In view of widespread complaints about viewers being unable to understand (key?) portions of Tenet‘s dialogue, this concisely phrased summary by Vulture‘s Christina Newland (“Tenet Is a Locked Puzzle Box With Nothing Inside”) might be worth storing on your smartphone’s notepad:
“John David Washington, known only as The Protagonist, is brought into a top-secret cabal working to stop the literal destruction of the planet through means of an ‘inverted’ bomb. That is to say: In this world, objects and, it turns out, people can actually exist on two planes, moving both forward and backward through time, simultaneously. This dynamic can be manipulated, and some very bad people know how to do so — namely Andrei Sator, played by a silly-accented Kenneth Branagh as a Bond-villain-esque Russian mastermind.
“At least initially, this ‘temporal inversion’ is a generous platform for plot trickery and an even better one for action sequences. Bullets surge backward, like the gun is swallowing them; hand-to-hand combat is on rewind and fast-forward; explosions can be funneled back into their bombs. This means a lot of grinding, inventive sound design, as wind moves in the wrong direction and debris flies in reverse; the soundtrack is accordingly and throbbingly unpleasant. Its efficacy is hard to deny.
“The Protagonist and his British compatriot Neil (a foppish Robert Pattinson) fight their way through London, Mumbai, and numerous other far-flung locales by way of arms dealers and art forgeries in order to find and entrap their man, eventually looping back in on themselves in multiple situations.”
Possible food for thought: “Complexity for complexity’s sake is seemingly at the heart of Tenet. It is mostly entertaining but undeniably baffling: Many will return to its intricacies in order to make sense of it. It is ready-made for endless Youtube explanations and theories.
“Near the close of the film, The Protagonist tells Branagh’s super-villain that what’s wrong with him is that he ‘doesn’t believe in anything outside himself.’ Funny enough, Nolan is committed to a similar rationale: He is enraptured by his own cleverness, ready to pummel and dazzle his audience into abject submission. Anything to distract from the fact that that Tenet is a locked puzzle box with nothing inside.”