“Tenet” is slated for an international premiere on Aug. 26 and will open in select U.S. cities on Sept. 3, after its release date was pushed back three times due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, critics are promising that the film is worth the wait, and that the pent-up anticipation from all of its delays will make the public even more hungry to watch it.
Variety‘s reviewer Guy Lodge called the film – starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki – a “grandly entertaining, time-slipping spectacle,” praising its futuristic elements and surprising straightforwardness:
“The sheer meticulousness of Nolan’s grand-canvas action aesthetic is enthralling, as if to compensate for the stray loose threads and teasing paradoxes of his screenplay — or perhaps simply to underline that they don’t matter all that much. ‘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. Right now, as it belatedly crashes a dormant global release calendar, it seems something of a time inversion in itself.”
Though some critics were turned off by the film’s metaphysical babble, the overall consensus is that it’s a mind-blowing addition to Nolan’s already-impressive arsenal.
Read more reviews below:
“If Nolan has out-Nolaned himself, it’s in the action set-pieces which, despite being of head-scrambling technical intricacy, are sharper than Occam’s razor and carried off with astonishing economy. He may be stuck in a thematic loop, but Nolan continues to push the craft of in-camera special effects forward, once again engineering immersive, seat-shaking spectacle in crisp 70mm widescreen. Most crucially, the experimental filming techniques employed here are always in service of the story.”
“To point out that ‘Tenet’ has flaws feels ungrateful. It’s like slagging off Santa. But, I confess, some of the yick yacking — vis a vis physics, metaphysics and so on — made me sleepy. Nor did I find the villain remotely scary. Those quibbles aside, ‘Tenet’ is an eye-popping, ground-breaking blast.”
“‘Tenet’ is not so much a decipherable thriller as it is an extreme exercise in reverse-engineered narrative incomprehensibility – the cinematic equivalent of a half-baked pretzel, its goopy symmetrical loops superficial yet delicious all the same. We’re never meant to know what exactly is going on at any one moment, but we will be – we must be – entertained by the overwhelming nonsense of it all.”
“The film is undeniably enjoyable, but its giddy grandiosity only serves to highlight the brittleness of its purported braininess. This would hardly be a criticism of any other blockbuster. But Nolan is, by several exploding football fields, the foremost auteur of the ‘intellectacle,’ which combines popcorn-dropping visual ingenuity with all the sedate satisfactions of a medium-grade Sudoku. Within the context of this self-created brand of brainiac entertainment, ‘Tenet’ meets all expectations, except the expectation that it will exceed them.”
“‘Tenet’ is not Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, but it is another thrilling entry into his canon. In a world where blockbuster cinema is dominated by franchises and sequels, it serves as an accomplished demonstration of the pleasures of unconnected and non-serialised original storytelling. But while it does tread new ground, ‘Tenet’ is the ‘safest’ film from Christopher Nolan in some years. Following two recent ambitious movies from the filmmaker, ‘Tenet’ feels a little conservative, as if Nolan’s style is a franchise rather than a framework. Despite this, it remains more interesting than most other tentpole movies and acts as a beacon for the director’s strengths. In a time when cinema is struggling through arguably its most difficult time in its entire history, ‘Tenet’ works as a fantastic reminder of what blockbuster filmmaking can aspire to be, and why it’s best experienced in a huge, dark room.”
“It’s basically espionage adventure, but with a science fiction backbone: Nolan ups the ante on “Mission: Impossible” by making the impossibility not just physical but quantum physical. And he goes about it expertly, bullishly and with giddily perverse intent to bewilder.”
“You’ll need to bring your A-game – this is not a blockbuster to relax into – even if you’d be hard pressed to argue that Nolan has. As with ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ it’s a movie designed to be unpacked over multiple viewings and maybe a podcast or two. Its pointillist plot details race by, especially during a maximalist third act that repeats some of the flaws of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ – the bleak world of ‘Tenet’ is of a piece with Nolan’s morally corroded Gotham – and a sense of overload kicks in as multiplex action sequences are staged, reversed and restaged from a different perspective.”
“‘Tenet’s’ real engine is its action sequences, in particular one involving a cargo plane and another multi-car chase. They’re good; they have to be. As the eagle-eyed have pointed out, ‘Tenet’ is a palindrome, which means it’s possible you’ll see some of the same scenes twice. Yet, for all the nifty bits of reverse chronology, there’s little that lingers in the imagination in the same way as ‘Inception’ or even ‘Interstellar’s’ showcase bendy business.”
“The depth, subtlety and wit of Pattinson and Debicki’s performances only becomes fully apparent once you know where ‘Tenet’ is going, or perhaps that should be where it’s been. Still confused? Don’t be. Or rather do be, and savour it. This is a film that will cause many to throw up their hands in bamboozlement – and many more, I hope, to clasp theirs in awe and delight.”
“You have to hand it to Nolan. To use the old expression, he puts the money on the screen, delivering the kind of noisy, extravagant and fundamentally ridiculous pulp fiction which reminds you why you go to the cinema. But it collapses under the weight of all the plot strands and concepts stuffed into it. You don’t get the impression, which you usually get from his films, that every element is precisely where it should be. Some parts of it go on too long, others not long enough. It’s a treat to see a really big film again, but a smaller one might have been better.”