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Tenet – Review

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Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan has taken us to worlds beyond our imagination before. He can be masterful at constructing multi-layered storylines that leave the audience buzzing. His latest release, Tenet (2020) feels like an echo to one such story, Inception (2010), but does it provide the same excitement? Here’s our review of Tenet.

WARNING: Spoilers from here on out, so proceed with caution.

Plot

Tenet’s plot is anything but easy to follow. The future has discovered a way to make things move backwards through time. They can do this with the entire world, and if they do so it will destroy the past. They believe that this will create a paradox that will reverse the effects of climate change in their time. But one future scientist believes it will destroy them. She takes the algorithm to this act, splits it up, and hides it in the past. Antagonist Andrei Sator, (Kenneth Branagh), find’s this technology as a young soviet. He uses it to become wealthy and is recruited by the future to find the algorithm and destroy the world.

The un-named Protagonist (John David Washington) is recruited to stop these events from unfolding. He slowly learns the information he needs. All through Sator’s abused wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). His friend Neil (Robert Pattinson). Arms dealer Priya (Dimple Kapadia). And a scientist named Laura (Clemence Poesy).

With a run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, it felt more like six.

Nolan has created other complicated stories before, like Inception and the Dark Knight (2008), that feel fast and easy to follow. But during Tenet I found myself checking the time in spite of the compelling story. Every time I expected it to be over, it went on for what felt like another hour. The plot was so complicated that I had to pay close to attention to every line of dialogue. If I missed something I would be hopelessly lost for the next couple of minutes, taking me out of the experience and tempting me to check the time again.

Salvation

But have no fear, there are two things that save this film. The performances and visual effects. The acting is phenomenal so that when I fell out of the story, I was pulled right back in by key actors. Branagh gave such a spectacular performance I had no idea it was him until the credits rolled. Washington invests the audience into a character with little to no backstory. Pattinson charms the audience with every line delivery, and Debicki’s Kat draws a human interest of a mother clawing her way back to her son.

The visuals of the action sequences of cars and bullets moving backwards through time is jaw dropping as well. So even if I only understood 80% of what was going on, the way it looked was so unique I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

I recommend seeing it in the theatres (safely of course), but I’m not sure when I will be re-watching it.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 6/10


Thanks for reading our review of Tenet, currently screening at cinemas worldwide. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


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Jungle Cruise – Review

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Walt Disney Studios

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt swing in with force in Disney’s new Jungle Cruise. And while the movie has fun callbacks to the Disney Park ride and a clever plot, if this movie is trying to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, it falls short. Here’s our review of Jungle Cruise.

SPOILERS: Warning there are spoilers ahead.

Plot

To be honest, I was expecting a much less creative plot from this movie. Following suit with typical adventure movies, I was expecting this film to be a less-funny version of the Jumanji reboot. But the plot has an unexpected emotional centre and a clever twist. And while the film suffers from CGI villain goopiness, it gives the CGI villains actual heart and motivations.

The film centres on Lilly (Emily Blunt), a botanist in search of a healing petal. The petal is said to be able to cure any illness and resides deep in the Amazon Rainforest. She is accompanied by her little brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall) and their hired skipper, Frank (Dwayne Johnson).

But a curse resides around the petal. Spanish conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew went in search of the petal four hundred years ago. The petal can only be found with an arrowhead sacred to the Umbala or Headhunter tribe of the region. When Aguirre and his crew are on the brink of death, the Umbala tribe saves them. But Aguirre betrays them to get his hands on the arrowhead, and the chief of the Umbala tribe curses Aguirre and his party. They can never stray from the river, or the rainforest will take them. For four hundred years, they’ve lain dormant, having strayed too far from the banks of the river. They cannot die.

Now the arrowhead rests with a sexist scientific community. Lilly steals the arrowhead, just before it was set to be sold to Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Joachim works for the German government during the height of World War One. He believes that the petal will not only bring victory to Germany, but will make him a world ruler. (How he thinks it will do that is unclear).

