Tenet: Most critics laud Christopher Nolan for ‘mind-bending’ blockbuster

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Warner Bros

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John David Washington and Robert Pattinson star in Tenet

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has been billed not only as his latest blockbuster, but also as the film that could save cinema in 2020.

So no pressure then – and now the first reviews are in.

Critics have described it as everything from a “mind-bending wonder” to “a dud”.

The fantasy spy epic was originally set to debut in UK cinemas on 17 July, but was pushed back (several times) to 26 August due the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some cinema chains, such as Vue, which reopened this month using social distancing, even planned its return around the title.

But is it any good?

The Guardian didn’t think the film itself was worth the wait, or the hype, giving it two stars out of five. “Christopher Nolan’s thriller is a palindromic dud,” wrote Catherine Shoard.

However, she did note how the importance of its attempt to get bums back on seats during a worldwide pandemic would ultimately outweigh any critic’s score.

“If the long-awaited sci-fi from the Inception director restarts the summer of cinema it will go down as his finest hour. But Tenet is far from his finest work.”

The Daily Telegraph, on the other hand, plumped for full marks – five out five. Its writer Robbie Collin urged viewers: “Don’t try to understand it – just rewind and enjoy the ride.”

He wrote: “Christopher Nolan’s time-bending action spectacular is the perfect film to get us back in cinemas – one viewing just won’t be enough.”

‘Mythical status’

Screen International, meanwhile, said the movie had already “achieved almost mythical status” for the plan to roll it out internationally wherever cinemas are open next week, before its US release.

“It’s certainly a film for the occasion and it is to be hoped it proves a rallying cry for audiences to get back on socially distanced seats,” wrote Fionnuala Halligan.

“Some may be disappointed that it is not connected narratively to Inception, and it lacks the pyrotechnics of that 2010 film. It’s a dream ride, though, for the most part, for anyone looking for glitzy escapism, and who wouldn’t include themselves in that demographic right now?”

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Elizabeth Debicki co-stars with Washington

The 152-minute movie focuses on The Protagonist, played by John David Washington, trying to save the world from disaster. Its cast also includes Robert Pattinson, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Elizabeth Debicki.

Tenet’s performance at the box office will be viewed as an indicator of the public’s willingness to return to the socially-distanced cinema. The other major August release, Disney’s Mulan, has now gone direct to home viewing via Disney+.

‘His own Bond film’

Movie website Empire opted for four stars, with writer Alex Godrey declaring that “Nolan has made his own Bond film here, borrowing everything he likes about it, binning everything he doesn’t, then Nolaning it all up”.

The same score was awarded by Nola Ojomu, who explained in The Metro that the movie “tinkers with time”.

She wrote: “Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is another mind-bending wonder that delves into the intricacies of physics while delivering a fast-paced action thriller.”

Finally, the NME crowned Nolan the “king of cerebral blockbusters”.

“Though it’s sometimes hamstrung by clumsy dialogue – a necessary evil, perhaps, given how much Nolan needs to explain – Tenet is rarely less than thrilling to watch,” offered Nick Levine.

“It’s a challenging, ambitious and genuinely original film packed with compelling performances – Washington and Debicki are especially excellent – which confirms Nolan as the master of the cerebral blockbuster. And if you can, you need to see this visually stunning movie on a big screen.”

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