Tenet Review: The Spy Who Screwed with Time

It’s spy time! Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

Pacing is light speed, as is the dialogue, so subtitles don’t hurt but you do run the risk of missing all those delicious hidden Nolan nuggets interspersed throughout the film.

That and losing the plot amidst all the mad spy-fi action.

Yes, spy-fi is a genre now.

My advice for those watching it the first time is to take the advice given by the chick in the lab coat at the start of the film: “don’t think too much about it.”

At least not about the pseudo-science part. Do try to follow the characters and the flow of events throughout the film. If you can do that, then you should have a reasonably satisfactory experience. I suppose that applies to…most movies.

I must say Mr. Nolan has a knack for blending and balancing human emotion, sweet cinematography, fast paced action and wacky science and effects into his works. If you thought Inception and Interstellar were out there…then, well, Tenet isn’t that far off.

Set in what appears to be present times (or maybe not too long ago), Tenet is the name of a secret organisation that is tasked with preventing global catastrophe. Of course it would be typical of a spy film to have “save-the-world” stakes. Because of course it only takes one man or a team to save the world. Human power! Or hubris. But I digress.

And we are thrown right into the fray, from the second you step into the theatre to the credit roll, things just keep flying. Like you know that saying about having fun?

So yes, as you may already be aware, Tenet is all about time, and the wacky things you can do with a solid grasp of good time management. Also, there’s the Sator Square.

The Sator Square is an intriguing reference – if you’ve seen the film but never heard of the Sator Square, this might set off some light bulbs. Here it is below, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet:

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

Apart from the obvious name references in the film, the Sator Square is also a multi-directional palindrome, meaning it reads the same backwards and forwards and up and down. And at the centre of the square is tenet. You can see where Nolan got his inspiration from.

The Sator Square is an interesting bit of culture itself – it is a recurring motif in ancient history, from Pompeii to Italy to Syria. The meaning behind it is still something of a mystery, although it appears to have religious links.

That said, the Sator Square isn’t really that central to the film – it’s just a cool reference and the namesake, and perhaps an indicator that there will be some backwards and forwards business going on. But that’s about it. So…you’re welcome?

I must say Mr. Pattinson’s performance is truly top notch, as is Mr. Branagh’s. Of course we mustn’t forget the protagonist – an all round solid performance.

The protagonist does feel a little one-dimensional though, as his motives are never entirely elucidated. Is he just doing his job? Saving the world from an unseen and unknown threat? Does he actually like the lady? Or maybe he’s addicted to time travel?

So many questions, but not nearly as many as you’ll have when they start firing names, places, acronyms, code words, quips left right and centre. The characters are all clearly cleverer (that words somehow doesn’t sound right in my head) than all of us because they all seem to be able to keep up with the crazy shenanigans that go on in all the timelines and subplots of the film. But of course they do, they’re in the film!

No, that’s not what I mean. I mean if you were in their position in the movie, I imagine you’d have a tough time trying to figure out who is what and what to say to who when where. But then again, I imagine that’s what being in a real life spy campaign is like.

Also, long distance radio connection from an underground facility that is quite possibly still heavily radioactive? Hellooooo? I guess the film is actually set in the distant future when they can actually get a semi-stable halfway-decent internet connection.

The soundtrack is a little otherworldly, and I wonder what it would sound like played backwards. Might scream for Sator or Arepo or some deity’s name. I heard complaints about it being a little loud and overpowering the dialogue, but I felt the volume levels were reasonably well tuned. If anything the visuals in the action scenes were harder to follow, what with things happening in strange sequences and lots of little details thrown around.

Overall a clever film that makes you think (forces, I daresay) with enough action and drama to keep you on the edge of your seat even if you forget about all the sciencey physics defying stunts they pull.

But if you like to think things through and make sense of it all, then this film is definitely for you. I daresay they could turn it into a series, like Dark. And no, I’m not saying that because the main character is of a certain ethnicity.

