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Tenet

It wouldn't be a Nolan film without a great appearance by Michael Caine, whose role is brief but critical in the education of both the protagonist and us as the moviegoer.

My biggest fear before seeing Christopher Nolan's brilliant new film TENET was that someone was going to spill its secrets to me, so I assure you, NO SPOILERS.

Frankly, I think I'll need to see it a few more times to really fully understand it. There were at least three times in the film where I wanted to go back and see what had happened 90 minutes earlier to see if I could have caught the clues that were likely sitting right there like prized Easter eggs for me to grab.

Christopher Nolan (Inception, Dunkirk, The Dark Knight Rises, Insomnia) is one of my favorite modern writer/directors. He's always intelligent, hugely creative and challenging. This time, he's created something he's described as a tribute to the Bond films that he grew up with. I'm a huge OO7 fan and saw many subtle tributes to Bond. Thanks to the terrific team at Alamo Drafthouse and their pre-film education on Nolan, I also learned of very direct tributes to the Bond films that I had missed in "The Dark Knight" and "Inception".

(By the way, it was FANTASTIC to be back at the Alamo and see a movie on the big screen. When they filed bankruptcy at the beginning of the Covid madness, I was concerned that my favorite place to see a film was forever lost, but they're back and are hugely appreciated.)

TENET clearly has the massive budget, globe hopping locations and huge scale action scenes of OO7, but the story is beyond challenging.

John David Washington (Black KKKlansman) is excellent as a character we'll only refer to as "The Protagonist". As the film opens, he's deep into a terrorist attack at a Russian opera house. Different teams descend on the event as a large audience is held hostage. Nolan's camera swirls, Ludwig Goransson's music BOOMS and the first three minutes drop you into a scene that would be the climax of any other movie. But in the first tribute to Bond, the pre-credits sequence merely sets up what's to follow.

And I'll be describing very little of what happens after those first ten minutes. Robert Pattinson (The Batman, The Lighthouse) is excellent as Neil. He's the James Bond of the piece, all cool demeanor in the middle of every action scene, calmly delivering his lines in Brioni suits and setting up the action along the way as he trains Washington.

Kenneth Branagh chews the scenery as Andrei Saitor, the wealthy Russian arms dealer at the center of the plot.

Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) is his wife Kat, caught up in the violence of Saitor's thirst for power. His ultimate goals here make Blofeld's world domination plans in Bond films pale by comparison.

It wouldn't be a Nolan film without a great appearance by Michael Caine, whose role is brief but critical in the education of both the protaginist and us as the moviegoer.

Mid-film, Nolan creates one of the most visually arresting, exciting car chases of all time. He instantly doubles the excitement by playing with the flow of the action. Nolan has said this is his tribute to William Friedkin's LA freeway car chase sequence in "To Live and Die in LA" and as a big fan of that film, the homage is perfectly executed.

But if you've seen the previews and think this is some sort of time travel adventure, think again. Nolan is far too intelligent to create another time travel movie. He avoids all the usual traps of that genre by doing something all together different. There are new rules and new concepts that are clearly well thought out and based on physics.

In another sequence, Nolan doesn't just stage a heist. He stages a grand scale, "jumbo jet rolling into an airport facility as a distraction" heist that's so carefully designed, it unrolls in real time, but you don't fully understand it until much later in the film, when Nolan turns over all his cards.

Nolan saves his best for the conclusion, with a tactical, escalating invasion by two large battalions. I am not going to describe the missions of the blue team and the red team, but I'll say that I have no idea how Nolan filmed the final twenty minutes. It's the perfect blend of "Edge of Tomorrow", "Full Metal Jacket" and "Inception" that twists unto itself a thousand times to make your brain explode.

Yeah, I've got to see this again.

Brilliant Director of Photography Hoyte Van Hoytema worked with Nolan on "Dunkirk" and "Interstellar" and their third film together is their best collaboration. Hoytema nails the sweeping OO7-genre shots of our spies arriving in a European seaside location and proves equally adept dropping you into and around the crashing metal of the car chase sequence and bone rattling explosions in the finale. Every frame of this one fills your eyes, especially on the big screen.

The sound mix is equally impressive.

Goransson's (Black Panther, Creed) score is almost always present and out-Zimmer's Hans himself.

This is a great movie. Once you've seen it, wrap your head around this fact from Nolan. There are NO green screens used in this movie. None. Everything was filmed with practical effects. What? Now think about that final sequence, filmed twice with the same actors for obvious reasons. Mind blown.

At a $205 million budget, it's Nolan's most expensive film. It deserves his biggest audience. Movies don't get any smarter or more ambitious that TENET.

I'm hoping that we get to revisit this world again, there's so much more to unwrap. Which is exactly why I need to see this one again...soon.

TENET gets an A+.

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