‘Tenet’ Reviews: “Stunning Time-Travel Thriller” Or “A Palindromic Dud”? It’s A Mixed Verdict

Ahead of its international rollout starting August 26, the reviews are in for Christoper Nolan’s time-travel thriller Tenet, and fair to say it’s a mixed bag of opinions.

In the UK papers, The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin is firmly in the “yes” camp, with his five-star writeup calling it a “time-bending action spectacular” and adding that it’s “the perfect film to get us back in cinema.” He also thinks that one viewing won’t be enough and that most viewers might struggle to grasp some of the finer points of the movie’s plot.

The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard takes a very different stance, calling it “a palindromic dud” in her two-star critique. Shoard could face the ire of die-hard Nolan fans with her review, which compares Tenet to Team America: World Police and concludes that, “Tenet is not a movie it’s worth the nervous braving a trip to the big screen to see, no matter how safe it is.” Ouch.

The Metro settles on a more measured four-star writeup, with Nola Ojumo saying the film delivers “a fast-paced action thriller” from a smart premise, and reserving particular praise for the performances of John David Washington and Robert Pattinson. The i also strikes a mixed tone, with Joseph Walsh writing that the film is “blissfully ambitious” but adding that “[Nolan’s] methodical approach can feel cold”.

On the consumer side, UK stalwart film mag Empire has also gone four-stars, praising the viewing experience. “By the time it’s done, you might not know what the hell’s gone on, but it is exciting nevertheless,” writes Alex Godfrey. In Little White Lies, Adam Woodward writes “[Tenet] is a natural successor to Inception – for better and for worse.”

The BBC’s Will Gompertz also lands on four-stars, writing that “it won’t leave you shaken, but your mind will be stirred”, but also saying it “has to be worth a trip to the cinema”. A separate review on BBC Culture awards three-stars, with critic Nicholas Barber writing that ultimately “it collapses under the weight of all the plot strands and concepts stuffed into it”.

Over in the U.S., The New York Times’ Jessica Kiang calls it “hugely expensive, blissfully empty spectacle it is difficult to imagine getting made in the near-to-medium future”, while The LA times’ Jonathan Romney reckons the movie “has ambition, ingenuity and imagination aplenty” but “lacks a certain living spark”.

And in the trades, IndieWire calls it a “humourless disappointment” and TheWrap has it as a “head-scratching James Bond homage”. Variety strikes a more positive tone and praises its “muscular gusto”, but THR’s verdict is that it’s “easy to admire, hard to love”.

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