• Laurence Shao

Tenet: a non-spoiler review

Is watching movies always a laid-back activity? Have you ever been obsessed with a film because of its Rubik’s-cube-like plot with suspense throughout? Well, if you enjoy this kind of painful pleasure, Tenet won’t let you down.

Christopher Nolan, the director of this intricate piece of work, has always been well-known for the philosophical profundity and notorious complexity of his scripts. His previous productions such as Inception (2010), Dunkirk (2017), and Interstellar (2014), give a sense of his wild imagination. While achieving great commercial success, each film presents a unique, creative aesthetic. It is this crucial ability that enables Nolan to bring new life to an old story, and his Midas touch makes Tenet golden.

Tenet once again explores Nolan’s favorite themes: the nature of time and causality. Mainly by manipulating the speed of time and implementing nonlinear storytelling, Nolan encourages his audience to question the subjectiveness of reality and the continuity of their personal identity.

In Tenet, the theme of time has already been implicitly revealed by the title. “Tenet,” meaning “a main principle or belief in a religion or philosophy,” was a well-thought-out palindrome carved in an ancient Latin antique called the Sator Square. Literally, it stands for a fictitious organization in the film which tries to save the world, yet its palindrome property implies that instead of clichéd time travel, there is some time inversion going on here: time becomes fluid in mysterious ways.

To play around with this concept throughout this movie without obvious logic flaws, Kip Thorne, an old friend of Nolan and the well-known Nobel Prize winner in physics, consolidates the theoretical foundation for the film. As a scientific consultant, Thorne read through the script and gave suggestions for all scientific settings in the script. Given his expertise, time inversion is speciously substantiated by theories related to entropy, which will satisfy the appetite for novelty and intellectual challenge of most sci-fi fans.

“Once again seizing control of the medium, Nolan attempts to alter the fabric of reality, or at least blow the roof off the multiplexes. Big, bold, baffling and bonkers,” comments Alex Godfrey from Empire. “Even for the vaunted director of Inception, an epic about shared dreams, and Memento, in which scenes play out in reverse, Tenet is heady stuff,” says Johnny Oleksinski from New York Post. Again, this movie may be too challenging to have broad audience appeal — but it’s worth your time to puzzle through it. If you don’t follow the plot, you hate it; if you solve the puzzle, you admire it.


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