Almost immediately movie theaters shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some movies were still released after March 15th but the grosses for opening films dropped from the tens of millions to the tens of thousands. After decades of closing down drive-in theaters, the viewing audience clambered to use these neglected outlets to watch rereleased films for something to do. With this situation, the box office for films cratered abysmally in 2020. By the weekend of August 23, 2020, with the pandemic still raging, some theatres started to release films. Warner Bros. Pictures, after losing hundreds of thousands of dollars delaying Tenet, a film by Christopher Nolan, due to the pandemic, released it into theaters. This film became the 8th highest-grossing film domestically in 2020. All of the films that grossed higher than Tenet were released before the pandemic.
During the quarantine, I stayed inside and away from public spaces. Our nearest real drive-in theaters are in Kitsap County, and due to our lack of bridges are prohibitively remote. This being said, I did not endeavor to travel to watch movies, relying on the steady flow of movies to streaming services, and heavy doses of videogames for entertainment. However, using HBOmax I sat down and watched Tenet as it was released on the service on May 1st.
Light Spoilers for the movie Tenet
Tenet is a film that follows a CIA Agent protagonist named Protagonist who is plunged into a strange world. Following a failed attempt to recover an item during a mission, he is recruited to work for an organization called Tenet to investigate and prevent a war. During his failed mission, he was saved by an unknown agent who un-fired a bullet through an adversary. Through the briefing with the Tenet organization, he learns that they are objects and people working in our world with inverted entropy. With inverted entropy, they are moving backward through time. The story develops from there but I do not want to spoil any more of this film for those who have not seen it.
End of Spoilers
I got to enjoy this film via streaming with a friend and we were able to pause the film when things got confused or were difficult to hear. This allowed us to miss any confusion that I understood the theater-going audience had to endure. Outside of this issue, the story had some confusing element until you grasped the entirety of the plot and then the film unlocked in its cinematographic glory. While many of the last of Christopher Nolan’s films have gotten a bit sloppy in my estimation upon subsequent views, this one stood out as a return to form. The coloring issues of some of his previous works were corrected. Also except for minor issues in some of the battle scenes, the combat and fight choreography was much better than some of his other lesser works.
John David Washington’s portrayal of the Protagonist was engaging and spirited. He showed great composure in both the action scenes and dialogue-driven scenes. With the supporting work of Robert Pattinson’s Neil and Elizabeth Debicki’s Kat, the three of them form a strong acting trio of performances. Kenneth Branagh disappeared into the role of Sator and provided a great performance.
By the end of the movie, I was disappointed that this film was not delayed until this summer. It would have been a great experience to inaugurate the return of the cinema. I hope to catch this film eventually on an IMAX screening whenever it gets rereleased. If you have not seen this movie and you have HBOmax, I recommend watching it. Once you are more comfortable or vaccinated to hang out with others check it out on a friend’s account in an in-person gathering.