Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020) will forever be etched in my memory as the last movie I saw at a movie theatre before coronavirus forced businesses and countries to lock down. And now, Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020) will forever hold a very special place in my mind’s eye and my heart for being the first movie I watched in a theatre once they were able to open again in my city.
I have been eagerly awaiting this film to be released and knew that if I had a chance to see it at a theatre while the pandemic was still happening, it would be the only movie I would risk seeing in a theatre. Moreover, I knew I had to catch one of the advanced screenings before the wide release on September 3rd. Thank the gods that I was able to pick seats in the very back row and only one other person watched the same showing as I. She sat very far from me, wore a mask as she gingerly set down her tub of popcorn and soda — I’m assuming she enjoyed her snacks but I didn’t hear her eat or drink at all. I almost forgot she was there.
Tenet is 2.5 hours long but does not feel it. There is no feasible way to discuss the plot without giving away too much, but it’s basically a race against time to save the world from its demise by stopping the steely, mad narcissism of a man who won’t let anyone have that which he cannot have himself.
I will leave you with the following.
1. I needed closed captioning. I couldn’t discern about 45% of the dialogue. Enunciation is either not a priority during filming or the sound mixing wasn’t isolating the actors’ voices adequately.
2. John David Washington is the main character, The Protagonist, without a name. He has a magnificent presence on screen, great chemistry with Robert Pattinson, and can hold his own opposite Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh. His filmography is not that long but I look forward to seeing more from him. In case he looks familiar to you, he was in BlacKkKlansman. And, should you find something familiar about his smile or manner of speaking, it’s partly due to his dad. Yeah.
3. Robert Pattinson has been in a dozen feature-length films since the final Twilight movie came out in 2012, but this Tenet performance is the first time where seeing him did not come with a mental refrain of “it’s Edward Cullen.” I give kudos to the hair and makeup department for their role in dismantling that knee-jerk association. I believe firmly that his thick, luscious, sandy blond hair helps the viewer see through the former vampire with sparkling skin and into the actor.
4. I wanted more Clemence Poesy. She plays a scientist who explains the concept of inverted bullets and of “catching” them rather than “firing” them.
5. Christopher Nolan’s films require audience participation in paying attention to details (dialogue, scenery, and actors’ body language and expressions), remembering them, and actively synthesizing during the viewing experiencing. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you can start piecing together those details at certain plot junctures. Is it subtle foreshadowing? a less obnoxious form of dramatic irony? Either way, it’s thrilling when your assessments are confirmed, denied, or transformed.
6. John David Washington’s Protagonist and Robert Pattinson’s Neil have the most screentime together. Elizabeth Debicki‘s Kat and Kenneth Branagh’s villainous Andrei Sator take up the majority of the rest of the film. Rounding out the remainder of the story’s foundation are Ives (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Mahir (Himesh Patel), and Priya (Dimple Kapadia).
7. By the final fifteen minutes of the film, I was able to get a better sense of the storyline and how those narrative details converged into the larger premise, but I still had so many questions not only with internal logic but also the particular topic. It’s precisely the kind of film that you go see with friends and then get dinner or drinks and discuss; or you see it by yourself and then see it again with someone else and discuss. For all you cinephiles who miss going to the movie theatre, if you only see one movie at a theatre before coronavirus takes a hike and you can do so with minimal risk to yourself and anyone with whom you come into close contact, let that movie be Tenet.
But do a cost-benefit/pro-con analysis first.
Pic creds: IMDB