New Nolan Film Tenet is Riveting for a Socially Distant Audience

3 min read

Caroline Richards ’22

A&E Editor

Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s newest action-masterpiece starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, couldn’t have premiered for worse luck with timing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the movie’s release date was pushed back three times before its tentative release in the UK on Aug. 26 and later in the US on Sept. 3. 

And yet, despite the pandemic and the drastically low movie attendance rate, Tenet has somehow turned out okay; it is the fifth highest grossing film in 2020 even with the pandemic still in play. What this says about Nolan’s cult-following is obvious: people have been anticipating this movie for a long time now. It seems, so has Nolan, who took five years writing the movie and nearly a decade deliberating the plot. This could explain the strict, if obsessive, secrecy behind the movie as well. Washington and Pattinson were only permitted to read the script in the Warner Bros. Production’s compound while locked in a room. Michael Caine, another member of the cast, was given his scripted pages only on the day he was meant to film. If anything, this only made the anticipation more unbearable for Nolan’s eleventh film. 

Luckily, and perhaps to my great relief, the film lives up to my personal expectations. I will not provide any spoilers, but I will say the action is wild and viciously intense. The plot moves quickly and, at times, in complete zig-zags that left me lost for a while before I regained my footing in late scenes; the pacing is incredible, as I find to be true in all of Nolan’s movies. The tension a director must create between what is happening before your eyes and what is made obviously missing, or meant to be inferred, is a fine line on which Nolan balances seamlessly—and the cinematography used in order to pull it off is outstanding. While I was hesitant to see Washington and Pattinson act together (I was uncertain about their quietly-serious personalities working side by side), they both delivered impressive performances. 

I always have trouble breaking Pattinson out of his Edward Cullen character, perhaps to my own detriment, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easily his character caught on. 

What was most striking for me about the movie was the music. While Hans Zimmer is usually Nolan’s go-to partner when it comes to music, Zimmer had previously committed to Dennis Villanueve’s newest movie Dune and was unable to work with Nolan on this project. 

Nolan and Zimmer’s previous projects together has produced some of the most incredible scoring in film: Interstellar, Inception, and The Dark Knight trilogy are all included. However, Ludwig Emil Tomas Göransson’s (Fruitvale Station, Black Panther) score is gorgeous and compelling. The pacing of the movie is only made more effective by the music and the way Göransson captures Nolan’s characters is stunning. 

In the end, Nolan’s determination to release Tenet in theatres (insisting that the sound and visuals were a must-see for the big screen) was the right move. 

The movie’s time-warping cinematography and bizarre sound-mixing was worth it to see in theatres, and I highly recommend it to everyone. And if you do decide to venture out during the pandemic, please make sure you wear a mask and social distance!


Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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  1. 1

    Barbara: The first thought that came to me after watching ‘Tenet’ is: ‘what inspired Nolan to create such a scenario in his head for 20 years’? Impressions after watching I have remained was different. From a brilliant idea with a game in time, to some disappointment with small details.

    Time inversion is the central thread of the entire plot, and it’s also what you want to praise in the first place after watching. I have no idea how Christopher Nolan was able to frame such a sci-fi scenario. This is truly a titanic work!

    From a technical point of view, everything is great too. As always, Nolan uses a minimum of computer graphics and a maximum of location filming. Hans Zimmer didn’t write the music for this film, but his colleague Ludwig Göransson coped with the task.

    Science fiction is taken to the absolute here. ‘Tenet’ is far from suitable for everyone; after watching, someone will have to watch explanatory videos with plot details. But I personally liked this film, and I wouldn’t mind watching it again.

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