TENET (2020) Reviews and overview

What do you think of this movie? Click on a star to rate it

‘Time runs out’

Tenet is a 2020 American science-fiction action feature film about one man’s mission to save the world beyond real-time via Inversion.

Written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan (Interstellar; Inception; The Dark Knight trilogy; Memento), the Syncopy-Warner Bros. production stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, Himesh Patel, Martin Donovan and Denzil Smith.


Armed with only one word—Tenet—and 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. Not time travel. Inversion.


” …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.” BBC.com

“It may be hard to find Tenet’s dense sci-fi concept truly exciting on first viewing—frankly, there is so much else going on demanding your attention. But it is easy to sit back and revel in the wonder of the big-screen experience, and to immediately want to see the film again. And again.” Deadline

“See it on the biggest screen you can with the very best sound system and immerse yourself in Ludwig Göransson’s pulsing, pounding score. The most important film of the year is a heavy weight to carry, and Tenet for the most part pulls it off. This may not be a perfect film but it could just be perfect cinema.” Den of Geek

” …if you’re after a big old explosive Nolan braingasm, that is exactly what you’re going to get, shot on old-fashioned film too (as the end credits proudly state). By the time it’s done, you might not know what the hell’s gone on, but it is exciting nevertheless. It is ferociously entertaining.” Empire

Tenet spends more time revelling in the visual spectacle of an inverted world than establishing the stakes of what that would actually entail. While it appears to be every bit as visually complex and arresting as Inception or Interstellar, there’s a noticeable lack of emotional pay-off or resonance by the third act conclusion.” FilmBunker

“It’s as infuriating as it is masterful and challenges the audience to match the intelligence of a filmmaker who conjures a dense, knotty narrative framework and then hammers the gas pedal so hard that no audience could keep pace. More than anything the director has produced before, this feels like he has made his James Bond film…” Flickering Myth

” …no single film will be responsible for bringing an entire industry back from the brink, but after two and a half hours in the thrall of Christopher Nolan’s staggeringly ambitious brain-bender, it’s clear why PVOD was never an option. A monumental big-screen spectacle, Tenet is a film that perfectly exemplifies what makes the cinema experience – in all its heart-stopping grandeur – quite so special.” Games Radar

“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 Guardian

” …Nolan crafts another expansive, vast, engrossing film that is as extraordinary (maybe even more so) than anything he has crafted before, delivering some feats of imagination, craftsmanship and sheer majesty the likes of which he himself couldn’t have dreamed of executing so precisely and so beautifully.” HeyUGuys

” …a chilly, cerebral film — easy to admire, especially since it’s so rich in audacity and originality, but almost impossible to love, lacking as it is in a certain humanity.” The Hollywood Reporter

“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.” IGN

“Threats emerge from hidden sources, their tendrils reaching out and slowly wrapping themselves around the Earth’s circumference. In the place of words, atmosphere thrives. Tenet is ruled by a deep, perfidious sense of tension. It’s the rare action film where the characters don’t just say the world will end if they fail in their mission – you feel it, too.” Independent

“What’s really there to untangle, beyond loops of string and a whole lot of smoke rings? Anyone ready to obsess over a doodad on a backpack as they did over the spinning top of “Inception” can cling to the illusion of Nolan as the movie messiah. On this evidence, though, he’s become a very trying, ungenerous, ever-so-slightly dull boy.” IndieWire

” …at a bottom-numbing 150 minutes, the film is a good twenty minutes too long. In particular, there are several military shoot out scenes that seem to go on forever and could easily have been cut down. On top of everything else, the film isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is, and anyone familiar with time-bending genre movies (e.g. Timecrimes) will have some idea of what to expect from the twists, despite the originality of the basic concept.” Nerdly

” …take away the time-bending gimmick, and Tenet is a series of timidly generic set pieces: heists, car chases, bomb disposals, more heists. But then, the lie of Nolan’s career has been that he makes the traditionally teenage-boy-aimed blockbuster smarter and more adult, when what he really does is ennoble the teenage boy fixations many of us adults still cherish…” The New York Times

“Occasionally crucial lines of dialogue are muffled – a frustration given just how dense the script is – but Tenet is best approached as an experience to be felt rather than comprehensively understood. Sit back, relax and prepare to have your mind blown.” South China Morning Post

” …the viewer’s investment is purely intellectual; there are no real stakes in the outcome beyond the satisfaction of seeing the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Nonetheless, Nolan delivers a staggeringly ambitious sci-fi and sleek, compact action-thriller all in one: Tenet is technically excellent and challenging…” Starburst

“Nolan devotees will still get a kick out of Tenet’s cerebral ideas and no doubt forgive its overloaded climax, while the more casual cinemagoer will get plenty of bang for their buck amid its vast visuals […] But it’s hard to escape the sense that less might have been more.” Time Out

“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…” Variety

“Nolan’s go-for-broke ambition should be celebrated. But it’s hard to shake the suspicion that Tenet amounts, ultimately, to a Bond knock-off with a sci-fi gimmick. It may echo the cleverness of Rian Johnson’s Looper and Shane Carruth’s Primer in its dizzying disregard for linear chronology, but the plotting is muddled rather than complex, with less to say about the flow of time than Interstellar or Memento. The Wrap


The UK release was cut by nine seconds. Censorship body the British Board of Film Classification made this statement:

“During post-production, the distributor sought and was given advice on how to secure the desired classification. Following this advice, certain changes were made prior to submission. This film was originally seen for advice. The company was advised it was likely to be classified 15 uncut but that their preferred 12A classification could be obtained by making small changes to one scene to remove shots of a man kicking a woman.”

The 12A rating for Tenet has been granted for “moderate violence, threat, domestic abuse, and infrequent strong language.”

Main cast and characters:

Robert Pattinson … Neil
Elizabeth Debicki … Kat
John David Washington … The Protagonist
Aaron Taylor-Johnson … Ives
Kenneth Branagh … Andrei Sator
Clémence Poésy … Laura
Michael Caine … Michael Crosby
Andrew Howard … Stephen
Fiona Dourif … Wheeler
Wes Chatham … Sammy
Himesh Patel … Mahir
Martin Donovan … Victor
Anthony Molinari … Rohan
Jack Cutmore-Scott
Yuri Kolokolnikov … Quinton

Technical details:

150 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.20: 1
Audio: IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Digital | Sonics-DDP | DTS (DTS: X)


Our rating:

MOVIES and MANIA provides an aggregated range of film reviews from a wide variety of credited sources, plus our own reviews and ratings, in one handy web location. We are a genuinely independent website and rely solely on the minor income generated by internet ads to stay online and expand. Please support us by not blocking ads. If you do block ads please consider making a small donation to our running costs instead. We'd really appreciate it. Thank you. As an Amazon Associate, the owner occasionally earns a small amount from qualifying linked purchases.