Does your head hurt yet? 4 Stars

Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray in a 3-disc set that includes just over an hour of special features.

Tenet (2020)
Released: 03 Sep 2020
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 150 min
Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Cast: Juhan Ulfsak, Jefferson Hall, Ivo Uukkivi, Andrew Howard
Writer(s): Christopher Nolan
Plot: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: 69

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 2 Hr. 31 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-spindle UHD keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 12/15/2020
MSRP: $44.98

The Production: 3.5/5

Writer-Director Christopher Nolan must relish in the idea of confusing his audiences (the notable exceptions are his The Dark Knight trilogy films). Starting with Memento in 2000 where he told the story of a man with amnesia in reverse, and continuing with The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, and now Tenet, Nolan tells an overly complex story with both mind-bending and time-bending constructions that can make them very hard to follow. His previous films had some emotional depth to them, but that is sorely lacking in Tenet. The audience has no real emotional connection to “The Protagonist” (John David Washington), a secret government agent who is captured as the movie opens during a siege at a concert hall in Kiev and takes his life with a cyanide capsule to avoid being compromised. He is awakened by the mysterious Fay (Martin Donovan), who offers him a chance to save humanity from destroying itself by transporting him to another secret facility where he is educated on the dangers of inversion and how someone from the future has found a way to move objects backwards in time, especially bullets, with the real threat being the possibility of sending a nuclear bomb in the same manner. The Protagonist is teamed up with Neil (Robert Pattinson), and they believe that arms dealer Priya (Dimple Kapadia) may be the one in the present that is behind the mysterious inversion bullets. She reveals that the culprit is Russian arms dealer Sator (Kenneth Branagh), who is married to Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), who is being blackmailed into staying with the abusive Sator out of fear of losing her son. The Protagonist sees this as a possible way of getting into Sator’s exclusive circle to determine how to stop the inversions and save the world.

At least, that is what I think this movie is about. Nolan spends way too much time having nearly every character explain the theory of inversion and how it relates to the plot on numerous occasions that it becomes distracting to the often exciting visuals happening on screen. Let’s not forget the elephant in the room – how Tenet was being promoted by the studio, the press, and even theater chains as the possible savior for the still-struggling exhibition industry that has been decimated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is hard not to look past that level of hype and anticipation, causing this reviewer to feel even more let down by the film as a whole. That is not to say that Tenet is a bad movie, it’s actually very good, just not one of Nolan’s best efforts.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Tenet was shot on 65mm film using Panavision 70, Arriflex 765, and IMAX cameras and completed as a 4K digital intermediate. Warner has provided the IMAX version of the film on both the UHD and Blu-ray movie-only discs, which alternate between 1.78:1 (IMAX) and 2.20:1 (standard 65mm) aspect ratios, with HDR10 high dynamic range on the 2160p HEVC-encoded transfer found on the UHD disc. This is a film with incredible fine detail, from delicate imperfections in the stucco buildings in Mumbai, Pattinson’s facial stubble to fabric textures in the wardrobe. There is also a great sense of depth to the image, particularly in the vast skylines. Colors appear natural and not overly saturated. Contrast is excellent, with deep blacks and strong shadow detail.

Audio: 4/5

Warner has provided Tenet with an excellent DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is a victim of its source material. It has been rather well-documented online about how many who saw the film theatrically had a hard time hearing the dialogue in the film, yet Nolan has insisted it is all intentional as part of the “sonic experience.” So, yes, dialogue is difficult to hear from time to time, so you may want to turn on those English SDH subtitles. Getting that out of the way, much like Nolan’s other recent films like Dunkirk and Interstellar, this track has a very wide dynamic range that can seem overly loud at times, yet still very directional and immersive (despite the lack of a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X mix). Ludwig Göransson’s score is at times very Zimmer-esque (in much the same way his score for The Mandalorian is reminiscent of Bill Conti), and even plays in reverse in several key moments. LFE is very strong, so much so that some may want to turn their subs down a few notches before playing as insurance.

Special Features: 3.5/5

Tenet comes in a 3-disc black UHD keepcase, with movie-only discs in UHD and Blu-ray, plus a Blu-ray disc that includes a documentary and trailers.

Looking at the World in a New Way: The Making of “Tenet” (1080p; 75:22): A fairly comprehensive look at the making of the film, including casting and shooting in 65mm with Panavision and IMAX cameras.

Trailers (1080p; 9:41): Four trailers for Tenet are included.

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) on Movies Anywhere.

Overall: 4/5

Tenet is a film that is often frustrating to understand, at least upon the initial screening, but still beautiful to watch and experience, a movie definitely made for repeat viewings.

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Todd Erwin

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Carlo Medina

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As a former avid cinema-goer, who in his mid-life has retreated more to waiting for 4K releases for most movies...Nolan's films are always ones I made an effort to see in the cinema, preferably in the largest/biggest available screen. I'll be getting this, but I'll also be watching it in theaters if, once the pandemic recedes, it goes back out there.
 

Malcolm R

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I've never understood what Nolan has against clear dialogue in his films. As I commented in another thread, for someone who writes all his own projects he seems to go out of his way to make sure no one can understand the words.
 
