First Look at Christopher Nolan’s Espionage Film ‘Tenet’

Published on December 18, 2019

Christopher Nolan never lets the cat out of the bag too soon. The filmmaker behind The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception keeps an air of mystery around his blockbusters, including his upcoming sci-fi thriller, Tenet. A 60-second teaser revealing next to nothing was released in theaters but not online, but now the world wide web is getting its first look at Nolan’s next film, which stars John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) and Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis).

First Look 

The first photos from Tenet give nothing away, as Nolan probably wanted. They reveal Washington, Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debecki’s (The Night Manager) characters, all looking very snazzy. Nolan’s characters almost always look good; Inception is basically wardrobe porn with its array of splendid suits and dress wear. Movie stars look like movie stars in Nolan’s movies. Proof:

Together, Pattinson and Washington look like they’d be right at home in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. There’s sometimes an old-timey quality to the costumes in Nolan’s movies that make for a striking contrast to his high-tech worlds. 

Nolan in the World of Espionage 

Tenet is an espionage film. No surprise there, as Nolan has an affinity for the genre and has long desired to direct a Bond film under the right circumstances. He loves the franchise enough to steal from it or homage it now and then, including the opening of The Dark Knight Rises and the snow action in Inception

Nolan, who wrote the movie as well, told Entertainment Weekly it’s a globetrotting adventure:

We’re jumping off from the point of view of an espionage film, but we’re going to a number of different places. We’re crossing a few different genres in a hopefully exciting and fresh way. [Producer] Emma [Thomas] and I have put together a lot of large-scale productions, but this is certainly the biggest in terms of international reach. We shot in seven countries, all over the place, with a massive cast and huge set pieces. There’s no question, it’s the most ambitious film we’ve made.”

Nolan never wastes an ounce of scope these days. He continues to work at a scale with an artistic freedom reserved for few directors today, and he wants to make the most of his privilege while he can. Lucky him.

The Plot

Nobody knows the plot of Tenet, except Nolan and everyone involved in the movie, of course. The logline gives little away: “an action epic evolving from the world of international espionage.”

Within the next few months, trailers will shed more light on the plot, but even the teasers for Nolan’s movies keep the larger details under wraps. He doesn’t want any piece of information or footage to spoil any of the fun or surprises, and in an age when trailers and TV spots practically spell out the entire story, it’s refreshing on Nolan’s part to let his story remain in the theatrical experience instead of the marketing.

Summer of 2020

Tenet opens in theaters next July, which is when Inception blew the world’s mind over nine years ago. July is the month of Nolan, who also released his last film, Dunkirk, then to great success. Ever since Batman Begins, he’s been hitting almost nothing but net, giving audiences what they didn’t know they wanted. When adaptations, reboots, and adaptations are the norm in the summertime, Nolan stays original. 

Even when the director faces heavy competition during the crowded movie-going season, he comes out on top with originality as the winning recipe. Next summer is loaded with big titles, but not much competition for Nolan. A week before Tenet is released on July 17th, the new Ghostbusters is coming out. Two weeks before Tenet, there’s Free Guy and another Minions film. In short: Nolan has nothing to worry about.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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