Tenet (2020)

Ah yes, Tenet, the movie Christopher Nolan felt would be best in theaters packed full of plague lungs. Love it, hate it, but never forget: you’ll leave with your memories, possibly a headache, and even a potential hospital visit. Thanks, Chris.

Despite the back and forth debacle over worldwide release dates, it’s still a big budget box office film. Made for an estimated $200 million, its box office pull is ranked over $350 million. Which means it’s a little weird that I’d be covering it in the same space where I so closely examine the likes of A*P*E, but I like science fiction so too bad, we’re gonna talk about it.

Protagonist, literally the main character, participates in a mission in Kiev where he gets saved by a bullet going backwards but ends up having to choke down a suicide pill. He wakes up sometime later and discovers he’s now on a special mission to fight a war with the future, where an unknown enemy is sending munitions into the past to possibly kill everyone. Through his investigation, Protagonist soon learns the weapons in question are coming from a particularly sadistic Russian arms dealer who really enjoys yelling and screaming just as much as threatening to stick people’s testicles in their throat holes, because he’s a classy guy. He’s also abusive and has the ultimate “if I can’t have you, no one will” kind of plan about pretty much everything.

So what does Protagonist do? He fights, forwards and backwards through time, to attempt recovery of a super weapon that could destroy everyone so people in the future can then move backwards through time and enjoy the world in reverse. And he gets a bunch of soldiers and crazy people to help him, not the least of which is our Russian arms dealer’s abused wife. All of this culminates in a big military engagement in which soldiers on both sides are moving forwards and backwards through time, because Christopher Nolan likes to screw with the audience. Everything old is new again, and everything new is old again, and all the foreshadowing leads to pay off that is the reverse of the foreshadowing. Did I mention you might get a headache?

As I’ve already said several times, it is a Christopher Nolan film. Even if you didn’t know that going in, you’d probably take all of three seconds to figure it out. We get all his greatest hits in one go: a droning soundtrack complete with awkward booms and musical queues. A color palette consisting of drab darkness and lifeless, stale color. Our stars wearing masks for large portions of the movie. Spoken dialogue consisting of rapid back and forth between two characters with no breaks or pauses for breathing, all recorded on a boom mic made out of a potato that was wrapped in the sound mixer’s sweaty t-shirt. Science. Michael Caine being his usual bad ass self. Mind-bending fight scenes. Batman. Ok, not literally Batman, but Robert Pattinson is here, so you know what? Batman.

All of this is to say that, in the pantheon of crazy stuff Nolan has put together for us, Tenet is…more of the same, really. As fascinating as it is to watch two guys fight while moving through time in different directions, it feels like more of the same from the guy who brought us Inception. Which is not a knock on the fight scene, because whoever choreographed that is a freaking genius. That’s the real core of the film here: the action is good, the actors are all fantastic, and the plot is ridiculous but at least tries to stay consistent within itself to present information in an environment where time is not a reliable factor. You will see the same scenes a couple of times, but from different points of view as the same characters traverse them later in their lives. By that, I don’t mean you’re gonna see a retelling of Rashomon, more like every strange event which you see will come back around to have itself explained at a different time.

This makes Tenet a time travel movie, but not in the way that Back to the Future is because characters are able to go backwards. Yes, we get some strange rules about going backwards, like not being able to breath reversed air and being able to see but unable to touch oneself, though these rules aren’t really explained beyond “Science reasons!” and then promptly stop showing up in the movie. You won’t see somebody melt into a weird and hideous bad-CG flesh puddle like we did in Timecop. And that oxygen thing? Apparently gas masks work too. You also get a surprising amount of time spent inside shipping containers, because Nolan knows that we have loved shipping containers ever since we saw that weapon cache that Sarah Connor hid inside of a buried one in yet another movie with time travel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Only again, instead of flesh-wearing robots, we get people jogging backwards.

All of this is to say that we need more movies involving John David Washington kicking ass and being awesome. While his acting career includes some work as a kid back in the 1990s, Washington went and spent some time playing football in the NFL, NFL Europe, and the UFL. However, he returned to acting after the UFL folded in 2012. After all, his father is Denzel Washington.

Full stop. I’m going to type that again. His father is Denzel Washington.

