Home Entertainment Tenet Review Round-up – Christopher Nolan’s ambitious film receives mixed responses

Tenet Review Round-up – Christopher Nolan’s ambitious film receives mixed responses

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Cinemas are re-opening this weekend in South Africa, which likely doesn’t mean much for those of us who are not prepared to risk going outside for a theatrical fix. If you ever were going to risk your wellbeing for a movie, then Tenet might just be the film that would make you take a gamble on your health.

Few filmmakers have enthralled audiences as consistently as director Christopher Nolan, whose combination of cerebrally challenging, mind-bending stories, wonderfully complex characters, and ambitiously realistic action sequences have made his movies must-watch experiences at the theatre.

The film has already been screened to some reviewers globally, and so we can at least share each other’s pain by reading what they have to say about the movie, below:

Leslie Felperin, THR

Altogether, it makes for a chilly, cerebral film — easy to admire, especially since it’s so rich in audacity and originality, but almost impossible to love, lacking as it is in a certain humanity.

Jessica Kiang, The New York Times

Seek it out, if only to marvel at the entertainingly inane glory of what we once had and are in danger of never having again. Well, that and the suits.

Mike McCahill, IndieWire

What’s really there to untangle, beyond loops of string and a whole lot of smoke rings? Anyone ready to obsess over a doodad on a backpack as they did over the spinning top of “Inception” can cling to the illusion of Nolan as the movie messiah. On this evidence, though, he’s become a very trying, ungenerous, ever-so-slightly dull boy.

Guy Lodge, Variety

“Tenet” is no holy grail, but for all its stern, solemn posing, it’s dizzy, expensive, bang-up entertainment of both the old and new school.

Nicholas Barber, The Wrap

The plotting is muddled rather than complex, with less to say about the flow of time than “Interstellar” or “Memento.” In the end, “Tenet” isn’t one of Nolan’s most satisfying films. But after I’ve seen it four or five more times, maybe I’ll change my mind.

Jordan Farley, Total Film

Certainly, Tenet’s a more challenging film than some may be comfortable with after a five-month absence, but this is an all-too-rare example of a master filmmaker putting everything on the table with, you sense, not a modicum of his vision compromised. The stakes have never been higher, but Tenet is exactly the film cinemas need right now.

Jonathan Romney, Los Angeles Times

Nolan’s latest may well be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, or it may signify something imponderably resonant, and signify it forward, backward and inside out. Does your head hurt yet?

Catherine Shoard, The Guardian

Tenet is not a movie it’s worth the nervous braving a trip to the big screen to see, no matter how safe it is. I’m not even sure that, in five years’ time, it’d be worth staying up to catch on telly.

Shannon Connellan, Mashable

Like its title, Tenet is a cinematic palindrome, moving backwards and forwards in a multitude of ways. As novel an idea as this is, the film essentially follows the conventions of a classic spy thriller. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but spices it up with time manipulation.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is just how divided the reviews for Tenet are. Nolan’s ambition appears to have either excited critics or frustrated them. It does concern me, given the almost universal praise people typically have for Nolan’s films, although I do agree with some of the critics that when you have been starved of watching a blockbuster for several months, watching one which may give you a headache from everything that is going on, may not be an experience suitable for everyone.

This hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for the film one bit, given how much of a Nolan fan I am.

Last Updated: August 24, 2020

32 Comments

  1. MechMachine

    August 24, 2020 at 10:53

    Most film reviewers should never be taken seriously. Long gone are the days of general consensus. These days it’s become more of a exercise in political virtue signaling and approval from within is the order of the day. Hell, maybe it’s always been that way and I’ve grown enough to learn this. But, The best way to handle “taste” is to watch for yourself and see. Nolan is by far the most interesting Director at the moment and his movies are incredible. But, As Spielberg has taught me, this can change, I used to think no-one would ever usurp the latter as the greatest. But Nolan sure has proved me wrong. I know, I know. People might throw in Ridley Scott or James Cameron. Trust me, When it comes to Rildley, I am also conflicted. He is also a visionary..we are talking minor differences.

    But, I ask you this. Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And the New Breed, Inception, Interstellar, Inception. And Ridleys Work, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down. Alien. How does one measure these iconic films.