As Lilly, McGregor, and Frank make their way down the Amazon in search of the Petal, Joachim follows and occasionally attacks them in his submarine. Deciding he needs more help, he wakes up Aguirre, now a monster of the Amazon, and his crew. Aguirre, who is now made out of snakes, and his two colleagues, one of which is made out of honey and bees and the other mud and tee frogs, are sent on Lilly’s trail.

What happens next is the usual adventure. White water rapids, a run-in with the Umbala tribe (who become allies), submarine fights, swinging on jungle vines; you name it.

But after a run-in with Aguirre, Lilly learns the truth about Frank. In a plot twist I absolutely did not see coming, it turns out that Frank is actually Francisco, Aguirre’s cartographer. We learn that Aguirre was not looking for the petal for glory or gold, but to save his deeply ill daughter. Aguirre and Francisco grew up together, and they were willing to do anything to save his daughter. But when Aguirre betrays the Umbala tribe, Francisco tries to stop Aguirre. Francisco was also cursed to be unable to leave the riverbank, but Aguirre kept returning to fight and defeat (stab) Francisco.

Tired of constantly getting stabbed, Francisco traps Aguirre in a cave. Letting the Amazon have him and turn him into the monster he is today. Francisco then built a town on the river banks, built a boat in search of the petal, gave up, and now runs river cruises.

While the plot is very complicated, it’s easy enough to follow while watching the film. I will say that the motivations of Joachim are a little hard to follow. But the plot twist with Frank was very clever. It gives a CGI-heavy Aguirre a human heart. Now all he wants to do is break the curse and be allowed to die. To do so he needs a petal. The plot in and of itself was much more clever than I expected.

Characters and performances

One character that pleasantly surprised me was McGregor. At first, I thought he was merely queer-coded. He definitely fell into some gay stereotypes, but I thought that was all it was going to be. A guy who was subtly a little queer. But, when Frank asks him why follows Lilly, even through a jungle, he gives a surprisingly candid answer. He explains to Frank that he is gay and that Lilly is the only one who supports him.

When the world turned his back on him, she stood with him, and for that, he would “follow her into a volcano.” This is the first time I can remember that a Disney character was very, clearly openly gay. Disney has had about a dozen “first gay characters,” but all of them have been off to the side. None of them has stated their sexuality or been open about it. McGregor not only states it outright but is not ashamed of it and it is not his only character trait. He becomes brave and capable and is a good friend to both Frank and Lilly. It was really surprising to see good representation from Disney in this film.

Emily Blunt also gives a wonderful performance (as she always does). She’s headstrong and stubborn, but kind. The sexism was a little on the nose, with a tired bit about how she wears pants, but she was delightful.

And Dwayne Johnson was… okay. He plays the exact same character in every movie he’s in. And while his performance was good in this movie, I can’t help but think that another actor could have done better. He and Emily Blunt have a romance in this movie, but they have absolutely no chemistry. It was hard to believe their romance. I think another actor could have added a little more to Frank’s character. Frank is an interesting character, and another actor could have done more with him. This movie might have been better without Dwayne Johnson.

This movie also might have been better without Joachim. His motivations were really hard to follow. At the end of the day, he was just another stereotype of a German general who only complicated the plot.

Summary

It feels as though Jungle Cruise might be Disney’s attempt to re-make the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I can’t see this film becoming a franchise. The first Pirates movie is masterful, with amazing rewatchability. But Jungle Cruise, while fun, is forgettable. It’s not a movie I see myself rewatching anytime soon. If this is an attempt to create a new franchise for Disney; it falls short. But, the film was fun to watch and was a good movie theatre experience.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 5/10


Thank you for reading our review of Jungle Cruise. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read our review of Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part Two HERE.

Read IMDB information about Jungle Cruise HERE.

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