Film review: Tenet. Christopher Nolan’s big screen revolution


Despite the onslaught of a global pandemic, Christopher Nolan has once again defied expectations and pushed boundaries by delivering his greatest spectacle yet. The English filmmaker has long been considered a cinematic visionary but his decision to eschew conventional release strategies and show his latest film, not in people’s homes but in a purpose built auditorium or “theatre” is his boldest move yet.

Watching a film with people who you do not live with is a novel experience but one which only heightens the thrill of the mind-bending spy thriller. It becomes an altogether more immersive experience and the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred with the knowledge that you are surrounded by strangers who could potentially harbor you ill will, well beyond your mother pausing film, again,  to make a cup of tea.

As the film plays, it’s easy to find one’s gaze drawn from the screen to those sitting around you, something which the director must have anticipated as his film comes with a loud audio track played through speakers much louder than any household sound system which enables you to hear the film, even while not looking at the screen.

Entrancing as your fellow moviegoers may be, the real draw of Tenet is the screen, at least nine times larger than any found at home. Viewers may be justified in worrying what Nolan could possibly do to justify such a grandiose scale but those fears are ill founded.

One need only see the titles of Tenet to know that his gambit pays off, from the very names of the cast, it is apparent that this is a film of stature. John David Washington’s three names being much too large to be contained on any domestic screen.

This scale is mirrored in the physicality of the cast. Nolan once again shows his genius by casting actors with truly large faces. Robert Pattinson and John David Washington are revelatory, finally given free reign to act with expressions which would seem ridiculously oversized within the confines of a television, or heaven forbid a cellphone, but possess a grandiose majesty on a cinema screen. Frankly, it’s impossible to imagine a cast this colossal being condensed to fit inside someone’s home. The 6ft 3 frame of Elizabeth Debicki demands space and finally here is a film which is unafraid to give her it.

That’s not to say the film is without flaws, many viewers will find it hard to endure a film which is shown so far away from their bathroom and the theatres often suggest a more stringent dress code than home screenings, with one audience member being turned away for refusing to wear pants.

It is unclear whether every film will follow Nolan’s lead, the home is likely to remain the home for movies for the immediate future, but one thing is for certain: Christopher Nolan has put the movie theatre on the map and it is here to stay.

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