The latest Tenet trailer reveals plenty about Christopher Nolan's upcoming movie - here's all that can be gleaned from the new footage. Even by Nolan's infamous standards, Tenet is one of the most enigmatic movies in recent memory. Featuring a star-studded line-up led by John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh and Clémence Poésy, the impressive list of names involved and the reputation of Nolan himself have carried Tenet's early buzz, despite details on story, tone and genre remaining strictly under wraps. Even Michael Caine claims to have no idea what's going on.
After much anticipation, the first Tenet trailer was finally unveiled to the world in December 2019 and offered some initial, albeit extremely vague insight into what Nolan had in store. Washington portrays a spy type who seemingly resists revealing information to his enemies and is subsequently recruited into a clandestine organization based on a boat. Teamed up with Pattinson, the duo are charged with preventing World War III, which Poésy describes as worse than a nuclear holocaust. A series of action sequences follow, all of which feature some element of time playing in reverse, whether that be waves flowing backwards or a car un-crashing.
2020's movie slate has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, but Tenet is one of the few major movies that hasn't been delayed or moved to a digital home media release. As things stand, Tenet remains scheduled for a July 17th premiere even though many movie theaters may not have opened by then, and those that have will be subject to strict social distancing measures. And that's without considering how reluctant movie-goers might be to return to the cinema after months of binging Netflix in isolation. Tenet could be the first major pandemic release but before then, what does the latest trailer tell us?
The second Tenet trailer gives an initial look at a trio of brand new characters. The first is played by Elizabeth Debicki and appears to be a target for both the film's heroes and villains - a glamorous high-class woman, potentially an entrepreneur or wealthy backer but with a family she clearly loves very much. Later in the trailer, there's a brief glimpse of Himesh Patel conversing with Washington and Pattinson. It's strongly implied that Patel's character is an ally of the main duo and is helping them plan something big. Finally, Dimple Kapadia's character is showcased for the first time. The most mysterious of the new trio, Kapadia cuts as a reserved figure and is reportedly the wife of an arms dealer, which could place her in a villainous role. With that said, the woman also appears to have knowledge of the future, the meaning of "Tenet" and other wider themes.
Aside from the new additions, Tenet's latest trailer provides more insight into figures introduced in the December footage. Washington is evidently a fresh recruit into this shadowy, time-bending organization, but he's also shown explaining how the trick works to Pattinson's character. Either both men are relatively fresh to the world of Tenet, or there's some kind of time reversal at play, with Washington simultaneously a trainee and a mentor. We learn that Washington's character isn't the stereotypical reckless secret agent with a death wish; he's planning on dying peacefully as an old man. Pattinson has more lines in this trailer, and he comes across as a well-spoken upper-class Brit in the traditional Bond mold.
Tenet's first trailer had already established Poésy as a scientist working for the same organization as Washington, but she could actually be much more than that, potentially acting as the brains behind the manipulation of time seen throughout the film. Meanwhile, Michael Caine's function in Tenet is explored in more detail - he has information on the story's big villain, played by Kenneth Branagh.
Leaning more into the 007 parallels, Poésy appears to be playing the role of Q in Tenet, introducing Washington to weapons and gadgets and generally preparing him for the undoubtedly dangerous mission he's about to embark on. In a science fiction twist, however, Poésy presents Washington with a selection of trays covered in assorted disassembled parts. Assuming her organization isn't just woefully under-resourced, it's likely that these pieces of equipment Washington's character will be putting back together himself by rewinding time. This is heavily suggested when he summons a gear into his palm in true "use the Force" style. Rather than an act of telekinesis, Washington's character appears to be reassembling and picking up the dismantled item, perhaps because in the future he disassembled it and put it on the tray.
Kenneth Branagh's character already made his debut in the first Tenet trailer released towards the end of 2019, but there were precious few details revealed about him at that time. Fortunately, the latest batch of footage is far more generous in what it gives away. Michael Caine describes Branagh's villain as the "Russian National" and we later see the character deep in a philosophical conversation about death with Washington. Branagh is clearly positioned to be the villain of Tenet, but there remains no information whatsoever on why he's a threat or what he might want. It's also interesting that Branagh's Russian nationality is specifically highlighted, even though Martin Donovan's character claims that his group's mission goes beyond mere "national interest."
Not specifically linked with Tenet but a great Easter egg nonetheless. After a card comes up touting Christopher Nolan as "The revolutionary director of the Dark Knight trilogy," the shot immediately following is of Pattinson getting out of a vehicle. This is likely a nod to the fact that the actor is set to be the next iteration of Bruce Wayne in The Batman. Both films are released by Warner Bros., so it does make sense to draw this subtle connection between the old and new of the Batman movie franchise.
Tenet is heavily based around time manipulation of some description but the precise mechanics remain a mystery. Fortunately, the second trailer does offer some further insight, even if the reveals only serve to pose more questions. Tenet's protagonists are trying to stop some kind of terrible apocalypse that is yet to come in Earth's future. Clearly, this knowledge would imply some line of communication between the present and the future, and this is exactly what Tenet sets up. The trailer includes the line "he can communicate with the future," although it's not exactly clear who is being referred to here. The quote comes after Pattinson asks "why did you bring me in?" but his character also sounded shocked when Washington explained time manipulation to him, so perhaps the two are unrelated. Who has the crystal ball in Tenet?
