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At the Movies: ‘Tenet,’ anyone?

“Tenet” has been such a highly-anticipated movie, not only because its opening date was postponed three times because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown of indoor movie theaters, but because it is the first major Hollywood studio motion picture in wide release since the shutdown and, perhaps most importantly, because the film is directed by Christopher Nolan.

Nolan, a five-time Oscar nominee, is one of contemporary cinema’s greatest directors. He’s not unlike a modern-day Stanley Kubrick, nimbly navigating genres, providing a captivating movie-going experience, and providing much food-for-thought after having seen his films.

There’s the superhero comic-book based genre of “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” (“Batman Begins,” 2005; “The Dark Knight” 2008, and “The Dark Night Rises,” 2012), in which Nolan reinterprets Batman with psychological depth and Gotham City with cynicism and despair.

There’s the documentary-style of “Dunkirk” (2017), a Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominee, where Nolan takes a straight-forward, finest-day for Great Britain, patriotic view of a crucial World War II battle stance that England took against Nazi Germany.

Then there are Nolan’s mind-traveling, time-twisting, often bewildering films. You know the ones: “Memento” (2000), a Best Screenplay Oscar nominee; “Insomnia” (2002); “Inception” (2010), a Best Picture and Best Screenplay Oscar nominee, and “Interstellar” (2014).

Which brings us to “Tenet,” a towering cinematic experience that you may love or hate.

This reviewer is somewhere in the muddle, er, the middle.

“Tenet” can be recommended to fans of Nolan. For the casual movie-goer, “Tenet” is more likely a must-to-avoid.

First of all, the title, “Tenet” can be defined as “a principle or belief, especially one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy.”

Moreover, the word “Tenet” is a palindrome, which is “a word, phrase, number or sequence of words that reads the same backward or forward.”

Keep both of these definitions in mind if and when you see the movie, in which Tenet is the name of an espionage organization.

Each definition applies to “Tenet,” which starts out as a James Bond-”Bourne Identify” Robert Ludlum-style spy thriller, with stops along the way for a “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) war movie, and is woven throughout with Nolan’s fascination and, if you will, preoccupation with the concept of alternate universes.

Nolan, in the screenplay that he wrote for “Tenet” never really explains the merging and divergence of parallel realities. I will give him this, though: He knows more about these topics than yours truly. I give him the benefit of the doubt and say, as with many of Nolan’s movies, a better understanding and appreciation of “Tenet” might be achieved with subsequent, repeated viewings.

The plot in “Tenet” has to do with a secret agent, known only as The Protagonist, attempting to prevent World War III.

Oh, and by the way, did we say The Protagonist must “manipulate time” by mastering “the art of time inversion”?

Good luck with that.

I am still trying to get my sock drawer organized.

“Tenet” is a matter of style over substance. If you just relax and don’t overthink the dissembling plot, you will probably enjoy the film.

The images and the scenes in “Tenet” are memorable, with several big set pieces, including the aforesaid battle scene, as well as a scene where a jet airliner is crashed into a building, and several other continent-hopping sequences. “Tenet” was filmed in Denmark, Estonia, India, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom and United States.

John David Washington, billed as The Protagonist, with no other name, and Robert Pattinson, as Neil, play the spies. Dimple Kapadia plays Priya, who seems to be in charge of the Tenet organization.

Elizabeth Debicki plays Kat, the love interest, who is married to Kenneth Branagh, a vaguely Russian oligarch named Andrei Sator. He makes Dr. Evil in “Austin Powers” look like a Rotarian.

Michael Caine has what amounts to a cameo role.

So, that’s about it for “Tenet.” That’s about all I have to say. That’s all I got. For this film, dear movie-goer, you’re on your own.


MPAA rated Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned, Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13.) for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language: Genre: Science-Fiction, Action; Run Tme: 2 hours, 30 mins. Distributed by Warner Bros.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

Ludwig Göransson (“Black Panther,” 2018) composed the score for “Tenet.” Hoyte Van Hoytema (*Dunkirk,” “Interstellar”) is the cinematographer for “Tenet.”

Box Office:

Because of the early deadline for the Focus section, the Sept. 4-6 weekend box office results were unavailable.


Sept. 11

“I Am Woman,”

No MPAA rating: Unjoo Moon directs Evan Peters, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Danielle Macdonald and Matty Cardarople in the music biography romantic-drama about Helen Reddy, the 1970s’ singer-musician noted for her hit song, “I Am Woman.”

“2 Hearts,”

PG-13: Lance Hool directs Jacob Elordi, Tiera Skovbye, Radha Mitchell and Adan Canto in the romantic-drama. Two couples in different decades and different places have a hidden connection that brings them together in unpredictable ways.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS. From left: Robert Pattinson (Neil), John David Washington (The Protagonist), “Tenet.”