7.32 h 30 min2020X-RayPG-13
Fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
Christopher Nolan
John David WashingtonRobert PattinsonElizabeth Debicki
Science FictionSuspenseAdventureAction
English [CC]
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EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Dimple KapadiaMartin DonovanFiona DourifYuri KolokolnikovHimesh PatelClémence PoésyAaron Taylor-JohnsonMichael CaineKenneth Branagh
Emma ThomasChristopher Nolan
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.2 out of 5 stars

55226 global ratings

  1. 58% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 17% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 13% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 6% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 6% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

jwwReviewed in the United States on November 10, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Has some good stuff, but not Nolan’s best work
Christopher Nolan's Tenet is about a spy simply called The Protagonist (John David Washington) in the credits. He's promoted to a secret assignment in which he has to go after a villain who has access to time manipulation. This is an interesting film with distinct concepts. A combination of a spy and sci-fi film isn't something you see every day. (I mean other than spy films involving lasers, robotics, and, that one time, going into space. I mean stuff that James Bond wouldn't even touch as it would be going too far.) However, the movie can be overindulgent, I think this could've been a leaner, stronger film.

I'll get to the good points about this first. The spy stuff is done well. (There is a lot more of that in this than the trailer lets on.) Seeing the Protagonist and his associate Neil (Robert Pattison) having to cleverly break into places is one of the best parts.

The sci-fi stuff is really, really interesting. Let me be clear that this isn't a typical "time travel" sort of movie. It's about time inversion, leading to some legit innovative concepts. The action scenes really take full advantage of this.

Tone wise think of this as kind of being the infiltration scenes from Inception matched with the action parts of Nolan's Batman movies.

Though a lot of the script takes itself seriously, there are occasional light lines from Washington or between him and Pattison that lend a bit of personality.

The standout actor here is probably Kenneth Brannagh as the antagonist. Brannagh delivers the best performance I've seen him do. (Bear in mind I haven't seen a lot of his earlier works including his Shakespeare films and Dead Again.) He completely loses himself in this truly despicable, dangerous man.

Okay, now for the film's issues. Considering that the lead is called The Protagonist and that title of this film about time inversion happens to be spelled out the same way forward and backward, you can tell that Nolan is be trying too hard to be clever. Way, way, way too much exposition is thrown at you; I mean a crazy amount. Almost every line is a plot point. If you don't pay attention you could become lost. I got the general gist of everything, but there were moments where I had to fill-in-the-blanks and play catch up.

Sometimes the sound effects or music are too loud or the actors are speaking too quietly, making it harder to understand what is going on.

The final action scene looks nice but is far too complicated. I couldn't even tell where the bad guys were coming from.

Besides the complexity of the story, the other major issue is the length. This didn't need to be two-and-a-half hours. The middle act in particular, could've been cut down.

When this movie is good, it is good, but it could've been so much more entertaining if it was shorter and some plot points whittled down. I recommend this, especially if you're a Nolan fan, as it is a unique experience. But it's something you can sit on till a rainy day.
397 people found this helpful
Shan PowersReviewed in the United States on December 17, 2020
2.0 out of 5 stars
Made no sense
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Every character talks in a monotone mumble.
Over complicated story line that leaves the audience in the dark.
Too many random details that you don't get to connect, leaving you feeling very frustrated.
A few cool action scenes and nice cinematography.
It would have been better if there was an actual emotional connective arc, but pretty much every character was the same monotone one-dimensional character.
I highly recommend NOT watching this movie.
279 people found this helpful
CarlitoReviewed in the United States on November 10, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
His best since Interstellar
I'm not sure what the person before me saw, but this was the only film during the virus that I went to, in IMAX and it blew me away! I would've seen it multiple times if not for the virus. 4.9/5 or 9.8/10

NO SPOILERS - I only had a couple minor technical issues with the film and the 1 everybody talks about was some muffled dialogue behind the awesome score during some action a couple times. Which can easily be remedied with subtitles on streaming or the disc, if that really bothers you, but it didn't me and I was able to enjoy it fully still. I can't wait to watch this over and over on 4K!


If you're a Nolan fan there is definitely something here for you. There are at least 3 great character arcs, but it's an idea driven film and if you are hung up on full character development centered stories and don't pay close attention to those characters, it may not be as enjoyable for you. If you like to shut your brain off during movies, this is almost certainly not for you.

