Tenet Review: Christopher Nolan’s Time-Bending James Bond

A review of Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated blockbuster Tenet that explains why it's a movie that need to be experienced on the big screen. But don't forget your mask!
tenet review

Christopher Nolan is back! After a few delays, Tenet finally arrived in a ton of European countries. A lot of reviews have come in the last few days, most of them having been positive. What I can say is that, while its not his best work, it’s certainly his most ambitious yet.

Fans have been speculating about the plot of Tenet since the release of its reveal trailer in December 2019. And I won’t say anything about the plot that hasn’t been in the trailers, simply to guarantee you a fantastic experience when you see it for the first time.

Christopher Nolan has been a fan of Spy movies since he was a child, and he often has said that he loves the James Bond franchise. It’s play to see that Tenet is his take on that genre of espionage thriller.

What Makes Tenet Work?

The cast – which includes John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Sir Michael Caine – is what helps the film shine from the start

John David Washington is really great. He brings the physicality and the coolness to the protagonist, both of which grow over the course of the movie. Elizabeth Debicki is the emotional anchor of the movie, and her character is the one you emotionally connect to the most. Robert Pattinson brings great one-liners, a lot of charm, and great chemistry with the entire cast.

tenet delayed

But what really defines Tenet are the technical aspects. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography is great. There aren’t as many memorable shots as in his first two collaborations with Nolan (Interstellar and Dunkirk), but he really captures the spectacle that is happening onscreen in a clear and precise way. Hoytema stays on the characters to make the action feel more dangerous and exciting, while also capturing the huge scale of it.

The sound design is bombastic. This movie is loud; it’s so loud that your seat could start shaking- mine really did. There are some problems with the sound mixing, as it’s sometimes hard to hear what characters say, when there are car chases and a thrilling score. This is something which Nolan has enjoyed since The Dark Knight Rises (2012), where you often couldn’t understand Tom Hardy as Bane. Same thing with Interstellar, where the score was louder than everything else – which can be dangerous because than a lot of the impact of the scenes relies on the score.


But Tenet‘s score is nothing short of fantastic. This time Nolan worked with Academy Award Winner Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther), instead of Hans Zimmer, who declined the project in order to work with Denis Villeneuve on Dune (2020). Göranssons score is able to enhance every scene with a new thrilling layer, making the action even more exciting and the shots even more impressive. His score is definitely one of Tenet‘s highlights and should be a real awards contender.

Now I did talk a lot about the action of Tenet, but why is it that spectacular? It’s because basically everything that you see onscreen was done practically. It’s a completely different feeling from the 1000th big CGI battle. A lot of people talk about the plane crash, which was shown in the second trailer, seeing this on the big screen is just something that should be experienced on a big screen. Not a miniature, not VFX – no, they crashed a real Boeing 747. In fact Nolan stated that there are “less VFX shots as in a normal rom-com”. Too see this spectacle on a big screen, knowing that basically the entirety of it was done practically, that really is something.

But Tenet also has its problems. My biggest problem with it was the bland antagonist. While Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk) delivered a menacing performance, he really didn’t had a lot to work with. His character relies to much on the relationship with Elizabeth Debicki’s character. Characters in general are a huge problem of the movie, as you really can’t find anyone to really engage with. The entire emotional part relies on Elizabeth Debicki’s character. It might be enough for some audiences, but I would have liked to see more depth in John David Washington’s character, as he is our protagonist.

Tenet is a spectacle that clearly shows Christopher Nolan’s love and passion for cinema. While it’s not his best work, it’s one hell of a comeback for theatres around the world, and it will be enjoyed by a big number of audiences. It’s a blockbuster that should be experienced on the biggest screen possible. But when you do that, don’t forget to wear a mask!

Tenet Poster 7-17-20

What do you guys think? Are you excited for Tenet? Are you planning to watch it? Let’s discuss everything in the comments down below.



Finn Schlote

Finn Schlote

Finn thinks and talks about movies all day, has a strong interest in how movies are made and he loves great cinematography. Comedy or horror, arthouse or big-budget blockbuster, Finn watches everything. He is a passionate Blu-Ray collector and is still waiting for a Jumper (2008) sequel.