Review: TENET

Bond with a Physics Lesson

“Tenet” is Christopher Nolan’s subverted Bond film. Sure, there’s a heady discussion of physics and some ingenious narrative structure, but his affinity for movie-magic espionage shows lack of confidence in the marketability of his ideas.

And those ideas at work in “Tenet” should be enough to carry any blockbuster. The goodwill that Nolan’s built up over the years ensures solid returns for producers. But without the gunplay, jet-set globe-trotting, explosions, and combat, the unfounded fear must be that average Joes won’t buy a ticket. Pity.

For the record, I acknowledge that Nolan’s intentionally borrowing elements from the secret agent subgenre (components of which were also present in his classic “Inception”). This time around, I found it a bit tiresome.

In “Tenet,” “BlacKkKlansman” star John David Washington plays a slick, brash CIA operative. In the film’s thrilling opening sequence, he’s part of an elite team that thwarts a terrorist attack in an opera house. But even though the opera patrons are spared, Washington’s unnamed agent is captured and tortured.

Rescued, he awakens on board a ship, having been “repaired.” He’s given a critical mission: find the source of a new, life-threatening weapon. His handler, Victor (Martin Donovan), imparts upon him a word, “tenet,” and a hand gesture. Those clues are all that’s needed, and our protagonist is off to the races.

Read Jonathan’s complete review online and in print in the Times-Herald:

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