It may not be "Nolan's best" but its better than anything else in the past year. Even though this was made to see in a theater, it's definitely still worth checking out at home, if you have a decent home theater set up.
217 people found this helpful
BobReviewed in the United States on December 16, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
All Hype - Zero Delivery
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1) Tenet fails to establish the "rules" of the Universe. The entire movie you are left wondering what is happening, and why, leading to the "payoff" falling flat.
2) Dialogue volume is too low and they speak to fast. You can barely understand what they are saying.
3) The soundtrack is terrible. It uses mostly digital sounds - there is no score. The volume also plays over the voices.
4) The plot is so rushed I fail to understand what the protagonist is even fighting for. Scenes also are very rushed - even the "scenic" scenes in Italy fail to capture the "awe" of exotic traveling such as the 007 or MI movies.
5) The "Bad Guy" is another "Russian Oligarch" who is "horrible to his wife." Both of these tropes fail to establish an interesting villain. They are shortcuts to make "bad man bad."
6) I stopped watching this 60% of the way through and will not ever pick it up again - this movie is probably D-Tier. Incredible it was even produced with such bad plot

John David Washington should get another chance to star in a big-budget film. He did great.

In sum - this movie is a waste of time!
185 people found this helpful
buddhist writerReviewed in the United States on December 16, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Are you smart enough to like it?
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Not that I'm smart, mind you. But I was smart enough to know a) much of the technical & scientific concepts here are way over my head but b) I can still follow what the smart people are doing. It's like listening to Carl Sagan; I have no idea how he knows what he knows, but I know what he's saying is based in fact.

That said, I thought I was going to dislike this movie, or be bored by it or disappointed in it. I have all of Nolan's movies and none of them is better than this. This is a sleeper. People won't figure out how incredibly good this is for years.

It was all about the visuals for me until the one-hour point. Then, suddenly, it turned. I thought, Oh, this is where it's going to start to suck, like so many other viewers have written. But no. For another hour and 25 minutes, I couldn't leave my seat. I rewound it several times to make sure I caught what it looked like had just happened, just to make sure.

This is Nolan's mind, unleashed. And because he took years to develop this in his head, there is a little too much here for it to be perfect. But I'm just glad he let me come along for the ride because, by the end, I was gobsmacked.

I really believe that if someone says it's not that good or not Nolan's best, they watched it too casually, or maybe they didn't even understand it, even though they thought they understood the concepts. But I'm betting they didn't.

Maybe if I wanted to point out some flaws I could talk about the editing, or the length of some scenes. But there were no flaws in script or acting. I was disappointed about one thing, which you might find funny. There's a teaser that's been airing for months, before the movie was mothballed because of the virus. Robert Pattinson is in a room with JD Washington, expressing a little doubt about whether or not something will work or happen. I can't remember his straight line right now, but JD says, "Well, try to keep up," in a facetious tone with a big smile. That's just a 2-second gem, but they took it out of the movie! Or at least the digital version I watched here.

I bought the package with the added features, so I'll check to see if it's on DVD. But as I said, it's a small thing.

And yes, the sound is muffled. I had to turn my computer and my television up to the highest volume in order to hear at all, & I watch with captions because of a hearing problem in one ear, so even then I didn't catch all the dialog. I'm about to get a Blutooth speaker, so I'll hook that up when it arrives and set it next to my couch so I can listen more closely.

Other filmmakers and critics actually have mentioned the sound mix as well and I read an article by one of them, which Nolan also read and commented on. I'm not sure what he'll do about it, but maybe WB will do a re-issue of this film with an enhanced soundtrack.

Of course, if I'd been able to see it in a theater, as I had planned to do, maybe the sound would be better. I saw Ford v. Ferrari in the IMAX theater at Seattle Center before the pandemic and that was SO worth it. But what if the sound mix on this movie is just as bad in the theater? I've read a few complaints indicating that.

So, you don't need me to tell you the plot or really comment on the actors or the screenplay. It is what others have already said, except this: it isn't a spy thriller. That's a plot line, but it's not THE plot line. It doesn't conform in any way to any spy movie I've seen. The Protagonist exists independent of any agency. He never phones his boss for instructions or receives Top Secret documents or even is confronted by some phalanx of ideological bad guys with a network.

