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Robert Pattinson is the star in Christopher Nolan's long-awaited spy-fi epic Tenet

Cinema is back with a bang, or rather a 'gnab', with the arrival of Christopher Nolan's long-awaited spy-fi epic, Tenet, writes Indie film reviewer and Bishop's Stortford College student Charlie Hughes.

Across the country, cinemas have timed their reopening with the release of the film, pinning their survival hopes on Nolan's ability to bring in audiences.

The stakes are high for Tenet, as are the stakes for its lead (John David Washington), enigmatically named The Protagonist. His task is no less than to prevent the Third World War by intercepting dangerous new technology that has fallen into the hands of a maniacal Russian arms dealer (a role relished by Nolan favourite, Kenneth Branagh).

Tenet (41420907)
Tenet (41420907)

This technology can trigger time-inversion, where the timeline of an object or a person is reversed. Nolan takes this concept and runs with it, constructing a palindromic plot that continually complicates and recomplicates itself as forward and reverse timelines intertwine.

With the possible exception of indie time-travel hit Primer, I struggle to remember a film that has asked more of an audience than Tenet. "Try and keep up," goads Washington in one of the film's many expositional scenes.

The deeply complex narrative is clearly a work of genius, but the triumph of Tenet is that its ambition is more than matched by its filmmaking mastery. In what may be his best film, Nolan has perfected the balance of intellect and visceral thrills, creating an undeniably electrifying experience. His signature set-pieces have never been more astonishing, made all the more impressive when revisited by the different timelines in the film.

The cast is also a joy to watch: the typically brilliant Robert Pattinson is the standout as the suave but droll Neil, while Washington gives Daniel Craig a run for his money as the ice-cool superspy. There are heavy doses of 007, but this espionage thriller is better than anything Bond.

Tenet may be the perfect film to open cinemas – Hoyte van Hoytema's lush IMAX cinematography and Ludwig Göransson's explosive (or implosive?) score belong in an auditorium.

Fortunately, the post-lockdown cinema experience is largely the same, meaning the silver screen has lost none of its spectacle. Although face masks are now mandatory in cinemas, the escapist power of Tenet will make you forget you're wearing one.

Whether or not Tenet will save cinemas remains to be seen – but at the very least, films like these prove why cinemas should be saved.

Score: *****

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