Filmmaker Christopher Nolan‘s sci-fi, time-bending, super spy thriller moves from its anemic debut in pandemic-ravaged theaters to ultra-high definition home theaters in Tenet (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 114 minutes, $29.99).
CIA agent nicknamed Protagonist (John David Washington, son of Denzel) nearly dies in a terrorist raid and gets unwillingly recruited into a secret organization called Tenet looking to stop a threat to humanity worse than a nuclear apocalypse.
Specifically, technology from the future that can invert time and, in the wrong hands of angry Russian arms dealer Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), crumple the present and destroy the world.
The team including the Protagonist’s handler Neil (Robert Pattinson) must work with Sator’s estranged wife Katherine (Elizabeth Debicki) to find the parts of an algorithm before her husband and stop the future from meddling with the present.
Harrowing car chases and escapes, plenty of backwards travelling bullets, a mind-bending temporal pincer movement in which two teams of soldiers work together in forward and inverted time and a close-quarters combat scene between the Protagonist and someone he knows far too well lead to some fun moments in the film.
However, I’ll admit to having my brain demolished by years of movies that go boom, and I was going to need a physicist sitting next to me to actually decipher the depths of Mr. Nolan‘s complex themes of entropy (measure of chaos in the universe), temporal paradoxes and messing with linear time.
Now twin that with some hard-to-understand dialogue and too-simmering scenes and what should have been a high-impact, “James Bond”- or “Mission Impossible”-style spectacle becomes a sometimes confusing and plodding experience reserved for only the most committed.
“Tenet” needs patience to be appreciated as well as repeated viewings to not only warm up to Mr. Washington’s understated performance but to follow along with the director’s ambitious vision.
4K in action: A glorious 2160p transfer culled from a 4K digital intermediate (derived from 65 and 70mm film stock) gushes with color and clarity while further enhanced by Mr. Nolan‘s signature filming style of incorporating a selection of IMAX full screen (ratio of 1.78:1) scenes into the movie.
The IMAX choice allows cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema to take full visual advantage of some lush or intricate landscape around the world including scenes in a National Opera House in Ukraine, a massive wind farm off the coast of Denmark’s Rødbyhavn or some stunning views of Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
The IMAX mixes with 4K in one of the bigger moments of the film as a transport plane drives through a hangar in the Oslo airport spilling shimmering gold bars from its rear while feeling like it is driving into a viewer’s home entertainment room.
Throughout, the inverted effect looks equally detailed, be it smoke particles moving in reverse, explosions reversed in time or a range of bullets moving back into weapons.
Best extras: Viewers get a second 4K disc that contains a 13-part, 75-minute overview of the entire production covering segments on the exploding plane sequence, costuming, production design, practical effects, the cast, musical score and the final battle sequence.
It’s worth watching as it really explains some of the practical effects and precise close combat choreography required to pull off the reverse tricks in the film.
However, I would have much preferred Mr. Nolan offering an optional commentary track with his consultant Kip Thorne, Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, to help explain some of the more head-shaking concepts in the movie.
Also, use the included code for the Movies Anywhere streaming option and check out the bonus extra on iTunes that offers a 11-minute synopsis of Mr. Nolan‘s movies with words from the director and many of his key production team.