What's The Story Of Christopher Nolan's Tenet? Here's All The Clues

Production has begun on Christopher Nolan's upcoming Tenet, but what do we really know about the film? Here are all the Tenet story clues you need.

Christopher Nolan's next film, Tenet, has recently begun filming shortly after announcing its cast. The release date, July 2020, will mark three years since fans of Nolan's movies have gotten to see another of his original visions (his last film, Dunkirk, was released in 2017). Despite filming already getting underway, information about the story of Christopher Nolan's Tenet is still being kept under wraps for the most part. The little that is known about the film is enough to get the wheels on theories and expectations about the plot turning in fans' minds.

The cast of Tenet is an eclectic and experienced mix of actors who arguably comprise the next great generation of talent. Among the leading cast is: Robert Pattinson (Good Time); John David Washington (BlackKklansman); Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2); Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Avengers: Age of Ultron); Michael Caine (frequent Nolan collaborator); Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk); Clemence Poesy (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire); and Dimple Kapadia. Most of the cast has kept quiet about their involvement in Tenet, although Pattinson has let slip to what it was like reading the script and further hinted at what viewers can expect from the film: "I got locked in a room to read the script – I don’t have it myself. I’ve been a little wary of doing big movies for years and years, but there’s just something about Chris Nolan’s stuff. He seems like the only director now who can do what is essentially a very personal, independent movie that has huge scale. I read the script and it’s unreal."

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Related: Every Christopher Nolan Movie Ranked, From Worst To Best

Despite being shrouded in secrecy, some story information about Tenet has been gleaned. Here are all the clues we have about Christopher Nolan's next film.

Tenet Is A Spy Movie (But May Involve The Space-Time Continuum)

Still of Leo Dicaprio in Espionage

The current synopsis describes Tenet as "an action epic evolving from the world international espionage." Nolan's work in recent years has certainly had a more global (or universal) focus to it, especially in Inception and Interstellar. Even Dunkirk, which largely focused on British soldiers being evacuated from the beaches of France, felt like a more global, larger story partly because it was set during World War II.

Even though the current synopsis is thin on detail, it's worth guessing that the lead cast will not be part of the same international team à la Inception. Instead, there's a chance that characters will be split up and spying on each other or a small group is spying on a target. Given this is Christopher Nolan, who has done exceedingly well in the past crafting mysteries (for proof of that, go rewatch Memento), we can expect tension and mood to be ratcheted up to extreme levels.

But, also fitting of Nolan, this won't be a standard spy film. Rumors suggest that Tenet will involve the space-time continuum, something that is hardly surprising given messing with both space and time is a favorite narrative device of Nolan's, but nevertheless promises something truly mind-bending.

Tenet's Story Takes Place In Seven Countries

Tenet, which began filming in late May, and will be filmed in seven countries, including the UK, Estonia, India, and Italy. The numerous international shooting locations recall the global feel of Inception, which filmed in England, Canada, Japan, the United States, and France. It's unclear how these new shooting locations will figure into Tenet but it feels on par with the theme of espionage since most spy films send their characters traveling the world just to complete a mission (see: every James Bond film ever made).

Production information on Tenet is still limited but we know that Nolan will be directing from his own original script and it will be shot be in 70mm and for IMAX. There will be a few frequent Nolan collaborators for Tenet as well as a few new faces. Nolan will re-team with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who previously worked with Nolan on Inception and Dunkirk. Due to scheduling conflicts, Nolan will not be collaborating with composer Hans Zimmer for the first time in years. Instead, composer Ludwig Göransson, who won the 2019 Oscar for Best Original Score for Black Panther, will compose the score for Tenet.

What The Title, Tenet, Reveals About Nolan's Next Film

Aside from reports, the title of Nolan's next film might reveal the most information. Tenet is a palindrome, a word that is spelled the same forward and backward. Considering the majority Nolan's past films have demanded viewers to consider a linear story from multiple angles and to question whether something is as straightforward as it seems, the title Tenet already seems to be messing with expectations about the narrative structure.

The intrigue ratchets up a notch when considering the definition of tenet: "a principle or belief, especially one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy." More than a few of Nolan's past films have focused on men of principles or what they believe are incontrovertible truths about their professions. Consider Robert Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) in The Prestige, who begins by believing that even magic must be confined to the laws of physics and logic before discovering one trick that makes it possible to astound audiences while also completely disrupt the scientific understanding of time, space, and mortality. Or think of Dom and his crew in Inception; the work the team does is based on strict ideas about how humans dream and how the subconscious creates a malleable reality, the rule of which are frequently bent or broken in order to do the impossible, like incept an original idea into someone's mind.

In a similar way, viewers should expect Tenet to present us with characters who are living by strict rules or codes in their work; in the case, espionage. In the beginning, the rules will likely be laid out and feel inviolable. As Tenet progresses, the expectation should be that a problem will arise where at least one seemingly unbreakable rule or beliefe about espionage work will be called into question.

When Will Christopher Nolan Reveal Tenet Story Details?

So, speculation aside, when can we expect some firm details on Tenet? It may be a while. Christopher Nolan is notorious when it comes to keeping the details of a film under lock and key until the timing was right. The one major exception to this rule was with his 2017 film Dunkirk, which viewers knew right away would deal with disastrous evacuation from the French beaches at Dunkirk in 1940 based on the title. This mystery around Nolan's Tenet plans will only grow as time goes on considering the director is not active on social media nor is he frequently in the press.

With such limited interaction with the media, we should expect Nolan to reveal more Tenet story details when production is either close to wrapping or has officially wrapped. Considering Tenet is slated for release July 17, 2020, there's a good chance the first real details, stills, or footage from Tenet won't be released until winter 2019 or early 2020.

Next: Every Superhero Movie Releasing In 2020

Key Release Dates
  • Tenet (2020) release date: Jul 17, 2020
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