Tenet's first trailer showcased the film's time-reversal mechanic, with particular prominence placed upon the building climbing, car crashing and glass shooting scenes. Now we finally have a name to put to the visuals: Inversion. As explained by Poésy's character, these Inversions reverse something that has already happened, demonstrated when Washington fires a gun and "catches" bullets that have already been fired into a lump of rock. This strange phenomenon can apparently be localized to an item such as a gun, or over an entire scene, as demonstrated with the car crash and boats at sea. It's unclear exactly how Inversion is triggered in the world of Tenet, but it may have something to do with the green gloves Washington is wearing during the aforementioned "Q branch" scene. The gloves are visually prominent throughout that sequence, and might have a deeper meaning than health and safety.
Christopher Nolan's films have previously included characters that partially resembled or mirrored the director himself in some way. In Inception, for instance, Leonardo DiCaprio's Cobb is confirmed to be have some qualities of Nolan's, and many of the cast represent an aspect of filmmaking, with Cobb's role in the dream heist plot akin to that of a movie's director. It appears that Robert Pattinson's figure could perform a similar function in Tenet, and this is especially clear when the character begins describing a dramatic plane crash sequence. Interestingly, Nolan has the good taste to ensure he's always represented by the best-looking of actors.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the December 2019 Tenet trailer was the car chase in which Washington and Pattinson look on awe-struck as a car flips in reverse. More details of this sequence have now been revealed, most notably who the good guys are chasing down. As revealed in the latest footage, this sequence will feature Washington and Pattinson in an intense race with Kenneth Branagh's villainous character, and he has Debicki in tow as a hostage. After (or perhaps before) causing chaos on the roads, the chase descends into an on-foot shootout, and it's interesting that Branagh is wearing a gas mask during this shot. Could inhaling some kind of chemical prevent being affected by the Inversions?
Originally, it appeared that the train yard torture scene was a precursor to Washington's character being recruited into the Tenet operation. That still might be the case, but the latest trailer adds further context. Washington is lined up alongside some other hostages (likely his own colleagues) and is the last one left alive after some brutal track-side treatment from the bad guys. This fits with Donovan's speech from the first trailer, which suggested Washington was recruited by virtue of being a rare example of someone who wouldn't spill his secrets in the face of imminent death. However, the trains in the background are moving backwards, which might mean this scene comes later than the trailers imply.
Ascending the building and the car chase are apparently just two of the big action set-pieces Tenet has to offer. The new trailer opens with a fight sequence between Washington and a group of goons set in a kitchen - a fight he wins. This scene perhaps has something to do with Elizabeth Debicki's character, since she is escorted to a vehicle while Washington follows behind shortly after (or before... seriously, this film). The second new action scene teased is of Washington and Pattinson jumping from a great height. This doesn't appear to be an Inversion, so the pair might just be hoping the tents below will cushion their fall. Furthermore, Pattinson's character suggests crashing a plane along the ground in dramatic fashion, and the trailer gives a brief glimpse of this biblical, explosive sequence.
Finally, and most impressive of all, Tenet looks to include a major scene set within a packed concert hall. The audience are knocked out while a group in riot gear do battle among the isles and up the staircases. Firstly, this might be another use of the aforementioned gas masks - knocking out potential witnesses. Secondly, this set piece may well provide the most visually impressive shots in Tenet, similar to the collapsing football field in Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.
Perhaps the most intriguing quote from the new Tenet trailer is "the future needs a Tenet." We already know that Washington is trying to prevent a disastrous future event, which explains the emphasis on events yet to come, but there's still no real clarification of what "Tenet" means in the context of the movie. Donovan's character suggests it's a password that can "open doors" but this doesn't make sense when applied the what the future might "need." Is a Tenet a person, or an event? Or is the meaning more literal to the dictionary definition - a core principle or belief. Does the future just need something to believe in?
Just in case Tenet hasn't already given Nolan fans a headache, Washington's character poses a paradox that will no doubt prove central to the film's story: "This reversing the flow of time - doesn't us being here now mean it never happened." Maybe Nolan is just trying to get there before Reddit does, but this is certainly an inherent problem in Tenet's time-bending premise. Fans still don't know enough about Tenet's time rules to provide Washington with an answer, but the issue he raises could hint at further twists regarding the characters using Inversions. Are Washington and Pattinson themselves undergoing a gradual Inversion that counteracts the paradox? Or will they have to be killed at the end of the story in order to balance the books of time. Thankfully, there are still a few weeks for movie-goers to wrap their heads around that one before Tenet is, at the time of writing at least, released in theaters.
Finally, the trailer reveals the familiar Tenet logo that has long been the only source of marketing for Nolan's new film. However, there's a crucial difference between this logo and the one used in the December 2019 trailer. The initial design began with just the start and end 'T's and then grew inward to include the 'E's and the N. In a neat detail, the new trailer begins with the entire logo shown and then gradually removes letters, reversing the order from the previous trailer. Oddly, the second 'E' in the new trailer isn't mirrored as with previous iterations of the Tenet logo. This feature appears to be a play on the Inversions gimmick that will evidently be a key feature of Nolan's latest opus.
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