Christopher Nolan’s new film is thrilling nonsense, but that may be enough.
Starved for a live, communal film watching experience, on Wednesday I drove across the state line to Connecticut to see an “Early Access” screening of the new Christopher Nolan film Tenet. It was my birthday. I deserved it. But nobody would go with me. In fact, friends begged me not to go. “I’m against it,” one texted. Another said, “Ken, a movie is like marijuana, next you’ll be in a gym and then suddenly we’ll see you dancing on a boat at Lake Havasu.” They may have been kidding.
Maybe they had a point. But I didn’t care. I was reckless. Also, I was curious. How would it feel to go, willingly, into a theater with strangers. And what would the new AMC Theater experience be like. The movie itself seemed almost incidental, although Nolan, whose films routinely cost between $100-$200 million to make, has been at the forefront of advocacy for reopening theaters.
I went online, found the nearest theater where Tenet is playing, just over the Connecticut border in Danbury, about a forty-five minute drive. Online ticketing was not new to me, but I quickly saw that the seats were crossed out to reduce capacity: there were clusters of seats of three or four people, a few rows up front where every seat was available but none taken, and scattered single seats in the rear rows with six or more blocked seats separating them. I picked a seat at the end of Row K, with another seat sold ten spots away from me, and no one seated in front of or behind me, and took the extra step of pre-ordering my concessions. This was the contactless, communal experience I’d been waiting for.
To be honest, I still wasn’t sure I’d attend. This might have been like my birthday trip to New Orleans, which I booked knowing it would never actually happen. Or my upcoming trip to Cuba, which also won’t really happen. But I wouldn’t be writing all this if I hadn’t actually driven to that theater and entered. It was surprisingly smooth sailing. No ticket takers. My concessions were waiting for pick up in a bag: box of popcorn, side of butter and salt, and an empty cup to fill with soda…