What to watch: Kalushi and Tenet

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Thabo Rametsi(Above) plays Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu who is a young hawker who joins the struggle after the 16 June 1976 uprising
Thabo Rametsi(Above) plays Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu who is a young hawker who joins the struggle after the 16 June 1976 uprising

KALUSHI 

Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu (Thabo Rametsi) is a young hawker who joins the struggle after the 16 June 1976 uprisings. He’s trained as an uMkhonto we Sizwe soldier, and in 1979 is captured and hanged by the apartheid government.

Unlike many films about the struggle, this one has a local cast and director, Mandla Dube, and is told from the viewpoint of black South Africans. It’s not an easy film to watch – the many scenes of violence are unsettling – but it’s well worth your time. 

105 MIN. 16LPV. STREAMING ON  NETFLIX

Robert Pattinson (left) and John David Washington
Robert Pattinson (left) and John David Washington try to inject some life into the soulless Tenet

TENET

Admired for his sophisticated action films with complex plots and grand philosophical themes, Nolan (Inception, Dunkirk) is one of the few directors who still makes original movies on a large scale. Unfortunately, it seems that with Tenet his focus on tricksy chronology and unusual visuals has left basic elements such as character development and emotional engagement by the wayside. 

It’s great that Tenet stars Nolan’s first black lead actor, and Washington (BlacKkKlansman) does what he can with blank slate The Protagonist, a CIA agent recruited to find the origin of  “inverted” bullets that move backwards  instead of forwards in time. Teaming up with the enigmatic Neil (Pattinson), his search leads to Russian oligarch  Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) and his gorgeously melancholy wife (Elizabeth Debicki, basically playing the same role she did in The Night Manager), whom our hero manipulates to get to Sator. 

Though the visuals of people and bullets moving backwards in time are impressive in a few scenes, this idea is never fully explored and leads to the same tired time-travel tropes that have been done many times before. There’s so much focus on explaining the nonsensical mechanics of time inversion and moving the story forward that there’s no room for character development or scene-setting. 

 With its slick suits, globe-trotting and megalomaniacal baddie, Tenet seems to be Nolan’s spin on a 007 film with added sci-fi gimmicks. But even James Bond has moved on from sexist clichés such as the female lead being a damsel in distress whose sole purpose is motivating the hero to put the mission at risk to save her.

Branagh chews the scenery in a menacing fashion, but his dodgy arms dealer is another dull cliché, while Pattinson strains to bring personality to a character that’s only there to deliver exposition and to often step in to save the lead in the nick of time. In the end it all boils down to a bunch of nonentity soldiers chasing a McGuffin around a large dreary set, but by then you might be too bored to care. A huge disappointment. 

Sci-fi action. With John David Washington and  Robert Pattinson. Director: Christopher Nolan. 16LPV. 

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