The Daily Gamecock

Review: Forward, backward — 'Tenet' is great

Movie: "Tenet"

Release Date: Sept. 3, 2020

Director: Christopher Nolan 

Runtime: 2 hours 30 minutes

Genre: Action, thriller

Rating: A

The first big movie release since COVID-19 shut down theaters, "Tenet" is surrounded with hype. Despite its moments of confusion, "Tenet" lives up to the hype with its captivating use of special effects to create both one-of-a-kind scenes and set pieces.

In "Tenet," John David Washington plays an unnamed secret agent who is tasked with stopping a so-called "World War III" by using special items and machines to manipulate time. However, the way time manipulation works in "Tenet" is a bit confusing.

Materials made in the future have been reversed, meaning that they move backwards, such as bullets going from a wall into a gun. People within the film can also "reverse themselves," where they are moving in reverse and the world around them is moving forward. However, from their perspective, time is flowing backward.

Moving in reverse also allows people to revisit events and do some standard time traveling to the past. For instance, living a week in reverse will put you a week into the past. 

There aren't many rules established with going into the past, except you cannot come into contact with yourself.

"Once something happens, it always happens," as Robert Pattinson's character Neil says many times throughout the film.

That being said, the time manipulation in "Tenet" is, without a doubt, the best part of the film, as it gives way to mesmerizing special effects. Reverse bungee-jumping from the bottom of a building to the top, cars driving backwards down the interstate and fist-fights featuring one person moving forward while the other person moves backward stand out as highlights.

The effects, plus the iconic Christopher Nolan cinematography, create some truly unforgettable, action-packed scenes. The aforementioned interstate scene and the final battle are two perfect examples, the latter having two teams of soldiers, one moving forward in time and the other moving backward. The way it switches perspectives between each team during different moments is incredibly unique.

In typical Nolan fashion, the movie throws the viewer in without much explanation. So, much like the time manipulation rules, it can get pretty confusing in the beginning. One early plotline involving a painting is particularly confusing and never properly explained.

The film starts to make more sense as it progresses, which works well with its narrative, as Washington's character also realizes more and more as the film goes on. The viewer starts to understand what is going on at the same time the characters do.

With that, Washington's character is well-acted because of his ability to portray confusion and unawareness while, at the same time, determination to save the world. He works as a great audience surrogate.

Another performance that stands out is Pattinson's. Pattinson, who is seemingly attempting to move past his performance in "Twilight"  by taking more serious roles in films such as "The Lighthouse" and the upcoming "The Batman," plays Neil as more secretive and understanding of circumstances compared to Washington's.

Overall, "Tenet" might require multiple viewings to be completely understood, but it is visually stunning and another great movie from filmmaker Christopher Nolan.