John David Washington is just getting going, but considering the films he’s already been in, his direct familial connection to one of the best film actors ever, and his understanding of the emotional ins and outs of performance and theater along with the physical toughness of professional sports, this guy is going to destroy audiences for hopefully many decades to come. This guy is the total package, and Tenet is a fantastic show piece that he carries.

Now why did I talk about this movie? Because I’m a shameless sucker for bad artsy takes on cinema reviews. Just scroll beyond the trailer:

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.seirrac eh taht eceip wohs citsatnaf a si teneT dna ,egakcap latot eht si yug sihT .emoc ot sedaced ynam yllufepoh rof secneidua yortsed ot gniog si yug siht ,strops lanoisseforp fo ssenhguot lacisyhp eht htiw gnola retaeht dna ecnamrofrep fo stuo dna sni lanoitome eht fo gnidnatsrednu sih dna ,reve srotca mlif tseb eht fo eno ot noitcennoc lailimaf tcerid sih ,ni neeb ydaerla s’eh smlif eht gniredisnoc tub ,gniog gnitteg tsuj si notgnihsaW divaD nhoJ

.notgnihsaW lezneD si rehtaf siH .niaga taht epyt ot gniog m’I .pots lluF

.notgnihsaW lezneD si rehtaf sih ,lla retfA .2102 ni dedlof LFU eht retfa gnitca ot denruter eh ,revewoH .LFU eht dna ,eporuE LFN ,LFN eht ni llabtoof gniyalp emit emos tneps dna tnew notgnihsaW ,s0991 eht ni kcab dik a sa krow emos sedulcni reerac gnitca sih elihW .emosewa gnieb dna ssa gnikcik notgnihsaW divaD nhoJ gnivlovni seivom erom deen ew taht yas ot si siht fo llA

.sdrawkcab gniggoj elpoep teg ew ,stobor gniraew-hself fo daetsni ,niaga ylnO .yaD tnemgduJ :2 rotanimreT ,levart emit htiw eivom rehtona tey ni eno deirub a fo edisni dih ronnoC haraS taht ehcac nopaew taht was ew ecnis reve sreniatnoc gnippihs devol evah ew taht swonk naloN esuaceb ,sreniatnoc gnippihs edisni tneps emit fo tnuoma gnisirprus a teg osla uoY .oot krow sksam sag yltnerappA ?gniht negyxo taht dnA .pocemiT ni did ew ekil elddup hself GC-dab suoedih dna driew a otni tlem ydobemos ees t’now uoY .eivom eht ni pu gniwohs pots yltpmorp neht dna ”!snosaer ecneicS“ dnoyeb denialpxe yllaer t’nera selur eseht hguoht ,fleseno hcuot ot elbanu tub ees ot elba gnieb dna ria desrever htaerb ot elba gnieb ton ekil ,sdrawkcab gniog tuoba selur egnarts emos teg ew ,seY .sdrawkcab og ot elba era sretcarahc esuaceb si erutuF eht ot kcaB taht yaw eht ni ton tub ,eivom levart emit a teneT sekam sihT

.emit tnereffid a ta denialpxe flesti evah ot dnuora kcab emoc lliw ees uoy hcihw tneve egnarts yreve ekil erom ,nomohsaR fo gnilleter a ees annog er’uoy naem t’nod I ,taht yB .sevil rieht ni retal meht esrevart sretcarahc emas eht sa weiv fo stniop tnereffid morf tub ,semit fo elpuoc a senecs emas eht ees lliw uoY .rotcaf elbailer a ton si emit erehw tnemnorivne na ni noitamrofni tneserp ot flesti nihtiw tnetsisnoc yats ot seirt tsael ta tub suolucidir si tolp eht dna ,citsatnaf lla era srotca eht ,doog si noitca eht :ereh mlif eht fo eroc laer eht s’tahT .suineg gnikaerf a si taht dehpargoerohc reveohw esuaceb ,enecs thgif eht no kconk a ton si hcihW .noitpecnI su thguorb ohw yug eht morf emas eht fo erom ekil sleef ti ,snoitcerid tnereffid ni emit hguorht gnivom elihw thgif syug owt hctaw ot si ti sa gnitanicsaf sA .yllaer ,emas eht fo erom…si teneT ,su rof rehtegot tup sah naloN ffuts yzarc fo noehtnap eht ni ,taht yas ot si siht fo llA

