Tenet is Christopher Nolan's weakest film. It's also evidence that Christopher Nolan's weakest film is still way better and more exciting than some directors' best films. Never one to shy away from shooting for the moon, the visionary behind Inception and Interstellar can't quite reach the heights he's shooting for this time, but boy, is there ever pleasure in watching him try. Tenet's theatrical release was, of course, hampered somewhat by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Blu-ray release proves that it plays perfectly well at home, so don't sweat it if you didn't get to catch the movie up on the big screen.
John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) stars as “the Protagonist,” a secret agent drafted into a special mission. Someone has gotten control of technology that can invert objects. Here's where the story becomes distinctly Nolan-esque. The premise is that there's a parallel dimension where everything runs backwards. By inverting items (or people), events can be undone or altered. There's more to it, but you can find that out for yourself. Protagonist is told that he has to find the person who has mined this capability and stop them, lest global annihilation occur.
Helping him is Neil (Robert Pattinson), a well-connected British man of indeterminate association. The trail leads them to an arms dealer in Mumbai, then to Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), the estranged wife of Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh). He's the one they really need to find, so they convince Kat to arrange a meeting. Stuff gets crazy after that.
As with most of Nolan's movies, there are big ideas at play in Tenet. The whole notion of time moving forward and backward simultaneously is enjoyably head-spinning. At times, we watch a scene in forward motion, only to see it from a different perspective later on, as it repeats in inverted style. Keeping track of who/what is in each dimension occasionally proves tricky. Nevertheless, there's great joy in how the movie continually challenges us. You can't half-watch Tenet; you need to be all-in. If you are, the rewards are not unsubstantial.
To be perfectly honest, I got lost on some plot points involving Kat and Sator and a forged painting, along with one or two other elements. Nolan's desire to keep turning the story in on itself causes moments of borderline incomprehension. Stick with the general idea that Protagonist needs to confront Sator, though, and you can sit back and become enthralled by dazzling action sequences. One finds Protagonist fighting an assailant in reverse. Another is a car chase that begins as a clever heist, only to evolve into a stunning race between cars moving in opposite directions. The climactic finale is another winner, as it features a gargantuan battle among participants who are both regular and inverted.
Tenet's plot is complex – sometimes a little too much for its own good. Even so, Nolan delivers the sort of wild twists and inventive action that he's known for. Picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray are outstanding, helping to immerse you in the fun adventure that unfolds. Watching it more than once is undoubtedly beneficial, since so much is going on. How nice it is to get a movie that offers so much rather than too little.
Tenet will be released on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack December 15. A complimentary copy of the Blu-ray was provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review.
The primary bonus feature is “Looking at the World in a New Way,” a 13-part documentary that runs 75 minutes. Each section looks at a different angle of production, from developing the script, to shooting certain segments with IMAX cameras, to orchestrating the signature action sequences. All in all, it provides plenty of detail into how Tenet was accomplished, making it a perfect companion piece to the main feature.
The teaser trailer and three theatrical trailers are also included. A digital copy of the movie comes with the Blu-ray.
Click here to purchase a copy of Tenet on Amazon.
out of four
Tenet is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language. The running time is 2 hours and 31 minutes.