An American spy (John David Washington) is tasked with a very dangerous mission, one that has a time sensitive nature and potential global ramifications. In order to achieve his goal, the man known only as "The Protagonist" will have to get close to Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), a deadly Russian arms dealer. But what is the Russian up to? And with the threat of something worse than nuclear holocaust hanging over every life on this planet, will our protagonist be able to figure it out in time to stop him?
There is no doubt at all that this is Christopher Nolan's most ambitious project to date. If you thought his previous movies were made on a grand scale, you ain't seen nothing yet! Tenet truly is mind-boggling, you could watch it five times and still not have it all figured out - as is pointed out to Washington's character: "Don't try to understand it, feel it." Things move fast too. Nolan kicks things off right from the start and he doesn't let off the accelerator until the very end. Unfortunately this can leave a few moments of much needed exposition feeling a bit rushed, with certain pieces falling victim to Nolan's traditionally loud soundtrack - especially in IMAX. Safe to say, that if you don't pay attention, the movie will quite literally leave you behind. But this doesn't make it any less enjoyable. If anything, you will undoubtedly be excited to rewatch it - as I write this a couple of hours after my first viewing, I can safely say I am positively ecstatic about seeing Tenet again.
Nolan has very cleverly blended science-fiction with the classic spy thriller, and of course he loves playing with the concept of time - something he does with great skill here. If the director was ever going to make a tribute to James Bond, this is it. You've got this wonderful cat-and-mouse game in which we jump from one beautiful location to another, and everyone appears to be using everybody else. The performances are magnificent; Washington is the perfect choice, not only as the dedicated Protagonist, but also to lead us on this crazy trip, especially with Robert Pattinson providing support, and some deliciously witty banter - watch out for the scene in which he describes his audacious plan for a heist, not to mention an all too brief appearance by Michael Caine. Kenneth Branagh is all kinds of evil as Sator, not Bond levels of evil however. No, Branagh's performance is somewhere much closer to reality, and therefore more disturbing (9 seconds were reportedly shaved off the UK cut of the film to get a 12A rating). But it's Elizabeth Debicki whose performance truly stands out, as Sator's abused and broken wife, she may not get to do quite as much as her co-stars, but when she's given the opportunity she really shines.
If there's ever going to be a movie that proves stunt people deserve their own awards category it's Tenet. Nolan's desire to do as much practically is brutally evident, and it really pays off because it all looks spectacular. Throughout his career we have watched him continually push the boundaries of what filmmakers can do, but like everything else with Tenet, Nolan really has taken that to the extreme. Fight scenes which feature some form of time manipulation, car chases in which cars flip back on to their wheels, even certain dialogue scenes which would usually involve some computer trickery, all were filmed for real. Nolan and his team even crashed a real Boeing 747 into a building for one of the bigger set pieces! And if you can believe it, the action only gets more impressive from there.This dedication only helps to draw you in, because this world in which so much more is possible, has been flawlessly brought to life in front of our eyes. The man behind The Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar really has set a high bar for himself, the question is; where does he go from here?