    Reply

  2. HvR

    August 24, 2020 at 11:30

    So it sounds like a typical Nolan film. Great on the visuals but with a plot with so many holes in it will cause trypophobes weeks of sleepless nights.

    Will wait to be disappointed when it comes out for home media release.

    Reply

  3. Kenn Gibson

    August 24, 2020 at 09:16

    Film reviewers are like politicians, they have no clue what the people want.

    Reply

    • Son of Banana Jim

      August 24, 2020 at 12:08

      Most of them are glorified PR/marketeers/influencers. I mean take Forbes’ Scott Mendelson as an example. If you read any of his articles, you can’t tell where Disney ends and where his head up their behind begins… It’s an unholy ouroboros.

      A part of me understands it though, on the one hand he gets insane access to the inner workings of Disney and other Hollywood production houses, he gets invited to press events, he might even get tickets to Disneyland.

      Reply

  4. Caveshen Rajman

    August 24, 2020 at 09:44

    Meanwhile, all I want to know is, why is this an IMAX must-watch, vs waiting for the BluRay.

    Reply

    • Kervyn Cloete

      August 24, 2020 at 10:53

      Because some films just play better on the big screen, especially when they’ve been shot for IMAX as Tenet has been.

      Reply

      • Caveshen Rajman

        August 25, 2020 at 13:12

        Excuse my ignorance here, but other than the aspect ratio (and maybe Atmos surround?), what else changes? Nolan prefers 2D, so trying to understand the differences.

        Reply

  5. MechMachine

    August 24, 2020 at 10:53

    Most film reviewers should never be taken seriously. Long gone are the days of general consensus. These days it’s become more of a exercise in political virtue signaling and approval from within is the order of the day. Hell, maybe it’s always been that way and I’ve grown enough to learn this. But, The best way to handle “taste” is to watch for yourself and see. Nolan is by far the most interesting Director at the moment and his movies are incredible. But, As Spielberg has taught me, this can change, I used to think no-one would ever usurp the latter as the greatest. But Nolan sure has proved me wrong. I know, I know. People might throw in Ridley Scott or James Cameron. Trust me, When it comes to Rildley, I am also conflicted. He is also a visionary..we are talking minor differences.

    But, I ask you this. Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And the New Breed, Inception, Interstellar, Batman. And Ridleys Work, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down. Alien. How does one measure these iconic films.

    Reply

    • Kervyn Cloete

      August 24, 2020 at 10:53

      This is a bit unfair. I completely agree that taste is subjective, but the same people who were not impressed by Tenet were blown away by Nolan’s other films. And the actual criticisms are purely of a filmmaking nature, nothing to do with politics.

      Reply

      • MechMachine

        August 24, 2020 at 11:09

        It’s unfair of you to be so reactive my man. What’s wrong with what I said ? I present you with few case studies : The Joker. There was so much noise around it with unsubstantiated comparisons to angry white men who are predisposed to shooting up schools. Tell me that wasn’t a thing ? Or am I living In some parallel dimension ?

        Roman Polanski. Had sex with a young girl, Very underage at the time. He has been hailed as a visionary film maker yet he has exiled himself from the states for years in order to avoid prosecution for his actions, yet he has seen very little criticism in the current climate. Still highly regarded among his peers, including film critics.

        Bryan Singer. Years of rumors and accusations of sexual misconduct and outright abuse, yet still regarded as one of the best Directors in Hollywood at the time. Even when these things were going on. Still helmed the biggest films, including X men. Admired and sought after, despite the dark actions that were associated with him.

        So, I reiterate my point. It’s up to the consumer to decide what’s right for them. We have the money and the inclination to spend our money and time. What reviewers say these days is meaningless when all these other things come to light.

        And don’t get me started on Meryl Streep calling Weinsteen God.

        Reply

      • MechMachine

        August 24, 2020 at 11:09

        It’s unfair of you to be so reactive my man. What’s wrong with what I said ? I present you with few case studies : The Joker. There was so much noise around it with unsubstantiated comparisons to angry white men who are predisposed to shooting up schools. Tell me that wasn’t a thing ? Or am I living In some parallel dimension ?

        Roman Polanski. Had sex with a young girl, Very underage at the time. He has been hailed as a visionary film maker yet he has exiled himself from the states for years in order to avoid prosecution for his actions, yet he has seen very little criticism in the current climate. Still highly regarded among his peers, including film critics.