He's on a journey and it takes him to dark places. There are bad guys. There is intrigue. But it's more about physics, and how they can be bent to achieve an end result, whether good or evil. Why it happens to JD in particular is not clear at all to me.

And it doesn't end. It stops. There is more intrigue looming out there. Not sequel-worthy stuff, but more resembling real life, where nothing is ever neatly tied up in a bow while life goes on.

It never resolves and that's just fine with me. I mean, do you remember the ending of Inception? or Memento? Or even Insomnia? Tying bows is not what Nolan in about. There's always something at the end of the tunnel that leads to the Batcave, but it's not what you expect.

The important thing to say is that this movie is brilliant, but you might have to watch it a dozen times to appreciate it fully. There are some production mistakes, like this scene where Pattinson is lying down & then they cut to another angle and he's sitting up. There's no excuse for a bad edit like that, and it startled me & made me lose track, so I had to back it up in order to understand what they're talking about.

In a movie so engrossing, every little misstep will be noticed and potentially ruin the viewer's concentration. So maybe I shouldn't have given it five stars, but if it mattered, i'd only deduct 1/10th of a star for a boo-boo. And if I'd been the editor, I would have made a few different cuts, but I'm not the editor (I have been a film editor), so I'm leaving it alone. Making a movie, bad or good, is incredibly hard from a pre- and post-production standard. This movie came together as if Nolan himself was describing it to you in person.

I suspect it will be in the running for Best Musical Score, and if JD isn't nominated for Best Actor, I don't know what's wrong with the world.

Nolan should also get Best Director for this. I often think about how scenes could have been directed better, but managing to tie all these ideas together cohesively and irresistibly would take God himself. I was humbled by the intricacy of the scenes, how he directed them, the choices he made. On many levels this is the best movie I've ever seen, though it won't stand up against East of Eden or Citizen Kane in the long run.

It's 1 a.m and I'm writing this on a post-TENET buzz, but I believe I've written an honest review, based on the strengths and weaknesses of the movie. Buy it, rent it, watch it. It's absolutely worth it, incomparable and entertaining.
145 people found this helpful
Silas DunnReviewed in the United States on November 11, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Nolan At The Top of His Game -- Visually Speaking
From a visual standpoint, this is Nolan's best work. There are so many mind-blowing sequences that combine beautiful practical effects, brilliant direction, and stunning cinematography. At heart, TENET is a run-of-the-mill spy film--our protagonist (aptly named "The Protagonist") has to save the world from its ultimate doom, there's a girl, there's a wise-cracking British buddy, and the bad guy is both evil and relatable. It's the not-so-run-of-the-mill science fiction thrown in that truly lets this film shine. TENET feels like something that could only have been made through the medium of film. You have to see it to believe it.

While the film certainly has its issues and the narrative has its holes, overall, TENET is a very fascinating trip into a world of espionage that seems like it may not be so far away.
143 people found this helpful
L.SReviewed in the United States on December 17, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
Don’t do it!
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Oh man. I paid $20 for this? Covid buy. This movie was a BAD. I loved Inception and found it original and entertaining but this movie was just terribly boring. Some complained Inception was overly complicated but this moving was overly complicated AND boring AND bad. We restarted it multiple times but could not get into it. The score tried to bring life to a full plot and script. Acting was bland and the script did not bring out the best in these actors. From Michael Caine to the upcoming John David Washington, the actors seemed out of place. Washington looked like he was reciting Shakespeare and everyone else looked like they were reciting Star Wars line. Trying to be too aloof and cold. The good reviews are from emo people. Good movies are NOT overly serious for pretentious or blockbuster sake. This movie reminds me of a b list actor trying their hand at being serious or a pre teen being moody and grumpy to be cool. :( an action film can only be this entertaining if you go the route of True Detective otherwise it’s just not gripping.
94 people found this helpful
Music LoverReviewed in the United States on December 18, 2020
2.0 out of 5 stars
A Real Disappointment
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Disclaimer: I love Sci-Fi and have low standards. I will watch anything with a good premise and poor acting. Having said that I have watched Inception multiple times. It is wonderful so I was lured into Tenet.

Tenet is a boring, loose, remarkably poorly written movie filled with pseudo-science and about one hour too long. Pathetically they seem to have allowed a little plot overhang to allow for a sequel. How can you have a sequel for a movie with almost no plot?
88 people found this helpful
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