Thanks to his trilogy of Batman movies, and films like INCEPTION and MEMENTO, Christopher Nolan has become one of the most popular filmmakers in the world. He makes heady, ambitious movies that also do very well at the box office. That equation means that Nolan gets to do more or less whatever he wants. His new film is called TENET, a somewhat puzzling title that nonetheless heralds a wild and interesting movie.
While, Nolan and Warner Bros. have been slow to release details about TENET, the trailer has finally arrived. We already knew a fair amount about the film's background, but thanks to the trailer we've got some big questions. Here's everything we know about TENET so far. Just keep in mind that this is a movie about secrets and espionage, and that sense of mystery extends to nearly everything about the film itself.
Christopher Nolan's new movie will be released on July 17, 2020. That's not so long to wait, but still, the TENET release date seems like it's pretty far in the future. But since the film seems to be all about manipulating time, maybe we can do something to make the film debut sooner.
[Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
The first TENET trailer arrived at the end of December. Well, technically, the first teaser was shown only in theatres; it was attached to the release of FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW in August 2019. The TENET footage in that first teaser showed the character played by John David Washington seemingly inspecting bullet holes in glass — but at the time we didn't know what the footage meant.
Now, the official TENET trailer is out, and you can watch it above. It's still pretty mysterious, though! John David Washington's character evidently dies to preserve some secret about his work and/or colleagues. That sacrifice is apparently a test which acts as the gateway to a whole new sort of espionage work. It's all to prevent "something worse" than World War III and nuclear holocaust. But what, exactly?
Having watched that first trailer, you probably have as many questions as we do. Here's what we know about the plot and story of TENET. It is "an action epic evolving from the world of international espionage." That's all we've got. That sentence comes from the "start of production" memo from Warner Bros.
We do know that Nolan wrote the script, as he often does, and that actors such as Robert Pattinson could only read the TENET script in isolation, to avoid plot leaks. "I got locked in a room to read the script," Pattinson told USA Today. We also know, from the production memo, that Nolan is filming in seven countries, with IMAX and 70mm cameras, as he did on DUNKIRK, pictured above. That means TENET will be released, per Nolan's preference, in premium-format theatres such as Cinemark XD.
A "tenet" is a core principle or belief, especially with respect to deep pursuits like religion and philosophy. (The Ten Commandments are tenets of Christianity, for example.) What does the definition of the title mean for this movie? Great question! "Tenet" could also mean the core idea of a case or the main principle by which a character goes about their work. Since the film clearly has an espionage aspect, "tenet" could also apply to beliefs about how information is being relayed — and then what happens if those beliefs turn out to be wrong?
Ultimately, what we know is that Martin Donovan's character, who seems to usher Washington into his new line of work, says "all I have for you is a word: Tenet. It'll open the right doors. Some of the wrong ones, too."
Maybe? Take the fact that Washington's character is said to have died for his teammates. If so, how is he brought back into what Martin Donovan's character calls "the afterlife"? And what about the scene in which Washington and the Robert Pattinson character are in a car, during which time seems to rewind, or flow backwards? Finally, there's the "bullet holes in glass" sequence, teased in the original theatrical-only teaser, in which the main character says whatever causes the holes "hasn't happened yet." Are these characters moving about in time, or do they somehow exist outside of time?
In addition to the aforementioned John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, TENET also features Elizabeth Debicki (recently seen in VITA & VIRGINIA), Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Clémence Poésy, with Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh. That's an interesting lineup, and with the exception of Caine and Branagh, it is mostly made up of actors who are new to Nolan's films. The director has established a pattern of working with actors more than once, but for TENET he has a fairly fresh ensemble.
We're eager to learn a lot more about TENET, but the slow reveal of the film's story is actually a lot of fun. Just think about how we typically know so much about any given movie before it opens. Nolan's previous film, DUNKIRK, was a wonderful surprise because we knew so little about the filmmaker's adventurous approach to a war movie. That holds true for this film, too, and we can't wait for the lights to go down next summer, so Christopher Nolan can surprise us again with TENET.
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.