        Bryan Singer. Years of rumors and accusations of sexual misconduct and outright abuse, yet still regarded as one of the best Directors in Hollywood at the time. Even when these things were going on. Still helmed the biggest films, including X men. Admired and sought after, despite the dark actions that were associated with him.

        So, I reiterate my point. It’s up to the consumer to decide what’s right for them. We have the money and the inclination to spend our money and time. What reviewers say these days is meaningless when all these other things come to light.

        And don’t get me started on Meryl Streep calling Weinsteen God.

        Reply

        • Kervyn Cloete

          August 24, 2020 at 11:30

          It’s not “reactive” it’s a discussion. Specifically about (and I may have read this wrong, so feel free to correct me) how negative reviews for Nolan’s Tenet could just be because of a political slant from reviewers instead of actual valid criticisms. I wasn’t talking about other reviews in general.

          Reply

          • MechMachine

            August 24, 2020 at 12:45

            The reality is these waters are muddy my friend. There is no getting around it.

          • MechMachine

            August 24, 2020 at 12:45

            If it’s a discussion, why the need to come to the speak up ? Is it to undermine what you perceive to be an inferior opinion ? Because that’s the distinct impression you give off.

          • Kervyn Cloete

            August 24, 2020 at 13:15

            Wait, I’m confused. Are you saying that I can’t participate in the discussion in comments? (And I don’t mean this aggressively, in case that is misconstrued. I’m genuinely trying to understand your first question).

            Also, I disagreed with the notion that just because a review is negative, it’s because the reviewer is being influenced because of perceived politics and not because of the actual movie’s quality. Hence why I mentioned that generally Nolan gets fantastic reviews from the same people that were iffy on this movie. It’s not like they’re slamming him all the time coz they don’t agree with his style. It could just be that he made a movie that is not up to his previous (very high) standard.

            Disagreeing with your opinion, is simply that: A difference of opinion. Nowhere was there any attempt to undermine or declare as inferior. I think you’re reading a bit too much into that (which understandably can happen easily given the loss of tone with text).

          • MechMachine

            August 24, 2020 at 16:26

            Hey, I value your opinion. I just hope you realize that in my OP, I said most reviewers, not all. If it helps, I find this is more of a thing in places like the States and ever increasingly, Europe. Objectivity is a valuable trait. Instinct, where I have used it, has never led me astray. I also realize that there are other factors at play.

            Your name is your bond in the business you deal in, and the sentiment that is widely held as consensus does somewhat determine your marketability. We all have to deal in these sort of internal conflicts in life. I know I do.

          • MechMachine

            August 24, 2020 at 16:26

            Hey, I value your opinion. I just hope you realize that in my OP, I said most reviewers, not all. If it helps, I find this is more of a thing in places like the States and ever increasingly, Europe. Objectivity is a valuable trait. Instinct, where I have used it, has never led me astray. I also realize that there are other factors at play.

            Your name is your bond in the business you deal in, and the sentiment that is widely held as consensus does somewhat determine your marketability. We all have to deal in these sort of internal conflicts in life. I know I do.

      • Kenn Gibson

        August 24, 2020 at 12:11

        I am with you that taste is subjective, my main issue with reviews is that critics nitpick things that the average viewer either will not notice or does not care about.

        I’m a music nerd and certain sounds, textures and composition styles blow my mind, and get me all nerdy about it. I understand that most people wont get the excitement or enjoyment I get out of it, so when I advise people about music, I say that I think its good or bad and let people make their own mind up about it.

        When it comes to movies, forget politics, but the goal for most critics it seems is to sound clever. Take the LA Times review above

        ‘Nolan’s latest may well be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, or it may signify something imponderably resonant, and signify it forward, backward and inside out. Does your head hurt yet” Like what does that even mean?

        A more helpful review: Tenet is confusing. It looked pretty. If you want to watch a pretty confusing movie, watch it on IMAX…..

        Reply

        • MechMachine

          August 24, 2020 at 12:45

          I was thinking about that video Alanah Pierce released awhile ago. She touched on some points about reviews being about impressing peers rather then appealing to the masses. Lends some credence to what you’re saying.

