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Sunday, July 25, 2021
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    ‘Tenet’: Confusing entertainment

    Ben Nietzel
    Ben Nietzel works as the principal of Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School. He also enjoys coaching Muskie football and reviewing movies.

    Muscatine Living

    “Tenet” is the latest release from director Christopher Nolan. A top-CIA officer must manipulate time to thwart a Russian-oligarch’s plans to end the world.

    Pro – Stunning

    Nolan is known for bringing some of the most visually arresting films to life, and “Tenet” is no exception. After five months of not being in the theater, “Tenet” was like a shot of pure adrenaline to the brain. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s exciting, and it really exemplifies everything that makes a movie worth seeing on the big screen. The pace is frantic, with moments of exposition providing the only breathing room between scenes of people constantly running. Big set-pieces punctuate the film, and true to Nolan style, they feel immensely cool and rewatchable. Right out of the gate, you will find yourself confused but immensely entertained.

    Con – What?

    “Tenet” is simply too confusing. There are entire scenes that simply do not add up on a first view. As someone who often complains about the “dumbing-down” of films, it might seem disingenuous to degrade “Tenet” for being too complex, but it’s complexity overload. The film is virtually unfollowable to almost any first-time viewer at parts, and while no doubt this will reward multiple views, it really should not take that to understand the main plot of a film.

    What’s worse, Nolan’s sound mix is muffled and much of the exposition is hard to hear and understand. That certainly was not what this film needed. Time travel is always a tricky business, and there is no shortage of that here. Hardcore fans will likely appreciate the layers and Easter eggs, as well as the “fun” of going online to debate and figure out the full plot, but to the average movie-goer, “Tenet” is going to leave a lot of questions and confusion and it’s not really clear if there is enough here to justify the effort to figure it all out.

    Pro – A Star is Born

    John David Washington plays the lead of the film, simply named The Protagonist. Again, only referring to the main character as The Protagonist further showcases the needless complexity. That said, Washington is amazing. Many might recognize him as Ricky Jarret on HBO’s “Ballers,” but in “Tenet” Washington looks, acts, and feels like a massive movie star. He is great in this film, and watching him onscreen felt like a revelation. Robert Pattison, of “Twilight fame,” is also in a starring role and he is really good. This film might settle the nerves of some Batman fans (raises hand) who only knew of Pattison as a moody, sparkling vampire teenager from a franchise they never saw more than a trailer of. Good news: he’s a good actor and comes across as quite engaging and enjoyable in “Tenet.”


    Overall, “Tenet” is a lot of fun. It is a great way to come back to the theater with all the excitement, thrills, and visuals of a major blockbuster. That said, it is incredibly confusing and hard to follow at times, and probably not worth the time and effort to figure it all out. Still, it is good enough to be enjoyed even if only understanding half of it. Head over to the Fridley Palms Theatre today and check this movie out!

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