Tenet (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

One of the supposed theatrical events of the year became about as tricky to market, release, and watch as it was to make. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet went from being one of the year’s most anticipated films to a supposed savior of the movie theater experience to something of a muted punchline. Little of this actually reflects on the film’s quality, a globetrotting sci-fi action flick, which I found to be quite enjoyable, and no doubt a work of art when it comes to the technical prowess on display. While many could not experience Tenet in its intended 70mm IMAX experience form, there is, fortunately, a terrific 4K UHD Blu-ray experience that easily delivers the thrilling action ride many are hoping for at home.


The film stars John David Washington as a CIA agent known only as the “Protagonist.” He is pulled into a secret organization called Tenet, which relies on highly trained individuals who utilize various objects, including bullets, that have had their entropy inverted – more succinctly, they have material that can move backward through time.

With this knowledge and the help of other spies, including a handler, Neil (Robert Pattinson), the Protagonist is tasked with stopping a Russian oligarch, Andrei Sator (Kenneth Brannagh), from doing something quite dangerous and world-threatening. To get to him, the protagonist will have to rely on Sator’s weak spot, his estranged wife, Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), among skills to stop what may have already happened from happening…again.

What has been described may seem a little complicated, but Tenet can really be boiled down to a storyline no different than one of the James Bond films Christopher Nolan absolutely loves. And make no mistake, if you were not aware of Nolan’s fondness for Bond films, let alone the work of Michael Mann and Michael Bay, Tenet is a great reminder of how he’s pushed forward with some of his key influences in mind. Still, that’s not to say there’s no originality or ambition on display. On the contrary, much like the other films Nolan has released and won his fair share of praise for, Tenet is another accomplishment in combining mind-bending visuals with the collected confidence of a slick action film.

From a technical perspective, Tenet is simply marvelous. I’ve seen the film twice at this point, just recently at home, but first at a drive-in (my lovely girlfriend was even able to put together a review before I could), and the sense of awe that comes from watching a film like this remains apparent. Given how Nolan likes to do as much “in-camera” as he can, it’s no surprise to hear him talk about the small number of visual effects shots there are in this film. With an emphasis on real-world action that happens to sometimes run in reverse, the spectacle is less about creating something otherworldly as seen in Interstellar or Inception, to a point, and more about how the perception of time can be manipulated through visceral fight scenes and car chases.

To make this possible, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and the production team pull out the stops on their use of IMAX photography all over the world to bring together larger-than-life spectacle. Having Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson step into the place usually reserved by Nolan for Hans Zimmer was a great touch as well, with a new kind of theme working well to approximate the unique mood captured on camera.

More importantly, however, thanks to work from the actors and the stunt team, as the film builds into embracing its inverted action, the effort to convey a world that runs simultaneously backward and forwards is a real trip to watch. Sure, the nature of this concept is a little less trailer-friendly than bending worlds on top of each other (and coupled with the relatively straightforward presentation of theoretical science, I can see this film functioning less as crowd-pleasing fun compared to some of Nolan’s other Summer spectacles). However, there’s still a level of wonder baked into a film involving groups of people seeing time differently from everyone else.

Working well to bring an audience in is Washington as the Protagonist. There are few times when the casting in a Nolan film seems crucial to how its narrative can flow, but Washington provides a certain ‘X’ factor that other leads can’t. Not unlike his father, there’s a certain kick in seeing a man confronted with heady concepts and proceeding forward with an energy that shows mild disbelief and assured confidence all at once. While I don’t think Nolan is making a statement, having a black lead for the first time allows for a different groove to settle in between the Protagonist and the rest of this well-equipped cast.

Coming as no surprise is the abilities of Pattinson, who washes into this film with a sort of ease that makes it a lot of fun when just hanging out with him and Washington in the few moments of downtime. Debicki may serve as the damsel in distress enough to truly evoke some older Bond films, she still works well with Washington and the other force to be reckoned with. That would be Branagh, who is not hiding his lack of additional shading. As Sator, he proceeds like a constantly angry brute with little motivation beyond screaming at underlings. It’s a big performance, and honestly welcome for someone like Branagh, who can enjoyably be devoid of other human characteristics.

One could be tempted to say the film is held back by its clear delivery of information though I would personally say Tenet never had me at a loss for what was taking place. This has nothing to do with the nature of sound in the film. While I recognize those who have trouble hearing dialogue are making valid points when it comes to deciphering what’s taking place, I simply didn’t have the issue, and therefore can’t comment on it. As far as the finer details presented in the film, however, anything I may have missed or any areas seemingly lacking nuance feel more like a way to reward myself on re-watches, as I’ve already gotten plenty of joy from Tenet, to begin with.

The entertainment factor ultimately is a major aspect to recognize with this film. Once again, Nolan has made a film that does have a lot going on to accompany various action set pieces, requiring that his audience simply pays attention. I found the journey to not only be a weighty one in terms of the latest version of fictional science propped up for a Summer blockbuster but one full of cool moments and a lot of fun. Sure, the tone is a match for Nolan as far as characters speaking with the driest sense of humor while performing complicated feats, but I dig it. Adding on a new wrinkle in the form of reversing the flow of time is the sort of challenge I could only be excited about because a film of this scale could use a major change up and a new kind of protagonist.



Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.2:1 / 1.78:1 (IMAX Sequences)

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: It would be weird if I rated this lower. At this point, no one is expecting the home release of a Nolan film to underperform, especially with a 4K presentation, complete with HDR. Yes, the picture size changes in the aspect ratio are intact. I can’t recall if this is the most done with IMAX footage incorporation, but this is a big movie that takes great advantage of all that’s in the frame. Details are extremely strong throughout, with plenty of little elements such as the dust forming around bullets moving backward or the intricacies of the costumes and environments seen around the world. The major moments, such as an explosive 747 or various buildings that deliver on what you’d expect as well – giant action that looks gorgeous. This is all that you want in a 4K UHD disc.

