The movie Tenet will blow your mind. The question is, does it do so in a good way? Or is watching Christopher Nolan's latest movie more like a short-circuit that makes the lights go out?
The movie's premise is that in the future a process is invented which enables objects to be inverted in time. That is, they start moving through time backwards.
Objects, mostly weapons, are showing up in the present doing this. The protagonist, played by John David Washington, is trying to find out how and why, and stop this technology being used for evil ends. Understandable so far.
The tricky part is getting your head around how the people in the present interact with objects moving backwards in time.
This results in some entertaining, if slightly ridiculous, action scenes. Gun holes in walls have to be avoided because an inverted bullet is going to come out of the wall and back into an inverted gun. Or something like that.
Like all time travel fantasies, from Back to the Future to Terminator, it leads to the question of how the future might be changed by interfering in the past.
Once inversion technology enters the world, is the future determined by the interaction of inverted objects with objects and people moving in the standard direction through time?
And what does that mean for human agency and free will?
If you think that's rather ponderous to consider, then be warned, some of the dialogue in the movie is like this.
And let's just say, people can be inverted too. I leave it there.
It's an interesting concept to explore in a movie. And it allows for some sensory-stimulating action, which on the big screen is gripping, particularly when combined with a thunderous soundtrack.
What's less certain, is whether Nolan's time-twisting, head-hurting plot line helps the movie or is its ultimate weakness.
If you lose a key thread or don't understand the explanatory dialogue, you can miss what's happening and fail to understand the movie's conclusion. Never enjoyable.
Another weakness is that all the rapid shifts in scene and prolonged action sequences don't allow much time to connect with the characters.
The acting of Washington, Robert Pattinson as Neil and Elizabeth Debicki as Kat is fine. There's plenty of charisma on screen. It's just underused.
While for me, the Russian villain played by Kenneth Branagh is a misstep. The character's motivations don't ring true, and the character sits awkwardly between being a Bond supervillain and someone we are meant to take seriously.
The biggest issue, however, is that Tenet feels like two types of movie straining against each other.
There's the serious philosophical musings about time, cause and effect, and human free will, with none of the humour of the Matrix films for instance.
Then there's the conventional elements of a buddy action movie with a side-serving of a love interest who must escape the clutches of the bad guy. Because not enough is put into the characters to get us feeling much for them, it doesn't really work on this level.
And yet the movie keeps gnawing at me. Because I don't quite understand, or to put it another way, I don't know if there's anything in the movie worth understanding, I want to watch it again.
I suspect Tenet was made to be seen twice. Once as the viewer moving through sequentially with the film not knowing where it's going. And then a second time, knowing the sequence of on-screen events, having already grappled with the dialogue, and knowing the film's conclusion.
This would make sense, given the film's themes and the core plot device about time reversing. Nolan may have constructed a metaphor about movie-making and movie watching that hinges on repeated viewings.
Whether doing so will offer any meaningful rewards, I'm not sure.
But I'd certainly watch Tenet again when it turns up on Netflix in a few years to find out.