This is going to be a super long review where I will review and explain Tenet (2020) film! Here was a movie that I was waiting for over a year. It was originally suppose to release in India in April but owing to the lockdown and the theatres closing, it kept getting delayed. In the meantime the movie had an international release on 27th July 2020 which meant the movie being leaked online too. But that is when I had decided to watch it only in theatres – one because I am against piracy and two because its trailer presented a grandeur that could only be enjoyed on the big screen. Finally the weekend is here and I have made it back to the theatres after 9 long months, gosh I have missed this place. Nothing like a good cinema going experience. And fittingly enough it was Tenet which was the first movie that I have watched post lockdown. And here is its review wherein I will be explaining key concepts as well as a few theories which you could agree or disagree but I recommend you read them ideally after watching the movie. So if you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend you to skip to the last bit of the review(before the Tenet Theory section), SO MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
Tenet is the story of a secret society which uses the concept of time inversion to prevent a World War 3 like event in the future. Now, the thing to remember is time inversion is different from a time travel – it does not include multiple timelines. The story is a mind bender which is why I have decided to explain a few concepts –
1) Time Inversion and Temporal Pincer- A concept marked by two teams – one team(say team red) moving in your normal timeline(forward). Another team(say team blue) moving the other way(backwards). And so this particular concept was used in the film wherein the team blue(which had earlier already been through a mission) help team red with their experiences that will help team red succeed. And while the team blue moves forward, they will appear to move backwards to any person in team red. Here the characters wearing masks were referred as inverted as they had to carry their own oxygen supply which otherwise they would be losing oxygen as they are inverted. Also, the characters age normally here unlike a Benjamin Button.
2) Reverse Entropy – An extremely complex concept but let me try to simplify! Consider water. If you freeze it, its molecules combine to form ice, whereas when you heat it, the molecules separate and form steam. Similarly the concept was referenced with bullets. If an inverted person shot a bullet, the bullet would appear to move in the opposite direction to a person who is not inverted. In its normal course, the bullet would lose heat after it is triggered. In case of reverse entropy, the bullet would gather heat. A similar case where the protagonist after his car crash suffers from hypothermia.
3) The Grandfather Paradox – Suppose your future self goes back in time and kills your grandfather who then wouldn’t have his son and in return won’t have you. So, you cannot go back in time to kill him. That is a paradox. A very small timeline in the movie where this concept is used.
4) Palindrome – The word Tenet says it all. The word spelt from either ends results in the same word. Probably the life of Kat in the film was a bit of a palindrome. As per the timelines in the film, she started and ended at the same point. Also, pay attention to such words in the film, they are spread across! It has a clever reference to mythology or more specifically the Sator Square which is a combination of 5 Latin words with Tenet at its center(google it).
Phew, if you still are with me the screenplay will really test your intelligence to the core. It is extremely layered and cerebral. Every detail counts and so you need to be attentive. Each dialogue is crucial – so this film requires your unwavering attention. What a theatre experience did was that I really enjoyed the BGM. It was pulsating especially in that opening sequence that totally had me glued. Christopher Nolan is one director who always tries to push boundaries as far as storytelling is concerned and this is no different. Here is a masterclass of film-making if there ever was one. Also, he is one filmmaker that doesn’t believe in VFX. So what you get is an actual plane crashing through the walls or an insane car chase or the building sequence(filmed in Mumbai).
Very quickly to the performances and they are excellent. Robert Pattinson as Neil is absolutely brilliant and I will come to his character theory in a bit. Dimple Kapadia as Priya is just superb. Elizabeth Debicki as Kat looks gorgeous and just so excellent. Kenneth Branagh as Sator is intimidating a job well done. John David Washington as The protagonist(he doesn’t have a name) is the star of the show. He literally puts life into every ounce of his character.
Tenet is a masterpiece, enough said. Probably the single most cerebral, layered and intellectual thriller this year. A second viewing is recommended to gather the finer and nuanced details! And you cannot miss this! Available in a theatre near you!
Tenet Theory : You are introduced to Kat’s son, Max in the film. His actual name can be assumed to be Maximillien and if you look closely at its last 4 letters, LIEN, if you read it from right to left it forms -NEIL. Which means that little boy was Neil who shared a close bond with the protagonist. He was soon recruited by him and towards the end he inverted himself to take the bullet for him. Also, it was Neil who had saved the protagonist at the Opera(at the very beginning) through time inversion, something you could make out with a red string hanging in from his bag!