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john a hunter

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The problem was raised as far back as the Deer Hunter in its 70mm prints.
The argument then as I guess now, is ,that in life, not every bit of dialogue is heard.
Seems a bit strange though when the plot needs such a lot of explaining.
 

Wayne_j

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The dialog annoys me as well but you can usually follow if you just accept that if you can't understand something you probably weren't supposed to. It always annoys me when Nolan films are nominated in sound categories for the Oscars and you can't understand 40% of the dialog.
 

Sam Posten

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I liked it. Not a perfect movie but as good a caper as Nolan has ever done. Interstellar, Bane, joker, inception, Dunkirk. The Nolan self references are felt rather than seen.

I had to put on subtitles. The dialogue in the beginning was indecipherable

terrific bass. Especially during the finale for explosions and during the credits for the music.
 

Darren Gross

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Watched this tonight and the 4K Blu ray looked phenomenal, but this is the third 4K disc I've watched and both completely froze up during playback. In Tenet it was at the 1hr52min mark and completely locked up and would not play forward. I was able to jump back a chapter and moved ahead to the scene before the lock-up and it did it again, this time it froze, pixelated and jumped ahead 10mins to the next chapter.

The player I've got is only a couple of months old, a Sony UPB-X800M2, and these freezing issues seem prevalent in the format. Flash Gordon locked up twice, but proceeded after a brief pause, the same for Gremlins. The Tenet disc, obviously was brand new, and I made sure it was clean and didn't have any schmutz on it before loading. We were so caught up in it and impressed by the visual quality, but once we had the freezing issues, watched the standard Blu-ray for the last hour of the feature, which was fine looking but a noticeable drop down in quality.

Consumers seem aware of the issues but it seems none of the player manufacturers or studios are aware of have figured out what the problem is or a fix for it.

It's hard enough trying to convince the spouse how cool the new 4K technology is, but with problems like these, it's a completely losing battle. I want to just pop a movie in and watch it, not sit there agitated and distracted, wondering if the whole movie will play through without some playback nonsense.
 

Johnny Angell

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Watched this tonight and the 4K Blu ray looked phenomenal, but this is the third 4K disc I've watched and both completely froze up during playback. In Tenet it was at the 1hr52min mark and completely locked up and would not play forward. I was able to jump back a chapter and moved ahead to the scene before the lock-up and it did it again, this time it froze, pixelated and jumped ahead 10mins to the next chapter.

The player I've got is only a couple of months old, a Sony UPB-X800M2, and these freezing issues seem prevalent in the format. Flash Gordon locked up twice, but proceeded after a brief pause, the same for Gremlins. The Tenet disc, obviously was brand new, and I made sure it was clean and didn't have any schmutz on it before loading. We were so caught up in it and impressed by the visual quality, but once we had the freezing issues, watched the standard Blu-ray for the last hour of the feature, which was fine looking but a noticeable drop down in quality.

Consumers seem aware of the issues but it seems none of the player manufacturers or studios are aware of have figured out what the problem is or a fix for it.

It's hard enough trying to convince the spouse how cool the new 4K technology is, but with problems like these, it's a completely losing battle. I want to just pop a movie in and watch it, not sit there agitated and distracted, wondering if the whole movie will play through without some playback nonsense.
I have Flash Gordon and it played without problems. I’ve never had a 4K disc freeze up. I have an Oppo 203. Are you running the latest firmware?
 

dpippel

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Likewise, I have a Panasonic UB9000 and have played over a hundred 4K discs with it, and even more standard Blu-rays. I've only had one title freeze the player - Arrival - and the disc was obviously defective. Other than that I've had zero issues.
 
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Jeff Cooper

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It's definitely the player and not the disc. I have a Sony player too and have encountered intermittent freezes. Sometimes they are completely random and non repeatable.
 

Darren Gross

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Thanks Jeff & co.
I wasn't aware there were over a hundred 4K discs, but glad some people are having less problems.

Yes, the firmware is up to date and I've rest to factory settings which was Sony's big idea of a fix. It did nothing. I have no problems at all running regular blu rays or DVDs on it.
 

Carlo Medina

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Just to ease your mind, it can be your specific disc as opposed to a widespread manufacturing defect.

My first Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon had an issue that I could duplicate on both my Oppo 203D and a Sony X800 4K player. Contacted SPHE. They sent me a replacement disc. Perfect playback on both.
 

Stephen_J_H

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Just to ease your mind, it can be your specific disc as opposed to a widespread manufacturing defect.

My first Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon had an issue that I could duplicate on both my Oppo 203D and a Sony X800 4K player. Contacted SPHE. They sent me a replacement disc. Perfect playback on both.
Not 4K, but my first Blu-ray of The Dark Knight had a manufacturing defect that was visible through the disc surface. Manufacturing defects are rare, but they do happen.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Ordered it, Best Buy promised delivery on or before street date, appears not to have even shipped yet. I also have a Best Buy order that shipped 11/28 that is still stuck in USPS limbo. Hoping to get everything before Christmas Day but no longer optimistic.