The sci-fi action film “Tenet” is a fascinating work about the flow and nature of time. The film is now running on free TV for the first time.
“Oppenheimer” is the title of Christopher Nolan’s (52) latest prank. The drama follows the development of the first atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project. In his predecessor “Tenet”, however, the master director does not deal with real historical events, but with the nature of time itself. Nolan’s cinematic headbutt presents viewers with intricate scenes full of visual violence, in which the flow of time runs forwards and backwards at the same time.
Denzel Washington’s (68) son John David Washington (38) and ex-“Twilight” star Robert Pattinson (37) shine in the leading roles. On July 23 (8:15 p.m., ProSieben) the work celebrates its premiere on German free TV.
The “protagonist” towards the end of the world
An unnamed agent, continually referred to as the “protagonist” (Washington), is just about on the job against hostage-takers. Only a little later, richer in knowledge and a few teeth poorer, his world view is completely turned upside down: Through a groundbreaking technology that has fallen into the hands of an unscrupulous criminal, the laws of physics that are considered immutable can be overturned. “Time travel? No, inversion!”
Where does the ammo come from that behaves in the opposite way to the normal passage of time? And does the inversion technology really threaten the outbreak of the Third World War? The “protagonist” embarks on a search for clues that not only takes him around the world – but also to the limits of imagination.
Forward, backward… or both?
“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” With this saying, the main character of “Tenet” and thus also the viewer are introduced to the principle of time inversion. In fact, in his sci-fi work, Nolan takes a creative vision to the extreme that he already had in the very first scene of his film “Memento” in 2000. A developed Polaroid photo that fades slightly with each shake. Drops of blood running up a wall – the grisly consequence of the backward execution of an (in)guilty man.
Only this opening sequence was played backwards at the time, with the rest of “Memento” only most (not all) of the scenes are arranged in reverse chronological order. A demanding concept that now seems banally simple compared to “Tenet”. You can’t get by here without a little discourse on physics.
The idea behind “Tenet”
Anyone who deals with the theories dealt with in “Tenet” quickly stumbles across terms such as entropy, thermodynamics or the name of James Maxwell. The short version: The natural order of the universe is disorder. A cup that shatters into a thousand pieces will never put itself back together. And the mixed Cuba Libre does not automatically transform itself back into its components, cola and rum. But what if? Nolan pursues this mental game with “Tenet”. Even more: What if such inverted objects occur in an otherwise normal world? Or a man, say a “protagonist”, walking through an inverted world?
Nolan’s answers to these questions conjure up show values on the screen that, it must be emphasized, have not been seen in any other film. What’s shown tempts the viewer’s imagination – on the level of meaning down to the very basic question of how on earth some sequences could be filmed. At the beginning, “Tenet” is actually very cautious, almost sluggish, with such scenes. The first half of the flick even sounds like a “Bond” film, in which inventor Q just overdid it a bit with his technical frippery. But then “Tenet” suddenly picks up and sends his characters to Ludwig Göransson’s (38) driving score in sheer bombast, which should be enjoyed on a really gigantic television set.
Not a movie for one night
It’s abundantly clear how deeply Nolan and Co. got into the subject. It should also be clear to all interested parties that not all question marks will have disappeared even after two or three viewings. “Tenet” is Nolan’s most complicated, muddled film, which is saying something for a director who is often accused of “overthinking”. At the same time, however, it can be attested more than ever with “Tenet” that Nolan has confidence in his audience. Anyone who gets involved will find cleverly built-in references to later revelations, or catch themselves after the film with a red and a blue pen trying to understand the storylines.
But “Tenet” is not free of flaws either. As in “Inception” or “Interstellar”, some dialogues, in which the fantastic mechanics of the plot are supposed to be suggested to the viewer, seem a bit wooden. Once again, the female characters in particular, this time in the person of Elizabeth Debicki (32), remain very pale or hardly more than cues. And then there is Kenneth Branagh (62) as the antagonist Andrei Sator, who tends to overact in some scenes. It wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.
In general, the acting performances are not necessarily in the foreground in “Tenet”. Nonetheless, it’s the believable and charming bromance between Washington and “The Batman” star Pattinson that makes viewers feel connected to the two – especially on the second or third run.
If you’re just looking for entertainment, you’ll be able to marvel at impressive moments thanks to “Tenet”, but you’ll probably find the film (too) confusing overall. Christopher Nolan’s predecessor to “Oppenheimer” is one of those films that gives you more the more and the more often you deal with it. You don’t have to understand that. But you can feel it.