Tenet: Limited Release Coming In September, Wide After

Tenet director Christopher Nolan has long been known as one of the best filmmakers in the movie game

By Doug Norrie | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old

Tenet movie

Tenet director Christopher Nolan has long been known as one of the best filmmakers in the movie game, this much isn’t new. His written and directorial work is often around deconstructing the ideas of time (relative and otherwise) with a different sense of reality and how that reality can be bent, shaped and reconfigured to fit a broad idea into even a simple storyline. 

Movies like Memento, Inception, and Interstellar molded some of these themes on both large and small scales. Telling a story in reverse, living out new worlds in dreams, or even reaching the edge of the galaxy to find solutions to problems here on Earth are just some of those ideas.

But he also has an extreme sense of character motivation, strong ideas about the blurred line between good and evil and the moral choices that shape how humans perceive their own realities. The Prestige and especially the entire Dark Knight series were key in developing these concepts. This is all to say, Nolan has insane range while also keeping a certain stylistic component. 

Now, in his latest, it appears he’s still working with some of the same thought experiments, with a movie about non-linear sequencing, time travel, a worldwide mystery unfolding through possibly multiple continuums and a character inserted into the middle of the “big picture”. It looks very Nolan-ish in that respect and there’s quite a bit we already know about the much-anticipated, though very guarded, Tenet

Release Date 

Tenet release date

Originally Tenet was targeted for a release date of July, 17 2020. Now the movie’s slated for a limited release in the United States on September 3, 2020. The plan is for it to gradually go wide after that, as (hopefully) more movie theaters open.

Tenet director Christopher Nolan has been adamant that his movie MUST be shown in a movie theater and cannot go direct to streaming.

Writing And Directing

Chris Nolan

As with most of Christopher Nolan’s movies he’s not only directing Tenet, but also wrote the script. In fact, in terms of feature-length films, the only one that he directed in which he didn’t handle the writing duties was Insomnia.

Of the eight films Nolan has written and directed, the average Rotten Tomatoes score is 86% with the lowest being Interstellar at 72% and the highest Dark Knight at 94%. Few other directors can claim this kind of resume especially when it comes to big-budget movies. But his singular vision consistently wins the day with both critics and fans alike. 

Music is often a key element in Nolan films and the score for Tenet was composed by Ludwig Goransson. He’s handled the composition for quite a few other well-received movies like Creed and Creed II, Black Panther, Venom and Everything, Everything. 

Making Tenet

Tenet set

Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman aren’t in Tenet, but they’ve worked with the movie’s director Christopher Nolan on other movies. The pair recently gave us a window into what it’s like to make a movie with Christopher Nolan and, apparently, it doesn’t involve cell phones or chairs.

After Hugh confirmed that Nolan doesn’t allow phones Anne Hathway says, “Chris also doesn’t allow chairs. I worked with him twice. He doesn’t allow chairs, and his reasoning is, if you have chairs, people will sit, and if they’re sitting, they’re not working. I mean, he has these incredible movies in terms of scope and ambition and technical prowess and emotion. It always arrives at the end under schedule and under budget. I think he’s onto something with the chair thing.”

Maybe he is on to something with the no chairs and the no cell phones rule. Just remember when you’re watching Tenet though, that everyone behind the camera is exhausted from standing up all day while they try to make Robert Pattinson look good.

Promoting Tenet

The second trailer for Tenet has just arrived and it finally gives us some clue as to what’s going on in Christopher Nolan’s new movie. Watch and learn…

It appears our hero has the ability to reverse time. Some say he has the “ability to communicate with the future”. It’s not time travel, but it’s time “inversion”. It’s not clear what the difference is yet, but at least we now know this is a movie messing with the weirdness of time.

The first trailer for Tenet was as mysterious and action-packed as you’d expect. Watch…

What’s Tenet About?

Tenet star

From the description, in its simplest form, it appears Tenet (previously titled Merry Go Round) is a time travel movie in which a special agent (for lack of a better term) is sent through time to prevent World War III from taking place. We know, from the trailer, that in this case World War III isn’t a nuclear holocaust but “something much worse”. It’s hard to imagine just what is more concerning than large scale nuclear destruction, and it stands to reason we’ll spend most of the movie trying to find out that very thing. 

Visually, Tenet looks and feels a lot like Inception with a variety of mind and eye-bending set pieces around the action along with a dark and mysterious tone. Like Inception, I suspect we get quite a few “things aren’t what they seem” themes. Getting even a single read on the plot points from the trailer is tough except that the word “Tenet” is key to unlocking the mysteries and just because there’s evidence of something happening, it doesn’t mean it’s happened “yet”. 

But this is mostly conjecture, like many Nolan films the mystery is so paramount to the story that almost no details have been released about the actual plot points. This shrouded mystery is to the point that when Robert Pattinson originally read through it for the first time he said, “I got locked in a room to read the script – I don’t have it.” 

Even Michael Caine, a long-time Nolan go-to and who’s in the freaking movie which has already been filmed, said he read a day’s worth of notes, filmed and hasn’t “heard anything since.” If some of the actual actors in the flick don’t know, then we truly are playing a guessing game here. Regardless, not knowing much about Nolan films going in is often worth it because it makes the payoffs all that much sweeter. 

The Tenet Cast

John David Washington

Tenet stars John David Washington, Denzel Washington’s son, who made his breakthrough in Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning BlacKkKlansman. Washington plays the lead role (now unnamed) and appears to be an agent recruited to uncover a mystery. Washington only has a few movies under his belt but Nolan apparently felt confident in him carrying the load in this latest. 


Also featured prominently in the trailer is the aforementioned Pattinson who’s currently filming Matt Reeves’s Batman movie coming out in 2021. Pattinson continues a post-Twilight career that’s seeing him consistently separate from the Edward Cullen character. Tenet and Batman represent his first forays into “blockbuster” territory since Breaking Dawn Part 2 came out in 2012. It looks like he brings something of a brooding evil to the film though there’s reason to suspect he and Washington may also be working together. 

Tenet actress

Other additions to the cast, again all in unnamed roles, include Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh who worked with Nolan in Dunkirk, and Himesh Patel coming off of his starring role in the Beatles’-themed Yesterday.