[Fresh on 4K] ‘TENET’ a confusing but magnificent experience

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

TENET

Rated PG-13, 150 minutes.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: John David WashingtonRobert PattinsonElizabeth DebickiAaron Taylor-JohnsonKenneth BranaghClémence PoésyFiona DourifHimesh PatelMartin Donovan and Michael Caine

What a whirlwind of a year it has been. With the filmgoing world still in a limbo of sorts as to when general audiences will feel comfortable attending movie theaters once more, it may be easy to forget that they already tried it back in August with the release of Christopher Nolan’s heavily anticipated action-thriller TENET. The film indeed played in theaters and not much else changed. It’s a shame, really, because TENET is certainly one of the most interesting movies to have been released this year theatrically or otherwise. Fortunately, TENET is now available on 4K UHD, just in time for everyone else to see what the fuss is about as the holidays roll around.

Movie Grade: B+

From our theatrical review

God bless Christopher Nolan. There are not many filmmakers who can successfully challenge a viewer within the mainstream framework and create some of the most memorable cinema history moments. Flipping a semi-truck or rotating a hallway, anyone? Nolan keeps the theatrical experience’s blood pumping. He’s the very reason we butter our popcorn.

What little plot I can reveal involves Washington’s secret agent (of sorts) who embarks on a dangerous mission to help smother the seeds of World War III. Reality as we know it is no longer concrete. Brawls and car chases happen in real-time and backward motion simultaneously. Walls spit bullets out back into guns. Fire and cinder blocks are sucked inside buildings just as fast as it would have pushed them out. The list goes on as you slowly (and perhaps forever) fit the pieces together.

Tenet is more than just a greatest hits record of Nolan’s filmography. There’s so much going on that you’ll be sharing theories for years to come. While the times may be scary in our world, I hope that sooner or later (hopefully they do a massive re-release down the road), you’ll soak up every ounce of awesome that Tenet is.

Courtesy of Blu-ray.com

Video/Audio Grade: A-

It should come as no surprise that TENET is presented in native 4K resolution. Christopher Nolan’s movies are nothing if not truly spectacular visual experiences. Every shot in this film is bursting with detail. Skin textures are vivid, wide shots are incredibly crisp, and costumes contain a noticeable uptick in detail from the 1080p version. Nolan’s trademark use of practical effects wherever possible also shines on the format where computer-generated images often fall short. A sequence where our heroes must drive a gigantic airplane into a hangar was accomplished by doing just that in real life and the end result is simply stunning.

Those familiar with Nolan’s filmography will be pleased to see his trademark use of IMAX is as dazzling as ever in his latest release. This means that the aspect ratio will frequently change throughout the film, with non-IMAX footage presented at 2.20:1 while IMAX scenes will come in at a screen filling 1.78:1 ratio. Those lucky enough to have seen TENET in a proper IMAX theater got to experience these scenes in an even bigger 1.43:1 ratio, but sadly that presentation remains exclusive to theaters. What this basically means is that there will be black bars on the tops and bottoms of your screens for non-IMAX footage, and the IMAX scenes will take up your entire display, creating a more intense and massive image.

The inclusion of HDR10 makes for an even more breathtaking image. Many scenes take place in dark rooms and grey buildings, so the increased contrast and color depth do a great deal to help saturate the image. Visually TENET is one of the very best 4K presentations I have ever seen.

Sadly the audio presentation is serviceable at best. With only a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, viewers hoping for a rafter-shaking Dolby Atmos experience will ultimately feel a little letdown. Ludwig Gorranson’s outstanding musical score does its absolute best to take advantage of the side channels, and the action sequences are indeed mixed well enough. But I can’t help but feel that there could have been so much more to experience with at the very least a 7.1 mix. Additionally, the dialogue is quite hard to understand during very key moments of exposition, which can lead to a frustrating experience, so subtitles are essentially required for this one. Had the audio been handled better than just “good enough,” this would easily have been a perfect score.

Extras Grade: B-

The package comes with three discs in total: one 4K disc containing the film in 4K UHD, a 1080p Blu-ray of the film, and another Blu-ray containing the special features. There are no bonus features included on the 4K disc. A digital copy is also included, but it is important to point out that the digital version is presented entirely in 2.20:1 and does not have the alternating aspect ratios. With just over an hour of content, the extras are definitely worth a look but will very likely leave fans wanting more.

  • Looking At The World In A New Way (76:13)
    • 1. The Principle of Belief (04:06)
    • 2. Mobilizing the Troupe (06:35)
    • 3. The Approach (04:40)
    • 4. The Proving Window (04:46)
    • 5. The Roadmap (05:06)
    • 6. Entropy in Action (10:48)
    • 7. Traversing the Globe (12:28)
    • 8. How Big a Plane? (04:48)
    • 9. The Dress Code (03:52)
    • 10. Constructing the Twilight World (05:27)
    • 11. The Final Battle (04:11)
    • 12. Cohesion. (05:37)
    • 13. Doesn’t Us Being Here Now Mean It Never Happened? (03:49)

Final Grade: B+

TENET is a film with a daring high concept and jaw-dropping visuals, first — and a film with a story, second. It’s often confusing but magnificent to behold from start to finish. Be prepared to make heavy use of the rewind button and watch it as many times as you need for it to make sense. Heck, maybe watching it in reverse might help clear things up. 

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