Boy does Christopher Nolan love the concept of time. From muddling it up in Memento, traversing it in Interstellar, racing against it in Dunkirk and even having the most famous piece of music from his films being rather aptly-named “Time” (from Inception), the visionary director can’t get enough. Unsurprisingly, he’s at it again with his latest blockbuster, Tenet. Debuting the new trailer on Fortnite in a very bizarre, oddly shrewd but ultimately jarring move, Nolan’s opted in this instance to explore the ‘inversion’ of time.
Given Nolan likes to play his cards close to the chest when it comes to marketing his films, it comes as no surprise that this trailer features very little in terms of meaty plot points. This is always a bonus, given Hollywood’s trend of leaving very little to the imagination with trailers these days. The trailer puts star John David Washington in the hot-seat, as he attempts to prevent World War 3 armed with just one word: Tenet. What Tenet means in this context is still very uncertain, yet it clearly has something to do with minor glimpses of the film’s set-pieces. We see events happening that haven’t actually taken place yet and even things seemingly going in reverse, hence this focus on ‘inversion’.
There is a lot to dissect from this trailer, but on a technical level, Tenet absolutely seems like it could be Nolan’s most impressive film to date. The film has been labelled as a ‘Quantum Cold War’, a notion which Hoyte van Hoytema’s bleak cinematography immediately offers, with most scenes tinged with a green/yellow hue that complements the vibe of the trailer perfectly. Oscar-winner Ludwig Göransson’s score, replacing long-time collaborator Hans Zimmer, is bombastic, quick and tense, mixing soft-piano with heavy synth and it frankly sounds glorious. Knowing how well-edited Nolan’s films always are, with sound always at the forefront, it’s hard to see how this won’t be another massive technical achievement, given the addition of some sublime-looking set-pieces.
Nolan always likes to stack his casts with some major names and obviously the inevitable Michael Caine cameo, but his casting for Tenet could be one of his best. John David Washington is a superstar in the making off the back of his superb performance in BlacKkKlansman and he looks like he’s bringing all his charisma to the role alongside a great display of athleticism, all the attributes the lead in a film like this needs. Combining him with Robert Pattinson, who’s amongst the best working actors today, looks to have paid off, with their on-screen chemistry definitely being a highlight of the trailer.
The talented Elizabeth Debicki looks to have a very central role too, though exactly who her character is, still remains a mystery. Finally, we have Kenneth Branagh, who worked with Nolan on Dunkirk, coming in as the villain of the piece, playing a Russian national who seemingly needs to be stopped to prevent this global disaster.
Though the trailer still leaves many questions, the film does now have an official synopsis: “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.” Reluctant as ever, Nolan still aims to release Tenet on 17 July in cinemas, which of course seems a pretty bold move given the circumstances. That said, if anyone can give cinema the glorious return it deserves, Nolan can.
Words by Elliott Jones