Skip to content

Tenet is Worth Making the Time to See It


Movie theatres and movie goers around the world have been waiting months to see the explosive and enormous Tenet. I’m here with good news: the film is awesome, and if you’re lucky to live somewhere safe enough, it is absolutely worth the trip to see it.

The good news is, with the exception of some states in the USA, most places around the world are now safe enough. And if you’re the kind of person who likes their big screen movies BIG, Tenet is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Writer and Director Christopher Nolan is a big draw on cinema marquees, and this, his latest film, is his biggest by far. Stylistically and thematically it is closest to 2010’s Inception. But beyond the crazy sci-fi premise, there are no similarities.

Tenet defies most descriptions. It’s loud, exciting, complicated (more than 2014’s Interstellar) and technologically jaw-dropping. In short? It’s a Christopher Nolan movie. If that excites you, get ready for a doozy.

The actual story is about an unnamed Protagonist (John David Washington), who is a spy that learns about a technology in the future called time inversion. His mission is to learn how it works to stop a global disaster.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

While the plot is a lot to think about at once, the script thankfully draws out your need to understand the concept of time inversion over the whole two and a half hours. If you don’t understand at first, it’s okay. Most people I saw the movie with moved by head scratching to admiration by the end.

As the protagonist himself is learning, he’s told “Don’t try to understand it - feel it.” He learns that harnessing forward time in a world going backwards is about instinct.

He then asks, “Why does it feel so strange?” The strangeness comes from audiences who normally don’t have to think so hard to be entertained with catharsis. Nolan has mastered the fine line of making us think just enough to dazzle an audience.

It is hard to explain everything in advance without spoiling the film’s better surprises. But one thing I will spoil: yes, Michael Caine has a role, in his happiest character in years. He’s only got one scene, but it’s a fun one nonetheless.

Time isn’t Tenet’s main theme - it’s the mechanism.

Ultimately, it’s only a little bit about time and responsibility. The movie is really about value; the value of money, power, and yes, time. But mainly, the film asks what value do we place in the accountability of our own choices? (Accountability is an inevitable point of discussion in a movie with time travel.)

These themes come across best when in the sequences of time inversion. The first chamber scene and the Oslo Rescue sequence are worthy of mid-film applause, but it doesn’t all work.


Robert Pattinson and John David Washington Bend Time in First Trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures | Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Tenet Robert Pattinson and John David Washington Bend Time in First Trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures | Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Each of the science fiction, action, adventure and epic parts are great. The spy parts, however, are not. The biggest thing keeping Tenet from true greatness is a 45 minute middle section of slow-paced espionage. If you can get through this, the opening scenes and the second 75 minute half are mesmerizing.

Thankfully it’s not too violent or scary to watch. It is also most definitely refined cinema, and anyone under 16 is likely going to have trouble following what happening.

My only two criticisms are the aforementioned 45 minutes and the sound mixing. It’s much too loud at many parts, and occasionally hard to hear the dialogue. And while the middle part is a bit boring, it’s worth sticking around for.

Tenet’s mission in the real world (beyond the movie screen, that is) is to save the very screens it’s playing on. This may not be the movie that will save brick and mortar cinemas, but it makes a clear case that demands we listen. 

Movies are meant to be on these big screens, and this is first one among them. True, it isn’t safe everywhere yet, but in almost all parts of Canada (Oakville included) it is. It seriously is. And you should go see it.

If you want cinemas to stay open so we can have people like Nolan make heart-pumping masterpieces as spectacular as this, now is the time to prove it. Go see Tenet for a truly great cinematic experience.


9 out of 10

PG, 2hrs 31mins. Sci-Fi Action Adventure Spy Epic.

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan.

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

Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, 5 Drive-In, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville.

Read more reviews and entertainment news @MrTyCollins on Facebook and Twitter.