Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
My AV System
- Preamp, Processor or Receiver
- Yamaha TRS-7850 Atmos Receiver
- Other Amp
- Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
- Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
- Sony ubx800 4K UHD Player
- Front Speakers
- Cheap Thrills Mains
- Center Channel Speaker
- Cheap Thrills Center
- Surround Speakers
- Volt 10 Surrounds
- Surround Back Speakers
- Volt 10 Reach Surrounds
- Rear Height Speakers
- Volt 6 Overheads
- 2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
- Video Display Device
- JVC RS-46 Projector
- Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
Don’t try to understand, feel it was the tagline for Tenet MONTHS before the release, and was the catch phrase for proponents of the film to the people who were confused or reticent on the movie. Coming from a massive Christopher Nolan fan I was literally on pins and needles when the teaser came out, and SORELY disappointed that the COVID-19 pandemic kept me from seeing it in theaters. Nolan is a master of misdirection and convoluted mystery box story telling, and I usually fall head over heels for his films. Interstellar and Inception are two of my favorite movies of his, and when I watched Tenet for the first time this week I was left puzzled and confused. Had Nolan lost his touch? Because there were all of the ingredients for a great Christopher Nolan film on full display, but looked like it had been hacked and edited beyond belief, to the point where the mystery box storytelling sort of folded in on itself to such an extreme that that only Nolan himself knows what he was trying to portray on celluloid.
“Don’t try to understand, feel it” really does seem to be the mantra of the film, being that even those who think they’re figured out what’s actually going on in this temporal sci-fi James Bondesque flick may actually really not have much of a handle on it as they think. In typical Christopher Nolan fashion, Tenet is a film revolving around time, and our handling of it. I can’t really give a REAL description of the film without going blow by blow through every scene, but I’ll give you a hint. The Protagonist (given that name in the credits) is a CIA agent (played by John David Washington) is given a botched assignment only to end his own life with a cyanide capsule. However, it turns out his whole mission was a test, as he’s brought back to life with the antidote and inducted into a mystery organization called “Tenet” who seems to be trying to stop World War III.
It seems that temporal agents have created technology to “invert” objects and people through time, and have supposedly made it known that they want to cause harm and mayhem (the real reason doesn’t come out till the last act of the film, and it KIND of explains some things, while dropping other plot lines without a second thought), and Tenet is trying to stop them. The only clue they have to the over arching plans of the villains is that they are speaking to people in the past, and have a link to Estonian arms dealer Sator (Kenneth Branagh). Along the way the Protagonist is exposed to the time traveling abilities of inversion, as well as attempts to save the trapped wife of Sator (Elizabeth Debicki) and save the world from a madman who wants to use time to end the world as we know it (quite literally).
This storytelling technique totally drops the gravitas from the film, even though you know what ideas Nolan is playing with. The idea of inversion was pretty cool to think about, but after the 2nd or 3rd showing of the “going backwards through time) loop the special effects got pretty tired and worn. The same can be said with plot points and story lines. Things are so slap dashed and crammed together that the audience doesn’t have a clue except that something exciting is happening on screen. It’s almost as if Nolan is screaming at the audience “don’t look behind the curtain, don’t try to understand the movie, just feel all of the cool things I’m trying to convey in my special effects extravaganza! Don’t worry, nobody else understands it either because my story is too smart for them!”. That sort of frenetic energy without the proper payoff is frustrating. I must connect it with Inception to compare, as the two share similar mind bender stories. The thing is, with Inception Nolan set the rules of the universe and stuck by them. We had plenty of puzzles to solve along the way, and there were some twists and turns, but the rules of diving into someone’s mind were spelled out and stable the entire time. Tenet tries to do the same thing, but sadly doesn’t stick to it’s own world building rules, but instead makes them up as they go along. This leaves the audience feeling very confused and frustrated at the movie. Even when watching multiple times, I still feel as if Nolan was SO desperate to keep things super close to the vest that he never gave the audience enough information to make even simple logical leaps to understand what he wanted to convey.
Washington is a solid actor for the bloated 2.5 hour flick, but Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki really are the scene stealers here. If you haven’t seen Pattinson outside of Twilight then you really should, as the man has a rather great range to display. Sadly Branagh is just chewing the scenery with his Russian villain impression that he gave us in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, so he’s sort of wasted. Decent acting, GREAT special effects, but poor Nolan seems to have lost touch with his fanbase.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language
4K Video: Video:
Now for the quirks. If you’ve been following Nolan’s work for some time you know that the choice to choose a 5.1 mix instead of Atmos or DTS:X is squarely on his shoulder’s. He’s very persnickety in how his films are mixed, and has made it clear that he really isn’t enamored with object based sound mixes. That doesn’t mean his tracks are BAD, it’s just that he maxes out the 5.1 system and refuses to change to suit more modern mixes. Then comes the dialog. There’s a lot of dialog in Tenet that is a bit hard to hear due to the score muffling bits of it, or just generally being hard to hear due to face masks etc. Nolan has a love affair with making dialog unintelligible, and even did an interview recently where he stated that he really can’t comprehend WHY his fans take issue with his weird mixing techniques. While I’m giving the track a 5/5 rating, I do make note of these idiosyncrasies simply due to the fact that Nolan does these things on purpose.
• Theatrical Teaser
• Theatrical Trailer
Tenet has it’s large open spaces, as it takes us what amounts to a sci-fi James Bond adventure around the globe. It has tons of action, some cool effects, and the acting is really rather good for the most part. I love Nolan mind benders, but came away sadly disappointed with the entire film. It’s not a train wreck by any means, but it definitely is lackluster experience due to Nolan playing his cards so close to the vest that no one can even get a glimpse at them. Also the ending was seen a mile away (I was 15 minutes in and pretty sure I was figuring things out, but by the hour point with the crashed plane scene, I KNEW what was going to happen). The 4K UHD disc is simply stunning, outclassing the already great Blu-ray, but I would suggest renting this one first, even if you’re well acclimated to Nolan’s quirks and oddities in his experimental films.
Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Martin Donovan
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 / 1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, German DTS-HD MA 5.1, French (Canada), Italian, Spanish, Spanish (Latin), Czech, Hindi, Polish, Thai, Japanese DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 150 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 15th 2020
Recommendation: Rent First