?ggE retsaE na rof siht lla hguorht daer yllaer uoy diD

.namtaB ?tahw wonk uoy os ,ereh si nosnittaP treboR tub ,namtaB yllaretil ton ,kO .namtaB .senecs thgif gnidneb-dniM .fles ssa dab lausu sih gnieb eniaC leahciM .ecneicS .trihs-t ytaews s’rexim dnuos eht ni depparw saw taht otatop a fo tuo edam cim moob a no dedrocer lla ,gnihtaerb rof sesuap ro skaerb on htiw sretcarahc owt neewteb htrof dna kcab dipar fo gnitsisnoc eugolaid nekopS .eivom eht fo snoitrop egral rof sksam gniraew srats ruO .roloc elats ,sselefil dna ssenkrad bard fo gnitsisnoc ettelap roloc A .seueuq lacisum dna smoob drawkwa htiw etelpmoc kcartdnuos gninord a :og eno ni stih tsetaerg sih lla teg eW .tuo ti erugif ot sdnoces eerht fo lla ekat ylbaborp d’uoy ,ni gniog taht wonk t’ndid uoy fi nevE .mlif naloN rehpotsirhC a si ti ,semit lareves dias ydaerla ev’I sA

?ehcadaeh a teg thgim uoy noitnem I diD .gniwodahserof eht fo esrever eht si taht ffo yap ot sdael gniwodahserof eht lla dna ,niaga dlo si wen gnihtyreve dna ,niaga wen si dlo gnihtyrevE .ecneidua eht htiw wercs ot sekil naloN rehpotsirhC esuaceb ,emit hguorht sdrawkcab dna sdrawrof gnivom era sedis htob no sreidlos hcihw ni tnemegagne yratilim gib a ni setanimluc siht fo llA .efiw desuba s’relaed smra naissuR ruo si hcihw fo tsael eht ton ,mih pleh ot elpoep yzarc dna sreidlos fo hcnub a steg eh dnA .esrever ni dlrow eht yojne dna emit hguorht sdrawkcab evom neht nac erutuf eht ni elpoep os enoyreve yortsed dluoc taht nopaew repus a fo yrevocer tpmetta ot ,emit hguorht sdrawkcab dna sdrawrof ,sthgif eH ?od tsinogatorP seod tahw oS

.gnihtyreve hcum ytterp tuoba nalp fo dnik ”lliw eno on ,uoy evah t’nac I fi“ etamitlu eht sah dna evisuba osla s’eH .yug yssalc a s’eh esuaceb ,seloh taorht rieht ni selcitset s’elpoep kcits ot gninetaerht sa hcum sa tsuj gnimaercs dna gnilley syojne yllaer ohw relaed smra naissuR citsidas ylralucitrap a morf gnimoc era noitseuq ni snopaew eht snrael noos tsinogatorP ,noitagitsevni sih hguorhT .enoyreve llik ylbissop ot tsap eht otni snoitinum gnidnes si ymene nwonknu na erehw ,erutuf eht htiw raw a thgif ot noissim laiceps a no won s’eh srevocsid dna retal emitemos pu sekaw eH .llip edicius a nwod ekohc ot gnivah pu sdne tub sdrawkcab gniog tellub a yb devas steg eh erehw veiK ni noissim a ni setapicitrap ,retcarahc niam eht yllaretil ,tsinogatorP

.ti tuoba klat annog er’ew ,dab oot os noitcif ecneics ekil I tub ,E*P*A fo sekil eht enimaxe ylesolc os I erehw ecaps emas eht ni ti gnirevoc eb d’I taht driew elttil a s’ti snaem hcihW .noillim 053$ revo deknar si llup eciffo xob sti ,noillim 002$ detamitse na rof edaM .mlif eciffo xob tegdub gib a llits s’ti ,setad esaeler ediwdlrow revo elcabed htrof dna kcab eht etipseD

.sirhC ,sknahT .tisiv latipsoh laitnetop a neve dna ,ehcadaeh a ylbissop ,seiromem ruoy htiw evael ll’uoy :tegrof reven tub ,ti etah ,ti evoL .sgnul eugalp fo lluf dekcap sretaeht ni tseb eb dluow tlef naloN rehpotsirhC eivom eht ,teneT ,sey hA

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