Tenet review: Christopher Nolan delivers ‘bold, epic and ingenious’ spy thriller

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Delivering the blockbuster of the year, Brit director Christopher Nolan confirms his position as the foremost creator of high concept top quality popcorn entertainment with this bold, epic and ingenious mind-bending spy thriller.

As a CIA agent who's prepared to die for his team and his cause, John David Washington commands our attention as the unnamed protagonist who's recruited by a shady agency to save the world from a Third World War, a fate claimed to be worse than armageddon.

He's thrown into a complex time-twisting plot which circles around art forgery and arms dealers, but if you've seen Nolan's 2010 smash Inception, then you'll know to expect nothing is as straightforward as it seems.

The son of Oscar winning screen legend Denzel, Washington has inherited his father's screen presence, charm and talent but is very much his own man, and seems utterly comfortable shouldering the responsibility for carrying a huge movie such as this.

John David Washington in Tenet
(Image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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It's a privilege Nolan previously afforded established heavyweight stars Leo DiCaprio and Christian Bale – and Washington isn't out of place in their company.

Washington is teamed up with former Twilight star Robert Pattinson who brings a wonderfully dry comic delivery to his lines, and his introduction is as a somewhat highly strung ex-pat gentleman thief, imagine Lawrence of Arabia being played by David Bowie.

Robert Pattinson as Neil in Tenet
(Image: Melinda Sue Gordon)

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They’re a great pairing and it’s easy to imagine either of them as the next James Bond, and Nolan’s well known love of 007 is apparent in every frame.

From the superb and thrilling stunt work which involves articulated lorries, catamarans and the crashing of a real life jumbo jet, and in the glossy location work which reaches from the US to India via Italy and Scandinavia, Bond's influence shines through.

Among all the inventively-staged action it's great to see former TV Eastender's actor Himesh Patel getting a boost to the big league to complete a diverse trio of agents. And on that note it's refreshing to see a film of this stature and sweep include important scenes between an African-American lead and an Asian woman of a certain age, the elegant Dimple Kapadia.

Pattinson and John David Washington in Tenet
(Image: Melinda Sue Gordon)

Elizabeth Debicki in Tenet
(Image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Recently announced as Princess Di in TV's The Crown, Elizabeth Debicki is terrific despite being cast again as an abused trophy wife fighting for access to her young son.

There's a welcome though brief appearance by Nolan stalwart, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh is cold heartedly monstrous as a Russian oligarch.

A dizzying and explosive adventure to rank alongside Nolan’s Inception for its ability to confound the audience, the writer and director even feels compelled to warn us early on not to try and figure out what’s happening – but just to lose ourselves in the thrill of the chase. As Clemence Poesy's scientist says. ‘Don’t try to understand, feel it.’

Michael Caine, 87, stars in the upcoming Christopher Nolan film Tenet
(Image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Nolan's ability to craft crowd-pleasing spectacle remains undimmed and is so brimming with confidence he dares to employ one of cinema's oldest visual tricks and succeeds in making it seem remarkably fresh and almost groundbreaking.

Thanks in part due to Ludwig Goransson's thunderously propulsive score Tenet sounds fantastic, and it looks incredible, especially on a giant IMAX screen. This is the biggest cinema event of the year and you don't want to miss it.

Tenet is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday, August 26, 2020.

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