Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Review of opened movie theaters with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’

Student review of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet,’ debut screening in United States as movie theaters reopen for first time since March
Wikimedia Commons
John David Washington stars alongside Robert Pattinson in new Christopher Nolan film, ‘Tenet’

After debuting in 70 countries Aug. 26, Director Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated 10th feature film “Tenet” finally reached the U.S., making it’s official wide release debut Sept. 3.

AMC Madison 6, Marcus Point Cinemas and Marcus Palace Cinemas all opened for business in the Madison area, looking to recover from losses during the pandemic and provide the public with a return to some sense of normalcy.

These showings were not the first to surface in the U.S., however. In some select cities like Chicago, “Tenet” was released for early access screenings in IMAX 70mm Aug. 31. Luckily, I was able to snag a ticket for an early access showing Aug. 31 at an AMC in a western suburb of Chicago near my home.


I saw the movie with a couple of friends, and if the AMC we went to operated under the same policies as every other theater opening up, here is what you can expect on your first trip back to the cinema.

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When you go to buy your seats online, the website will advertise COVID-19 safety policies. The theaters have 40% capacity with every other row available for seating, and they require masks at all times unless you are eating or drinking.

If you are seeing the movie with friends or family, one person in your group needs to buy all the tickets in order to sit together, otherwise, if you buy your seats individually, the seat next to you gets marked unavailable for social distancing.

A much smaller staff than usual maintains the theater, and employees will deliver all food and drink ordered, including popcorn, candy and soft drinks. All employees wear masks and gloves and they have hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the theater.

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As far as the movie goes, viewers should expect the ultimate movie theater experience. Whether the viewer feels favorably or unfavorably towards the movie, one cannot deny the constant fun, entertainment and thrills that “Tenet” provides.

It’s best that you go into this movie knowing very little about the plot. All you need to know is it revolves around international espionage and Nolan’s continued obsession with the manipulation of time. Essentially, it’s Nolan’s take on James Bond, but with his signature addition of complex concepts.

In classic Nolan fashion, “Tenet” will hurt your brain a little bit and it requires immense focus to completely comprehend. In fact, it makes Nolan’s smashing 2010 success “Inception” look considerably simple in comparison.

This is a puzzle of a movie and Nolan packs so much detail into each frame that the viewer should be able to pick up more with each viewing. “Tenet” may never be fully understood without a couple of YouTube explained videos, some extra reading into the concepts at play and multiple rewatches with subtitles.

“Tenet” is truly a grand visual spectacle, as Nolan continues to deliver yet another masterful technical achievement. As far as action sequences go, this is Nolan’s best work.

These sequences are only enhanced by the movie’s striking sound effects and Nolan’s practical effects through the lens of Hoyte Van Hoytema’s gorgeous cinematography.

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Nolan’s long-time music collaborator, the legendary Hans Zimmer, did not conduct the score for “Tenet,” and instead opted for Denis Villeneuve’s highly-anticipated adaptation of the sci-fi classic “Dune.”

Ludwig Goransson, who won an Oscar for “Black Panther,” stepped into Zimmer’s shoes here and didn’t miss a beat, providing a score that matches both the urgency and energy of the film.

John David Washington is the first Black lead in any of Nolan’s movies, and as he showed in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” Washington knocks this performance out of the park, showing off his versatility and range.

With the visibility of this role and the quality of Washington’s performance, the hope is that more actors that look like Washington are cast in these blockbuster lead roles. 

Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki also play terrific in supporting roles, each providing nuance and subtlety throughout, hinting there is always much more to their characters than meets the eye.

Kenneth Branagh returns to what seems like his first major dramatic role on the big screen in a long time. The British screen legend plays the primary antagonist with a lot of zest, topped off by a thick Russian accent.

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For all the movie’s great qualities, it still has its share of problems, however. The most glaring issue being Nolan’s continuation of placing dialogue at the bottom of the sound hierarchy.

The music, sound effects and background ambiance are a constant at great volume throughout, often drowning out portions of dialogue. This can be a problem when you are already trying to wrap your brain around concepts that are out of this world.

Another potential issue here is the movie may suffer from too much plotting. Every detail is so carefully laid out within a frame that there is so little room for the characters to breathe.

We know very little about most of the characters, making it hard for many viewers to root for them. The characters are simply a vehicle driving the plot forward, and in this case at over 100 mph.

In all, “Tenet” is the perfect movie to reopen theaters. Whether you end up liking it or not, “Tenet” deserves to be seen on the big screen. I have already bought tickets to see it again.

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