And at the end of it all, I realised I don’t even know the bloody fool’s name. They forgot to name their protagonist.

Blade Runner 2049 Wildest Review Ever

blade runner 2049 harrison ford

Blade Runner 2049 Review Time

I hope you enjoyed the movie, because everybody dies!

Oh wait…was I supposed to say spoilers alert first?

I’m just messing with you – they’re Replicants; they never die. They just…retire.

Now it just occurred to me that a large part of the premise of Rockman X (Megaman X, for those reading at home) is very much based on the concepts from the Blade Runner universe.

Let’s run through some similarities (glaring as they may be), shall we?

blade runner maverick hunter
They’re like, totally identical, man!

It’s make-a-list time!

So Blade Runner and Megaman X are similar in that they:

  • Both have lots of guns. Pew pew! (Egads! The violence!)
  • Are set in dystopian futures (and not too distant, mind you)
  • Both involve artificial humanoids or very closely human-like robots – Blade Runner calls their artificial humanoids Replicants, Megaman calls them Reploids. Both are capable of human thought and emotion; both are stronger in most physical regards compared to weak, fragile humans
  • Both have stories centred around those who seek out and destroy rogue Replicants and/or Reploids
  • Both involve lots of flying and jumping around in futuristic craft
    Megaman X Ride Chaser Speeder
  • Both have mad geniuses that engineer countless artificial beings and then sic them on each other
  • Both have amazing futuristic visuals and graphics
    Megaman X City Waste
  • Both have protagonists that have yet to be subjected to a Turing or Voight-Kampff test
  • Both have nerdy fanboy followings (and surprising mainstream ones too)

Well, that list kind of fizzled, but you see my point.

Wait, what point?

The point that I played nerdy computer games! Ya happy?

On To The Review

Now that I got that out of the way, Blade Runner 2049 is a strikingly vivid cinematographic orgasm of moist grim dark.

It’s literally raining all the time, and although I didn’t see any flaming smokestacks this time, it has that same dirty, polluted, overcrowded vibe with gaudy neon banners getting all in your face.

Ryan Gosling plays a sullen, straight-shooting, soft-spoken Blade Runner that suits his style of acting. I mean, for crying out loud – I’m sure the guy has range, so why do you keep giving him these roles!? And why do you keep taking them, Ryan? Why?

It’s like I’m watching Drive all over again.

Long pans of cityscape; cruising in sleek rides all over town; sudden outbursts of action and gratuitous violence (but also quite gratifying).

Hey, let’s make a list to comp-ok fine, let’s not.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy watching an expressionless robot speed around with acid rain streaking horizontally across the glass, and get mind raped a few times over. But replicants are supposed to have some proper emotion, man!

The dude didn’t even cry when that really, really sad thing happened!

He just sat there and stared.

It’s like I’m watching Drive all over again.

Whining aside, I honestly did enjoy this installment of the Blade Runner franchise and I agree it did justice to the original.

Some people may have found it rather draggy and slow, but I felt the pacing was in a way homage to the classic style of movies. It also gives good breathing room to the audience in between all that story and action.

And all the settings have such character!

blade-runner-wallace-corp-indoor-setting

Very artfully done locations and picturesque places, albeit intentionally stale and depressing.

blade-runner-wallace-corp-indoor-setting

And the music! Oh, Hans Zimmer I knew thy touch upon each dissonant shred of thine unique brand of high. The music is simply mesmerising and combines so well with many of the quieter moments in the film.

All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies where you should not go in expecting to see a whole lot of whiz bang action and nonstop firefights. It’s one of those films where the people that made it want you as the viewer to appreciate this magical, futuristic universe that they’ve concocted; to bask and linger in the strange yet uncannily familiar sights and sounds.

All you need to do and stay awhile and listen.

Does it hold up to the original? Only time will tell.

But it’s definitely worth the watch (but be warned it’s almost 3 hours long).