Tenet, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, marks a milestone in the chaotic year of 2020. After the COVID-19 pandemic put a majority of the country’s entertainment on hold, Tenet marked the first major film release to hit the big screen since mid-March.
To re-open, theaters must now follow a plethora of safety precautions. Masks are mandatory, physical distancing is required, and theaters have substantially increased the amount of sanitization. Despite the unorthodox experience, viewers flocked to see Tenet; it brought in $207 million worldwide.
The film depicts a protagonist, never mentioned by name, as he travels through a world filled with espionage. With no aid but a single word—“tenet”—he attempts to prevent the world from a potential collapse. A friendly warning: this is no ordinary save-the-world thriller. In typical Nolan fashion, Tenet alters audiences’ views on reality, as the mission evolves to occur beyond real time.
The film’s complexity begs the comparison to one of Nolan’s most famous works, Inception. Both require the audience to “buy-in,” as details throughout the film are vital to each respective pay-off. Following Inception’s 2010 release, many viewers fell in love with the film. What initially took a second or even third viewing eventually morphed into one of the most well-known sci-fi movies in history. Yet, with every positive opinion on Nolan’s Inception, there was also a negative one. Complaints that the film is “too mind-blowing” will forever muddy Inception’s claim at the very top—cinema’s “Rushmore” of movies, if you will.
In a similar sense, Nolan’s Tenet shares a duality of opinion across its viewers.
Sixth Former Tyler Zimmer said, “I loved the movie because it was so challenging to comprehend. My friend and I enjoyed the arguments about what was happening and picking up on small details.”
On the other hand, Sixth Form film-enthusiast Michael Tallarida felt Nolan might have gone overboard: “At some times, the plot was confusing to understand. Tenet is an innovative and groundbreaking movie for modern cinema, but Nolan’s constant need for mystery throughout took away from its potential.”
Don’t get me wrong. Nolan’s most recent film is a masterpiece. The cinematic elements are more Christopher Nolan than ever, most notably featuring the destruction of a full-size Boeing 747 during filming. The acting is world-class, with John David Washington continuing his success following his Golden Globe-nominated performance in BlacKkKlansman (2018). That said, Tenet is not for the casual viewer.
I urge anyone intellectually curious to go out and see Tenet with an open mind, and maybe some money for a second ticket.