Perhaps the numbers don’t reflect it, but for us Tenet was the cinema experience of 2020. It’s out now on (4K) Blu-Ray, which is a great reason to watch it (again) – as this is a movie that just begs for multiple viewings.
Of course, the numbers we’re referring to have a lot to do with the fact that 2020 was a bit of a special year for movie theaters, to put it lightly. The highest grossing movie this year wasn’t Tenet or the new James Bond, but Bad Boys for Life, which benefitted greatly from its January release date.
No Time To Die was pushed back to 2021, but underneath its sci-fi premise there was plenty of international espionage to enjoy in Tenet, which came out during the summer period when theaters were starting to open again. For those who enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s previous reality-bending films Inception and Interstellar, it was an experience that was well worth the wait – especially because Tenet leans more towards an action thriller than Nolan’s previous works did. As a result, theater visitors left the building with a sensation not too unlike that of a great rollercoaster of a movie, even though (in true Nolan fashion) many were still scratching their heads wrapping their thoughts around an ambitious and complex narrative.
Even though the film once again explores time travel/bending, as Nolan has done before, the concept of reserving times and traveling backwards through it is as original and fascinating a take on the premise as we’ve ever seen. It makes for some wonderful set pieces, as well as plenty of mystery and intrigue, including quite a few visual cues about what’s about to come – or is something that’s already happened? Even at two and a half hours, it’s a movie you’ll want to view again just to try and piece it all together.
Sure, it’s not a perfect film, and because the mystery (or should we say ‘puzzle’) is so front and center it can be hard to empathize with the characters that are with you for almost the full length of the movie. Perhaps this was intentional, as our main hero doesn’t even have a name and is simply dubbed “the protagonist” in the credits. He’s left to uncover his purpose while we watch, while antagonist Kenneth Branagh seems to be “in on it” right from the start, creating an interesting relationship between these two puzzle pieces as soon as the characters are introduced, even though we can’t quite place them yet.
As mentioned, this was the definitive cinema experience for us this year, so how does it translate to the home screen? In its 4K incarnation it features a shifting aspect ratio, just like the cinema version did – alternating between 2.20:1 and 1.78:1 in between certain scenes – which adds a bit of visual flair and dramatic effect as long as the screen you’re watching on is big enough. At a 3840 x 2160p resolution with 10-bit video and HDR, the imagery is incredibly sharp, with a good use of focus and contrast highlighting those all-important clues for viewers.
The audio is equally impressive, with a bass-heavy soundtrack that really adds to the suspense and drama. And just as little visual details feel impactful, so too do the many subtle and pronounced audio effects. The whoosh of an objects traveling back through time as it passes by immediately puts you on edge, because nothing is certain and things don’t always unfold in a chronological sense, crafting an audiovisual overload where you’re constantly trying to pay attention to every on-screen and auditory detail – and the 4K BluRay, with its DTS HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, certainly delivers in bringing that to home audiences.
Watching Tenet at home also means you have access to an additional disc with extras, which are structured as a series of short features on various aspects of the film making – from casting to narrative development and structure. You’ll also find out more about the filming locations, wardrobe choices and music, but it was the narrative angle that made us want to dive right back into a third viewing of the movie and “see for ourselves”. If you haven’t seen it yet, treat yourself to Tenet now that it’s available – it’s 2020’s best big screen production, and one that deserved larger audiences than it was allowed to have.