TENƎT (or "Tenet," 2020)
Tenet deals with grand concepts, including the idea of “inversion” which for the film, means that an object, or person, is moving in reverse according to our current understanding of time. Nolan’s definition of this is explained only in a way that requires the viewer to have a basic understanding of time and the ability to suspend belief, this writer has one of those and still thinks its explanation was as quickly said as can be, while still pushing the plot forward avoiding the mass exposition dump that many modern science fiction films fall into. For every protagonist, there must be an antagonist and Nolan’s latest choice is Andrei Sator, brought to life by Kenneth Branagh in a wonderfully menacing fashion. Branagh’s Sator is one riddled with disease, from the radiation to the god complex that leads him to the decisions he makes during “Tenet.” He’s a man who has lost control over his wife, not love. Sator is an animal, he growls, attacks, and thinks like one. He doesn’t see his wife as his equal, to him she is just a bargaining chip that can get him what he really wants: fear and power.
At its heart, “Tenet '' is insanity. Not insane, it’s that in other departments, the score for one. Employing a student of his longtime collaborator Hans Zimmer (who was unavailable due to commitments to “Dune”), Nolan brought in new blood for his latest work and with it, a new sound. Ludwig Göransson was coming off an Oscar win for “Black Panther'' and quickly joined the new troupe Nolan was assembling for his newest epic. Göransson’s work has been widely lauded as a great experimental piece, it’s the use of electronic foundations that allows Görasson’s score to flow backward and forwards, acting as a palindrome for the film while setting the tone in every scene. The music interplays most with Hoyte Van Hoytema’s images that he captures on beautiful 65mm film, and IMAX because Nolan is a celluloid purist. His purist tendencies don’t stop there, Nolan has long been a champion of practical effects and he took it to new heights here, mass explosions, car chases in reverse and forwards through time, and the crowning achievement- crashing a plane through an airplane hangar. The flow of spectacle to story to it being intertwined is paced wonderfully through Jennifer Lame’s editing, another new addition (Nolan’s usual collaborator Lee Smith was preoccupied with “1917”) to the troupe that Nolan was assembling before the pandemic. Her work allows Tenet to work, and make cohesive sense during the third act.
The final act of Nolan’s time-traveling opus is a sequence in a Russian city that involves multiple teams from a shadow organization moving forwards and backward through time, allowing Nolan to play with his obsession in a literal sandbox. The fights are well laid out, and the time-keeping is done with a precision that feels like only Nolan could’ve pulled it off. As great as Nolan’s beginnings are, his endings are just as memorable. The conclusions to “Inception,” “The Dark Knight,” “Following,” and Dunkirk are four of the best endings in films of the last 25 years. Tenet’s ending is not up to these standards, but it does achieve Nolan’s longtime obsession- catharsis. It’s been an idea that permeates every film he makes, this longing for closure, and Nolan has been exploring what happens when that closure is ignored (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Dunkirk,” “The Prestige”), and what happens when it’s accepted (“Interstellar,” “Inception,” “Insomnia”). “Tenet” chooses the unforeseen route of allowing catharsis to present itself, but it’s up to interpretation. Meaning no theory is definitive, which means Nolan really just wanted audiences to debate for the next 100 years what the actual hell “Tenet” means.