Rated PG-13, 150 minutes
Sometimes you long for a film told in straightforward, linear fashion. Don't tell that to acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, a master behind non-linear, albeit usually thrilling, storytelling. Nolan's entertaining, glossy "Tenet" is a little easier to follow than some of his previous efforts ("Interstellar" is still very confusing to me) continues to explore his fascination with the time-space continuum, even if it's still a little exhausting.
Armed with only one word--Tenet--and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a secret super-agent named The Protagonist ("BlacKKKlansman's" John David Washington, excellent here) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission with Neil ("Twilight's" Robert Pattinson, solid) his handler, that will unfold in something beyond real time.
Directed and written by Nolan on a typically large canvas, "Tenet“ has moments of flash, brilliance and energy, even if you don't quite understand where you are going, an unpredictable notion that is likely Nolan's precise point here, especially in regards to time travel. On the downside, Nolan takes too long to make his point, and there are many subplots here that could've been excised for the sake of efficiency. It is helped by the chemistry of Washington and Pattinson, a remarkably stout team, with Washington charming and confident, and Pattinson understated and who keeps getting better and better, making you forget the "Twilight" dreck that has defined his career.
"Dunkirk's" Kenneth Branagh steals many scenes in a hammy turn as a Russian criminal who holds one of the keys to The Protagonist's journey, and "Widows'" Elizabeth Debicki gets in a few good scenes as his beleaguered wife with just as many secrets. And yes, if you blink the right way, you'll miss the cameo near the beginning from Oscar-winner and Nolan alumni Michael Caine.
Nolan has assembled a talented cast, and as usual with his films, executed "Tenet" with impressive technical skill, including score, photography from his usual cinematographer, the great Hoyte van Hoytema and some stellar visuals that remind of a cross between Nolan's "Memento" and "Inception," of which this film will be most compared to. There are a handful of breathless action set pieces (highlighted by fast cars and big planes) which help keep the film moving to an unsurprising conclusion.
"Tenet" is fun, thrilling, head-scratching and too long, but it's less heady or exhausting than "Inception,“ likely pleasing his many fans. It's not Nolan's best, yet still a worthwhile trip.