'Tenet' Review: Why You Need A Captive Audience To Watch Christopher Nolan's Film

Tenet Movie Robert Pattinson John David Washington Review

TENET finally arrives for home release after only screening in limited movie theaters since September. Nolan insisted on the theatrical release to support exhibitors as they experience a massive decline in business because of the pandemic. Many like myself didn't dare attend an enclosed space for over two hours. After finally watching the mind-bending film at home, I realized Nolan is right that this film required a theatrical viewing with a captive audience to follow the convoluted storyline. At home, the constant distractions and need to rewind scenes made it a difficult watch.

Twitter reactions were lukewarm for TENET when released in movie theaters including complaints that the dialogue was difficult to understand over the glaring music. Hence the complicated setup was hard to follow. I was prepared to not like the film based on that.

However, the sound mix wasn't as bad while viewing it at home on my husband's high-end audio/video set up. I found myself rewinding often to follow the flow of information regarding the time references, not so much because of the dialogue. 

Speaking of sound, the score by Ludwig Göransson is phenomenal. That was perhaps my favorite part of the movie. It captured the essence of the thriller, a ticking time bomb translated through music. 

To follow the plot, your undivided attention is required. At home, however, tons of distractions competed for that attention like my dog, bathroom breaks and the spouse carrying on a conversation with the dog. Don't attempt to watch TENET right before bedtime as viewing requires lots of brain power to follow along, and your mind may not process what you're hearing. I fell asleep 20 minutes in. 

Next viewing at midday was a more appropriate time, and I could grasp the ideas more easily. The physics/mechanics behind this time reversal still didn't make sense but the overall mission of the protagonists (John David Washington, Robert Pattinson) was clear. 

The second viewing did have its interruptions which made me yearn for the big screen experience when you're captive in a movie theater minding your manners. You'll forego the bathroom break in the theater unlike at home where you can pause the movie, and then refill the snacks.  By the time you return to the movie, you're out of the zone and need to rewind a few minutes to get back in the mood.

I expected not to like TENET based on what I had read, but I actually rather enjoyed the complicated story thanks largely to the performances, stunts and music. The stunt work was spectacular, and it kept me intrigued to how they pulled it off. Some of the reverse motion was obviously played backwards but the car chase proved to be one of the most exhilarating scenes in the movie. 

The hardest things to watch was Elizabeth Debicki's character be beaten and terrorized by Kenneth Branaugh's Russian douche. "Why do they have to show that," I asked myself but it serves its purpose in the end. 

However, in writing this post, it got me thinking that watching the Nolan film in a movie theater may have been quite a different experience, and it may not have been as enjoyable especially if the dialogue was hard to comprehend. Perhaps having the benefit of restarting the movie at home, and following at my own pace is why I ultimately enjoyed TENET.

Christophe Nolan will never be accused of making mindless entertainment.  I may need another viewing to see what else I missed the first two times. 

TENET is now available on PVOD, Blu-ray, 4K and DVD. 

 

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