          Reply

        • Kervyn Cloete

          August 24, 2020 at 13:26

          As somebody who naturally has a habit of being a bit verbose and flexing my vocabulary skills, I can tell you from personal experience that writers often just want to write. And write well. Often this means flowery language because you’re trying to be creative and stand out… but there is a cut-off point though.

          Sometimes it’s just somebody trying to sound more refined than they are and just coming across as a ponce. Finding the balance for that is difficult. And it’s very difficult for writers in certain publications where this “style” has become the norm. To them, writing plainly is almost writing boring, if that makes sense.

          Personally, I try to be creative in my writing but not to the point where you need a degree to figure out what I’m trying to say.

          Reply

          • Kenn Gibson

            August 24, 2020 at 13:48

            Sure and I can appreciate that.

            I write all the time, and love writing too. Finding an interesting or creative way to say something is rewarding. Personally I appreciate skill with language, especially in the mediums of lyrics, poetry or literature. Style has its place, but needs to have substance in what it is saying.

            At the end of the day it’s just my opinion and my preference, and other people are welcome to have a different one.

          • Kervyn Cloete

            August 24, 2020 at 14:08

            Look, there’s no denying that some people just write long-winded rubbish. They say a lot without actually ever saying anything. I hate that!

    • Son of Potassium

      August 24, 2020 at 12:08

      Could not agree more. Critics have less in common with the common man than ever before. Look at that smut on Netflix with the dancing girls. 82% on rotten tomatoes. Yet close to a million dislikes for the trailer

      Reply

      • Son of Banana Jim

        August 24, 2020 at 12:26

        You mean, Cuties? Yeah, that trailer is gross, not to mention Netflix’s initial promotional poster. And now, they’re trying to change the narrative to “people are upset because the director is from Senegal” (i.e. everyone who is upset is a racist, who can’t comprehend the life lived by a French-Sengalese woman)

        No, people are upset because it features heavily-sexualised 11 year olds in what can be best described as a disgusting Clinton/Epstein fantasy. I even saw one article defending it saying that it’s an attempt to show how disgusting the sexualisation of young girls are, but you don’t fight pedophilia with pedophilia. That message will be lost to some dirty predator jerking his rod, because ultimately the imagery is what they’re after.

        Reply

        • MechMachine

          August 24, 2020 at 16:35

          Thing is, most average people will always be uncomfortable around this subject. There will always be a outcry of sorts when this kind of event happens. So, I wouldn’t worry too much over it. The negative press Netflx has received is a lesson in itself. This topic of will always be Taboo. Just ask any new parents.

          Reply

          • Son of Banana Jim

            August 24, 2020 at 16:44

            It’s something that should NEVER be normalised, and there is definitely pressure from groups like NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) who want the P to be added to the greater LGBT+ lobby – and even some within Hollywood who would love for their activities to be seen in a positive light.

            It’s disgusting if you ask me.

          • MechMachine

            August 24, 2020 at 16:44

            Yeah. I know. But you can’t take on all the injustices of the world. Look at videos of puppies online now and again.

  6. HvR

    August 24, 2020 at 11:30

    So it sounds like a typical Nolan film. Great on the visuals but with a plot with so many holes in it will cause trypophobes weeks of sleepless nights.

    Will wait to be disappointed when it comes out for home media release.

    Reply

    • MechMachine

      August 24, 2020 at 16:44

      Those images freak me out…….

      Reply

  7. WhiteRock

    August 24, 2020 at 11:30

    “…although I do agree with some of the critics that when you have been starved of watching a blockbuster for several months, watching one which may give you a headache from everything that is going on, may not be an experience suitable for everyone”

    But should that affect the basis on how you review a movie? If you review a movie based on when last you could watch a “blockbuster”, then it starts to detract from the actual film-making critiques.

    And then this:

    “On this evidence, though, he’s become a very trying, ungenerous, ever-so-slightly dull boy.”

    That is pretty(petty) personal and in my opinion far from a proper jibe for a reviewer to make.

    Reply

  8. Son of Potassium

    August 24, 2020 at 12:11

    If you’re a fan of Nolan then watch it, but do it at home.

    Reply

    • Son of Banana Jim

      August 24, 2020 at 12:18

      Absolutely!

      Reply

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