Tenet Review: Nolan’s Most Mind-boggling Yet. But Dimple Kapadia’s Act Goes Down So Smooth!
This review might contain very mild spoilers for Tenet.
You’d think the fact that I was willing to go to the theatres and risk my life to watch Tenet is proof enough of how much I was waiting for it. But let’s be honest, most of us had already begun living our lives, going shopping, eating out and taking vacations, keeping safety protocols in mind. No, see, my real, almost tangible fear about watching Tenet was two-fold. One, that I might be disappointed, as some international reviews of the movie have been telling us since August. And two, that Dimple Kapadia and Mumbai might have very tiny, negligible appearances. For both these fears, I’ll say, Christopher Nolan has managed to ‘invert’ them. Not only is Tenet his most mind-boggling masterpiece yet, but amongst the near-perfect performances of its cast—John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Himesh Patel and Sir Kenneth Branagh—our very own Dimple Kapadia and her slick act holds its own. And how.
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Explaining Tenet without spoilers is something even Christopher Nolan would find difficult, but I’ll try.
Tenet’s protagonist (John David Washington) is a guy named, well, The Protagonist. Why? Don’t ask. Anyhoo, he’s part of a mission, a rescue op of sorts, where he witnesses something that defies the laws of physics. Unfortunately, before he can figure out what is going on (much like us), he gets caught by some Russian baddies and has to swallow a cynide pill to avoid giving up his team. Turns out, not dead, because the pill was a test. He passed, and is now inducted by his boss into an even more covert mission. How to explain it?
One word: Tenet.
As you’ll notice, ‘Tenet’ is a palindrome. ie., no matter which direction you read it from, it is the same. Like ‘Malayalam’, you know? He is briefed that there’s a Cold War brewing, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, mainly because it is being waged by the future on the past Yep, the future generations got super sick of us fucking up the planet. And they decided, we’ve got to wipe the slate clean. Enter a technology that allows these future villains to invert the entropy of objects and people. You really have to see it to understand it, and Clémence Poesy does a better job of explaining it of course. But the idea is, we are all going forward in time. But when the entropy of something is inverted, it technically moves backwards. So if you want to pick up an inverted weapon, you ought to have dropped it first. So if you just feel that action in your head, and mimic the dropping, whoosh! The weapon is in your hand.
Once briefed, our Protagonist recruits a friend, Neil, to help him and arrives in Aamchi Mumbai to find an Indian arms dealer. Priya Singh (yep, hello Dimple Kapadia!) reveals she has been supplying these weapons to a Russian oligarch named Andrei Sator, who it turns out, is the one doing the wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff to the weapons and turning them into inverted weapons. Why? Because one, he is a psychopath. And two, he’s getting paid by the future.
Our hero’s way to Sator is through the oligarch’s wife Kat, a sad woman in a bad marriage staying only because her nihilist of a husband blackmails her into it. She’s really in it for her son, Max. What follows are The Protagonists and Neil’s attempts to prevent Sator from procuring a McGuffin (an object relevant to the plot of the film/show/book) which will allow him to invert the world, and thereby destroy it. No past where we destroy our environment means no future where a generation has to live on dead planet that cannot sustain it. Cute.
Also Read: Dimple Kapadia’s First Look From Christopher Nolan’s Film Tenet Got Leaked And The Actress Looks Ravishing!
Aap Chronology Samajhiye! And if you can’t, it’s still okay, because the sheer ambition of this movie is worth your every second!
After watching Tenet, I kinda sorta get the negative reviews of the film. They’re not my story, but I’m saying, I understand. The sound mixing, I thought, made it a little difficult to catch everything that the characters are saying. And really words in Tenet are as important as the visuals (unlike in Dunkirk where you could still let that slide because those visuals!), some of which are quite blink-and-miss. You’ve really got to work your eyes and ears hard. And in some scenes, like the climax, where people with masks on (if a person is inverted, so are their lungs, so you’re gonna need oxygen masks to breath) are shooting at each other, it becomes super tough to follow what’s happening.
Huge Christopher Nolan fan but the sound mixing was off for me. Not being able to clearly hear what the actors are saying isn't ideal in a Nolan movie! #tenet
— Rishi Nair (@RishiNair21) August 26, 2020
Tenet is dry in the sense that it doesn’t have a lot of those crowd-pleasing stunning moments. The beauty of Tenet is in literally listening to your mind unravel what just happened on screen, the sweeping shots of things moving in reverse, and the forward and the inverted happening simultaneously in the same frame before you. The humour is also very clinical.
There’s also a lot of things that go unexplained. For one, I’d love to understand just how the temporal anomaly that makes inverted entropy possible actually happened. If you’ve seen Dark on Netflix, it does a fantastic job of explaining to you, at least enough to let your brain accept it. I could cite a few more examples, but I solemnly swear that I am up to no spoilers. I use a Prisoner of Azkaban quote here, because Tenet is a heady mixture of so many time travel stories like Dark, Prisoner of Azkaban, Interstellar (so much Interstellar), and Twin Peaks, amongst others! And yet, Tenet’s world is distinct, and shall I say, its entropy is quite differently woven.
