Time twister proves that cinema is alive and well

Tenet (12A, 150 Minutes)

Commuting past Mile End last week, I overheard a husband tell his wife that “art is dead – look at the cinema, the theatre, the concerts. They’ll never be the same again”.

For someone who was fully prepared to take a grand step into working in the arts, it stuck with me and for the first time in months, that overbearing ache of dread that thousands of artists, now unemployed, have also felt returned.

But the fear of ‘what if?’ was quickly put to bed when I went to the cinema for the first time since early March, just before lockdown.

I found myself walking through the doors of Vue Piccadilly and into what suddenly became a sci-fi-esque picture house with mirrored walls and neon lighting, and sat down to watch Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, ready to reignite my passion for an industry supposedly deceased.

My conclusion? Art is far from dead.

David John Washington gives a career defining performance as an American Intelligence agent known only as ‘The Protagonist’, tasked with preventing a climactic end to the second cold war, of which we’re all consciously aware, but adamantly ignoring.

Nuclear weapons are being collected by deranged, super cross Kenneth Branagh – in what transpires to be his best performance in recent years. But all is not what it seems. The lines between past and future are blurred, and with the help of Robert Pattinson (the best duo in recent cinema), Washington finds that time – both linear and non linear – can be weaponised on both sides.

This one has already been a critic mixer. Some say it’s confusing, or that the plot doesn’t make sense. Well that’s the beauty of it – the film makes sense because the peculiar chronology doesn’t. That’s the point. When you’re confused, Washington is confused. When Washington learns, you learn with him.

Christopher Nolan has built a career on making us question everything, so why should we expect any different here? It’s a puzzle for us to complete over and over again with a new answer each time.

Tenet is cinema’s defibrillator and boy does it speed the pulse. High octane, mind bending and meticulously crafted, it manages to avoid the shadow of Inception to become its sister from the same mister.

Nolan is a wonderful filmmaker, no doubt, but his chunky scripts tend to drag. I have never personally seen the appeal of Interstellar because of its running time. But that is not the case here. Tenet kept me on the edge of my seat for the full two and a half hours. It is a masterpiece.

Unfortunately, I’m now questioning all concept of narrative and it’s truly maddening, especially for a screenwriter/director.

This is a positively stellar film that will no doubt require multiple viewings over the years to fully grasp its concept but leaves a message loud and clear. The rumours of cinema’s death are greatly exaggerated.

She’s just rocked up alive at her own wake, downed a gin and jumped onto the table for a boogie.

RATING: 9/10