for their biggest tentpole release of the year. It's hard not to yearn for an alternate reality where this film came out in a regular July amidst all the other blockbusters so we could be comparing it to everything else, instead of perhaps being upset that maybe it isn't the end all be all savior of cinema that some were hoping for. The film had quite a lot to live up to, and for some it couldn't be exactly what they wanted, but I on the other hand, absolutely adored it.
A man simply known to the audience as the Protagonist (John David Washington,) is recruited by a secret organization to help save the world. An evil man named Sator (Kenneth Branagh) has the key to destroy humanity and in order to stop him, the Protagonist must get close with Sator through his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) all while learning to understand the new reality of tenet and what that means. John David Washington, though not given much in terms of character, is still quite excellent here. Robert Pattinson gives a strong yet understated performance and Elizabeth Debicki is terrific as always and I felt the movie could have used even more of her as she was one of the best parts. Kenneth Branagh is totally committed here, I'm just not so certain how much I bought it. Ultimately, he may have been miscast, as he's never quite the threat that he's sold to be.
Now let's get one thing straight, Tenet is a flawed film and it is not among the top tier Nolan masterpieces... but it is absolutely thrilling to behold. Tenet can never reach the heights of Inception or Interstellar because it lacks the heart. We never get that moment for the Protagonist like we do in Inception when Cobb shows Ariadne his elevator of memories featuring Mal; or in Interstellar where Cooper watches two decades worth of videos from his children as he sobs that loss. Instead, the protagonist here is simply a vehicle the audience uses to discover the world of Tenet. We don't really get to know him at all, we just get to experience the story through him. Perhaps this is intentional as our hero literally doesn't even have a name; perhaps he isn't meant to be attached to, but it's disappointing all the same. That said, Tenet works in spite of this lack of characterization (unlike Dunkirk before it, which suffered from the exact same problem) because of how cool it all is. The visuals are jaw droppingly spectacular and Christopher Nolan sure knows how to direct an action sequence. Some of the action here may be the best of his career and that's truly saying a lot.
So while this may not be a perfect film, I still can't help but marvel at the creative mind of Christopher Nolan. I truly feel lucky as a lover of cinema to take in whatever he shares with us next.