Depth: Thanks to the heavy Bond influence, there’s a lot of traveling worldwide, which provides lots of great establishing shots. This means getting to see characters inserted into unique locations, and the spacing and foreground/background distancing is always clean and cinematic in nature, as intended. There’s never any level of distortion, and movements always come through smooth.

Black Levels: The black levels are very strong, using the nighttime and darker interiors to properly convey the right sense of shadow and saturation. No crushing whatsoever, with deep black levels found in various settings and areas such as hair or vehicles.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite strong. While the Nolan factor means stripping down in many instances, there’s still so much atmosphere and environment thanks to costume choices and fancy locations, such as various nice dinners. It allows the film to truly shine in showing off these areas regarding buildings, landscapes, food, and more. Also, the flames from explosions look spectacular. The HDR comes in well to further heighten the level color on display.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures all feature a great level of detail and are consistent throughout. This is particularly the case when considering the lighting on people like John David Washington. The team knew what to do in making sure everyone stands out as needed.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean as an artifact.



Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Descriptive Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital, French (Canada) 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Portuguese

Dynamics: Yes, once again, Nolan has opted to have his film arrive on 4K Blu-ray with the original 5.1 theatrical mix, as opposed to Dolby Atmos. No, it does not mean this mix should be counted out or against, as it is a fully immersive experience. Anyone complaining about sound may be hard-pressed to find issue with the amount of care that goes into arranging so much action, music, effects, and other aspects and having it turn into an extension of what’s already worked on a visual level. The explosions, gunfire, car crashes, and more are all handled incredibly well to deliver blockbuster entertainment right in your home.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: Explosions, gunshots, plane crashes, and other big moments are going to keep any subwoofer gasping for air by the time this film comes to an end.

Surround Sound Presentation: A great balance is created here, as the surround presentation does all it needs to deliver an immersive world as necessary for this film. Being an immaculate track, there a great sense to the layering of sound, making the necessary arrangements for any viewer by keeping all five speakers equipped in the right sense.

Dialogue Reproduction: Yes, the center focus on dialogue will remain a sticking point for some, but, if anything, it’s even more ideal for people now. Outside of scenes that are deliberately debilitating, I had no issue.



As one expects from a Nolan film, the bonus features are housed on a second Blu-ray disc to ensure sufficient space for the main feature on both the 4K disc and the Blu-ray copy of the film. Fortunately, while Nolan is not a fan of commentary tracks, he does let viewers have a peek behind the curtain with a well-structured, behind-the-scenes documentary covering various aspects of the film.

Features Include:

  • Looking at the World in a New Way: The Making of Tenet (HD, 1:15:22) – A 13-part making-of, featuring interviews with the cast and crew, along with some great looks at the production. Fans and those interested will get a lot out of how Tenet was made. It would have been nice to hear more about the film conceptually and from a visual effects perspective (used however sparingly), but this still covers plenty of ground. This feature gives the viewer the option to watch chapter by chapter or to play all.

    • I. The Principle of Belief (HD, 4:06) – A brief dig into the film’s inspiration.
    • II. Mobilizing The Troupe (HD, 6:34) – Discussing the cast that was assembled.
    • III. The Approach (HD, 4:40) – Going over the ambitious ideas that go into making the movie.
    • IV. The Proving Window (HD, 4:45) – The camera operators discuss the challenge of the film and how to shoot it, based on the premise.
    • V. The Roadmap (HD, 5:05) – Nolan discusses how perspective plays a role in the film’s tricky narrative.
    • VI. Entropy In Action (HD, 10:47) – The ambitious idea of characters moving in reverse is explored.
    • VII. Traversing The Globe (HD, 12:27) ­– Going over the filming of the big boat sequence, noting the intense speeds and danger of the stunts.
    • VIII. How Big A Plane? (HD, 4:47) – A look at an explosive plane sequence.
    • IX. The Dress Code (HD, 3:51) ­– Many great suits in this movie. This is a look at the costume design.
    • X. Constructing The Twilight World (HD, 5:26) – This chapter focuses on the film’s production design, which includes miniatures!
    • XI. The Final Battle (HD, 4:10) – A look at the massively scaled final battle sequence.
    • XII. Cohesion (HD, 5:37) – This features digs into the score by Ludwig Goransson and the editing process for screening purposes.
    • XIII. Doesn’t Us Being Here Now Mean It Never Happened? (HD, 3:48) – Concluding thoughts from the cast and crew.
  • Featured Extra – From Here to There (HD, 10:47) – An iTunes exclusive bonus that tracks Nolan’s path from his earliest blockbuster to Tenet.
  • Trailers (HD) – Features the teaser and all four theatrical trailers.
  • Blu-ray Copy of the Film
  • Digital 4K UHD Copy of the Film



Tenet became more of a curiosity than anyone would have expected at the start of this year. For various reasons involving the world, people’s attitudes, and perceived thoughts on Nolan, the intended blockbuster will not be seen for what it was for some time at this point. From my perspective, however, it’s a blast that’s only gotten better with more views. Unsurprisingly, the 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation is stellar, to say the least, with a fantastic picture to be found, and accompanied by a marvelous 5.1 track. As usual, the bonus material does just enough to provide insight into the production while still holding onto some of the tricks of the trade. Given its somewhat botched theatrical viewership, there’s little reason why Tenet shouldn’t be a home release any action/sci-fi/blockbuster fan would want to check out. It only helps to have a release that delivers as strongly as this does.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Tenet (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Ulises

    I think is a 100 gb disc.