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Look, I’m not going to fluff here and claim to have understood every thing that Christopher Nolan presents to us in Tenet. It’s nigh impossible; we’re still unpacking Inception after ten years, for crying out loud! It took Nolan some 20 years to develop Tenet, of which he spent a decade just thinking about the ideas that he was lining the film with, and some five years to write the screenplay. I cannot imagine the effort it must’ve taken to condense all that research into a near 3-hour movie. Just go to the film’s Wikipedia page, where there’s a mind-blowing revelation about the antagonist, Andrei Sator’s name, and a few other things’ names, and you’ll recognise the sheer brilliance of Nolan. And for me, daring to be this ambitious and coming through with the film is what earns Tenet all its stars.
Of course, he isn’t alone in this endeavour. His ambition couldn’t have been fulfilled without the incisive editing by Jennifer Lame, the music by Ludwig Göransson, who can I just add, never disappoints, and the cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema. They all had to have been caught up to Nolan’s vision, and I think all of them, every single member on that crew must’ve done a fantastic job to bring Tenet up.
Also Read: Bhaag Beanie Bhaag Review: Not As Marvelous As Mrs Maisel, But She’s Running In The Right Direction
Can we please talk about Dimple Kapadia and her smoother-than-the-smoothest-whiskey act, please?
This clearly is John David Washington and Kenneth Branagh’s film for me. Sator is such a complex and delicious villain, and Branagh nails it. I’ve always had faith in Robert Pattinson to come through, and he does in ways that should get you excited for The Batman. But the two women of Tenet —Elizabeth Debicki and Dimple Kapadia—do an incredibly job of matching step with JDW and Sir Kenneth.
In fact, in an interview, Kenneth Branagh talked about just how impressed everyone was with Dimple Kapadia! “She’s got a really smashing part in Tenet. I know that our master director, Mr Nolan, was thrilled with her and our leading man, John David Washington was completely in love with her by the time they finished working together.” *Trying to picture JDW singing ‘Main Shayar Toh Nahin’*
I mean, I don’t blame them. Haven’t we all been in love with Dimple Kapadia since she was Bobby? Did we ever stop? No sir. Dil Chahta Hai that we keep watching her on screen! In Tenet, she commands quite the screen presence and her introductory scene catches both you and The Protagonist by surprise. She has a crucial role (as a friend pointed out, it’s longer than Nolan regular, Sir Michael Caine’s!) and she’s got the swagger so on point. It’s so effortless, that slight smirk, the cool and composed tone that instantly tells you she’s someone to be wary of. Her outfits and her hairstyling help accentuate her demeanour even more. You’ll see her clad in this resplendent silk kurta churidars in hues of green, deep pink and yellow. Initially, her hair is left open, because the story itself is on a relaxed pace. But as we near the end, and things start to get tense, she’s in a fitted, crisp white kurta, a shawl draped over her shoulders, and her high tied in a tight bun. It’s my favourite look!
I really hope we see her in more such solid roles (she hasn’t had a good one since Finding Fanny), and if that means she has to crossover to Hollywood, ma’am, please!
A special mention for Elizabeth Debicki, here. It sure looks like she has the sad wife act down pat. She played it The Night Manager, opposite Hugh Laurie, and got saved by Tom Hiddleston. Then, in Tenet, you’ve got her playing sad wife to Kenneth Branagh, with John David Washington trying to be her saviour. And soon enough, she’ll take on the mantle of Princess Diana from Emma Corrin in The Crown, opposite Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles. She imbues her Kat with this profound sadness, and suddenly, the prospect of a different future summons that last bit of fight in her. It’s always a pleasure to watch her on screen, and I cannot wait to see her Diana.
Verdict: Dil mein aata hoon, samajh mein nahin!
Fans are going to hate me for using a Salman Khan movie dialogue in a Nolan movie review. But since we’re already taking Dimple from Dabangg, we might as well….
Christopher Nolan has made a movie that, to some, might feel rather self-indulgent, even more than his usual ones. A lot of you are not going to like it, because it’s too much work. We’ve all been thriving on escapism, lying in our beds and bingeing fluffy content. But Tenet makes you get up, dress up, go to a theatre, and put that brain to use. I think that in itself puts people off. In addition, the pandemic has given us a very tiny glimpse at what our disastrous future is going to be like, because we’ve completely let our planet go. Is it too hard to think that the future generations are going to harbour a hatred towards us that is so all-consuming that they wouldn’t mind absolute annihilation if it means they don’t have to suffer any longer? I don’t think so.
If not inverted entropy, maybe some other sinister technology, or the increasingly inevitable nuclear holocaust might be our reality. But it’s happening, guys.
My suggestion: Don’t try to understand the movie in your first attempt, it’s not possible. Nolan took twenty years, you give yourself at least two watches to grasp the basics. And when it releases on digital, you watch it again and again and like seven times more, and then we’ll get somewhere. Instead, just marvel at the sheer magnificence of what Nolan has created visually and philosophically. Even as I write this, it blows my mind to smithereens. Despite its few kinks, it’s phenomenal in every way.
Oh and PS: GET DIMPLE KAPADIA TO DO MORE VILLAINOUS ROLES PLEASE! SHE SO FINE!