Coronavirus Diary 65 – Social Distancing at the Cinema with a blockbuster (Tenet) movie review

Just before moving, I got myself an annual cinema card as going to the Pictures is my favourite pastime. I thought I’d move house and finally get to go to unlimited movies, cricket matches, Theatre productions.  None of that is likely to really happen until after the winter I am sure,  Now, one way or the other just making it through to the spring of 2021 will be a bonus.  But I do like going to the cinema and one of my first very successful posts was Going To The Cinema Alone…. Specifically For The Great Gatsby (2013 film) which is over 7 years old.In the U.K. cinemas have largely been open for a month or two but with everything going on, nipping down to the Flicks didn’t seem an option and doubly so as my favourite Pizza restaurant near to where I go tot he movies doesn’t look like it is going to re-open.However I have this cinema card sitting here so going to watch something doesn’t cost any money and I went to see 10-15 films in February and early March when the virus was already on the prowl so feeling a desperate need to escape from the 4 walls of my tiny house to the 4 walls of a massive auditorium, I went to see the film Tenet.Obviously for some, going to the Cinema isn’t something they feel safe doing but I always go to the cinema early in the morning anyway and am usually the only person there.  The Coronavirus might be scary but so is watching The Nun or films such as the recent Halloween in an empty desolate, dark and creepy room with seating for 800 people except of course it is just me and in  moments of dread… Michael Myers or some other deranged killer.

It was so nice to go to the cinema. The films don’t even have to be good and I love film making, the art of it all, the technical aspects and just the whole charade of going to the cinema. The films don’t even have to be that good though I do like more thoughtful or independent films that many others don’t, I also enjoy brain-dead films.  One of the things that’s entertained me the last 6 months is a stupid joke from Bad Boys 3 which I watched in March… when the house is exploding and getting shot out by helicopters and all sorts  in the home of a relation of one of the protagonists and one guy says to the other “your family is pretty ffffed Up Mike” !  It still makes me laugh now.

But how was the cinema experience compared to the old days?   There was lots of hand sanitisers around and all the film start times are staggered so there isn’t much congregating, especially as most people pre-book their tickets and for at least about 20 years, hardly anyone makes cash payments here any more.

I passed on my usual ice-cream treat but did get myself a small drink before getting my electronic ticket checked.  I was so excited and a little disorientated to be with all the neon lights and posters and of course wearing a mask, that I entirely forgot which if the screens I was meant to be going in but there were few patrons around that someone noticed me dithering around.  As it happened I had decided upon 2 possible screens and so I may have been lucky and picked Tenet or I may have gone in to watch some animated claptrap.

The auditorium was deserted save for one older lady, or was it a man with lockdown hair?  It was hard to make out in the dark.  Harder still was it to find my seat as this being a massive and new auditorium, the layout isn’t entirely straight forward when you go back 15 or 18 rows and wearing a mask definitely makes it a little harder to see those glow in the dark signs on the floor.

There were no adverts for upcoming films, instead they were all about the art of films and the artisan who make them and celebrating cinema as an art-form along with one or two charity adverts including a great one with animated animals talking about the pressures of life indoors and not being able to do usual things which lead viewers to think it is another well-meaning Covid type advert only at the end for the revelation that the animals are talking not about the virus but a life in captivity.

And this moving advert too with some of Shakespeare’s finest work put to a great montage and a good cause.

By the time the film started, there were only 3 in the audience and bizarrely or perhaps not, we were sat in a perfect triangle with one person in the middle at the front and myself and another at opposite ends at the back.  After twenty minutes or so the other back seat viewer left, no doubt having given up in the complexity of the film or just deciding it is a load of rubbish or perhaps the whole experience was too much for them.
People say Christopher Nolan films can be complex but I don’t know if it is because I have a good imagination or a long-time Star Trek fan or just have good intuition but I never have a problem with complicated films.  I guessed the Arrival story in a matter of seconds after it started (still loved it).  Interstellar turned out to be a total snooze-fest having guessed the whole paradox a few minutes into the film when it was first hinted at.  I remember waiting all along for a twist so that I might be as confused as the rest of the audience but sadly I was just bored and correct.  Inception, anything weird is no problem to me.

Without giving too much away, Tenet involves a plot where time can go backwards for certain characters and objects which obviously at best isn’t very good and at worst leads to a total end of the world scenario.

I’m not saying it was the best film ever but I liked it well enough and wasn’t confused in the least and in fact immediately guessed the one or two twists.  Much of what might be though is confusing is only so if you don’t get the concept but it made sense to me and it leads to some amazing sequences of car chases where some cars are going backwards in time but interacting with everything else that is still as we’d expect it to be.

About 40 minutes into the film, my disposable mask string snapped on one ear after having a sip of drink and so I had to spend the next 2 hours holding it up though I expect it was safe enough without it.  Even with a mask on, it in no way takes anything away from being absorbed by the film.

The cinema was so empty I could get my iPad to take the odd photo for my blog.

There were some great performances and locations and finally I have a new movie quote to  take over from the Bad Boys one when the main character who is played by John David Washington goes to get advice from Sir Michael Caine who plays a senior British spy.  He is advised to get a priceless suit if he wants to fit into the world of arms dealers and mad scientists and Michael has a recommendation of where to get one.  Washington informs him that he can find his own as the British don’t hold a monopoly on snobbery to which Sir Michael replies, not a monopoly… more a controlling interest.    It did make me giggle.

The film also stars Kenneth Brannagh and Elizabeth Debicki though I found Robert Pattinson with his fine line in suits to be the best of the bunch.

Some of the action you see twice but from a different perspective and it was strangely fitting to see people wearing masks, not because of virus but because if you are inverted and passing through time backwards then the normal air is no good for your lungs.

150 minutes after it started, Tenet reached its conclusion and it even took place at a spot in Hampstead Heath I had visited a few weeks earlier whilst planning a new walking tour. Though the film did make me think, I don’t think it would have harmed it to be a straight forward thriller film.  I did find myself several times thinking how confusing and difficult it must have been to shoot it.

I hadn’t forgotten what it was like too see a film on the big screen as I had longed for it so much but it was life-affirming to do something a little normal. And if people don’t start doing things then a lot of what makes life worth living isn’t going to be around when finally the virus is overcome.

I must also say though that afterwards, going to the urinal whilst carrying a small backpack, holding an iPad between your arm and body, and holding one end of a mask up where the string had snapped whilst unzipping etc is an ability I don’t get enough praise for, it is no wonder Tenet made perfect sense to me.

Would I got to the cinema again?  Absolutely!

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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3 Responses to Coronavirus Diary 65 – Social Distancing at the Cinema with a blockbuster (Tenet) movie review

  1. Yes, it’s a smart move getting one solitary blockbuster into cinemas and giving in a few weeks to lure people back in. At least you can sit in the dark and try and put the virus out of your mind for a bit!

    Liked by 1 person

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