Although director Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” is one of the more fascinating films to come along in a while and is probably best seen in a movie theater for the ultimate experience, in some ways the fact we can see it via streaming services so we can stop and rewind makes it a bit easier to understand. However, when I first saw it on Vudu, I watched it straight through and then for the sake of this review I rewatched it for the rewinds.
The reason is because it’s story is about how an espionage agent, known simply as The Protagonist (John David Washington), is recruited by an organization called Tenet to thwart a wealthy Russian oligarch named Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) from causing World War III. But, this cataclysm will not involve a presumed nuclear war. This one has to do with the destruction of everyone and everything using time itself.
Nolan’s film is not adapted from another source. He wrote it and directed it and has woven it with ideas that are so complex and twisty one wonders if he did it for physicists to wrangle with and write papers about for years to come. Still, it is science fiction in the best definition of the term.
The title is, of course, a palindrome. It’s the first clue that this movie deals with elements that move forward and backward in time. But, it’s not necessarily a time travel story or one involving separate dimensions, but rather a way to manipulate time to one’s nefarious ends. It’s also an action-filled spy story with amazing practical special effects that puts the audience into the action, unlike many a CGI-heavy super hero flick.
The Protagonist is first involved in a violent incident where his last resort is to swallow a suicide pill, which has led some viewers to ponder whether the events that follow are a death dream. In fact, when he awakens, a CIA superior named Fay (Martin Donovan) tells him “Welcome to the afterlife.” But, that’s unlikely as the events are much more entangled with his strange mission and the unusual amount of skill and intelligence he possesses. He actually understands all that’s explained to him, with appropriately breathtaking demonstrations, and extrapolates what needs to be done.
Part of his mission is to infiltrate Sator’s inner circle using an art connection with his wife, Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), who is having marital troubles in which her son is being used as a pawn. Sator’s powerful connections and ruthless tactics make that a dangerous situation. So, with a fake Goya in-hand and a clever confederate named Neil (Robert Pattinson), the Protagonist quickly assesses his way in.
Before long, the stage is set and some bizarre and, admittedly difficult-to-follow, images flow across the screen with trademark wizardry only Christopher Nolan can conjure.
Interestingly, according to imdb.com, Nolan worked with IMAX to develop special cameras that have the ability to film forward and backward at the same time. Just ponder that a moment while watching this.
This film co-stars Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Dimple Kapadia. It is available for rent on Vudu, Amazon Prime and other streaming services.
“Tenet” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language.
Tempo grade: A+.
Also streaming at the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home service.
Fire Will Come
This film directed by Oliver Laxe is a rural drama that follows Amador (Amador Arias), a 40-something arsonist who is freed from jail after two years of his imprisonment.
Not having friends, money or other resources, Amador returns his home in an a tiny mountain town located in the province of Lugo (Galicia; northwest to Spain), living with his aging mother Benedicta (Benedicta Sánchez). Quiet, calm and man of few words, Amador bears silently the mock of the some neighbors who have not forgotten his crime as he tries to redirect his life caring the livestock of the farm and interest in Elena (Elena Mar Fernández) , town's veterinarian.
At the same time, a worried Benedicta talks Inazio (Inazio Abrao), who is restoring ancient ruined houses to turn them in rural resorts for tourists, looking for a job for Amador, in the hope that her son can at least to have a normal life. But the peaceful life of the town ends abruptly when a new fire lights in the mountains nearby, reigniting old accusations against Amador.
In Gallegan and Spanish with English subtitles.
This film will be available to view now through Jan. 29.
How does Big Screen TCA @ HOME work?
Go to tcataos.org/calendar/ and click on the movie you want to watch. Then, click on the WATCH MOVIE link. After that, it’s easy! You will “buy a ticket,” and be able to view the film. Watch on your computer, smartphone, tablet. Or, depending on the film, cast to your Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Roku. Instructions for how to watch on smart TVs are available at ticket purchase. The Taos Center for the Arts does not set the ticket price, the digital distributors do. It receives 50 percent of the ticket sales.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres in Taos and the Taos Community Auditorium remain closed for the time being in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Until they reopens we will focus on movie reviews available online and through the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home series.