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Everything We Know About Christopher Nolan’s TENET

Christopher Nolan is a man of mystery. The director responsible for acclaimed films like Memento, The Dark Knight trilogy, and Dunkirk has a new film on the horizon. And, as was the case with all of his previous projects, we know very little about it, even so close to its release. Though that hasn’t stop smart and astute fans from theorizing.

The obfuscation is certainly by design. Nolan films are always shrouded in mystery, until the first press releases and trailers start eking out, slowly painting a portrait of what to expect. Even films like his Batman trilogy, based on preexisting characters, or Dunkirk, based on a true story, are unique in format and presentation. That’s part of what make his films so anticipated: We have no idea what to expect until we’re watching the finished product.

So no, we don’t know much about his next movie. We know that it’s called Tenet. We know the final cast. And here is everything else we know—or can guess—about Tenet so far.

The title is a palindrome.

This isn’t a huge reveal and doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but knowing Nolan, it’s something to consider. “Tenet” is spelled the same backwards and forwards. Given Nolan’s obsession with time, we have a feeling this will play into the plot of the film…

Robert Pattinson Says There's No Time Traveling in TENET_1Warner Bros.

The cast is stacked.

Nolan put together an impressive cast for Tenet. BlackKklansman actor John David Washington will play the lead in the film. Washington is the son of actor Denzel Washington and was nominated for a Golden Globe and SAG for his work in last year’s Spike Lee film. He was also seen on the HBO series Ballers.

Washington will be joined by Widows actress Elizabeth Debicki, as well as soon-to-be-Batman actor Robert Pattinson. The rest of the cast includes Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Clémence Poésy.

It has three trailers.

Currently, the official plot synopsis consists of a single, vague indication of what the film’s about. Tenet “is an action epic evolving from the world of international espionage.” Fortunately, the first trailer, released in December 2019 gives us a little bit more to go on.

Sure, it’s not too much. But it appears Tenet explores life, death, and beyond—with a mysterious, action-packed twist.

A second trailer released in May 2020 shows even more—but still not much! We see John David Washington catching bullets. We hear something about World War III. What is going on?

The third—and longest—trailer gives us the best idea of what the film is actually about as Clémence Poésy’s scientist character explain’s time inversion to John David Washington’s Protagonist. The trailer features “The Plan,” Travis Scott’s song specifically written for the film.

The description also contains some key plot info for the very enigmatic film: “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 has a release date—sort of? Sigh. 

Arguably one of the most frustrating ongoing bits during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown has been the release date of Tenet. The film was originally supposed to release on July 17. When it was clear that wasn’t going to happen in a safe way, it was moved to August 12. Now, who even knows when it’ll actually come out? In wide release in the States anyway. Overseas, it’s set for an August 26 release date. It will supposedly open in “select cities” in the U.S. on September 3, but again, we’re not holding our breath. We’re sure it’ll come out someday, though.

Robert Pattinson Says There's No Time Traveling in TENET_2Warner Bros.

It’s an action movie with shades of Inception.

A Variety source described the movie as a “massive action blockbuster,” with The Hollywood Reporter describing it as “a globe-trotting adventure that has shades of the mind-bending nature of Inception but does involve the time continuum.” We also know, thanks to Deadline, that the film is shooting in seven different countries. While the film remains shrouded in secrecy, one thing we do know is there is no time travel. In a May 2020 GQ interview, Robert Pattinson joked that it was the “one thing” he’s allowed to say about the film. Of his character, he said, “He’s not a time traveler. There’s actually no time traveling.”

Additionally, he commented on the set pieces, revealing, “And in each country there’s, like, an enormous set-piece scene, which is like the climax of a normal movie. In every single country.” While Nolan encouraged GQ to take Pattinson’s words with a grain of salt, they do line up with the multiple high-concept, action-packed moments Nolan’s become known for.

So what *is* Tenet about? You can read our article theorizing the plot might involve thermodynamic principles here.

Christopher Nolan is working with a new editor. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan has tapped Hereditary editor Jennifer Lame to work with him on the film. This is a pretty big deal, since the director has worked with previous editor Lee Smith on every one of his films since Batman Begins. Smith won an Oscar for their collaboration on Dunkirk. There don’t appear to be any hard feelings between the two, however; Smith is just booked up. He’s currently at work with Sam Mendes on World War I epic, 1917.

Hans Zimmer is not doing the score.

Nolan and composer Han Zimmer go together like PB&J, but they will not collaborate this time around. Ludwig Göransson will handle the score for Tenet. But don’t worry, as with Smith, there’s no bad blood involved. Zimmer sat this one out to work on Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.

Header Image: Warner Bros.

Originally published on March 20, 2019, and updated on July 31, 2020.