Why Christopher Nolan’s Tenet could be this decade’s Inception

The trailer for Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, the hotly anticipated Tenet, has been blowing our minds ever since it dropped, and it’s definitely one you need to watch with eagle eyes.

An action epic that encompasses espionage and time travel, Tenet does look somewhat reminiscent of Nolan’s previous masterpiece, 2010’s Inception. With that film being arguably one of the greatest of the past decade (aka the ‘tens’), we take a look at why Tenet may already be one of the defining films of the twenties...

It offers another perspective on ‘time’

Clearly, Christopher Nolan is fascinated with the concept of time, as it is something that plays a part in a huge number of his films. In his film Memento (2000), Nolan played with two timelines, one in which the events happened in reverse chronological order, while the other went forward. 2010’s Inception redefined the possibilities of the modern blockbuster with its complex layers and “dreams within dreams”. Even 2017’s Dunkirk, not content with just a World War II movie, utilised three different timelines covering land, sea and air.

Tenet seems to be exploring the idea of localised time manipulation, allowing specially trained agents to reverse time from their perspective. It’s a mind-blowing concept on its own, but when told through the lens of an espionage thriller, you can already tell this film is going to be something special.

It's perhaps no coincidence that Nolan is kicking off a new decade with a film that seems to share some of the qualities of Inception, and if first impressions are anything to go by, Tenet is also set to be one of this decade’s defining films.

John David Washington in Tenet

It’s a blockbuster with a twist

Like Inception, with its mind-bending, folding cityscapes, the visuals of Tenet are already setting the scene for a truly incredible visual feast. The time manipulations in the trailer are very subtle, but the more you watch it, the more you notice. From the reverse waves hitting the boat to the backwards car chase, Tenet is already playing with our perceptions.

Nolan has always had an ability for crafting exceptional films that offer more than just surface-level entertainment. They are blockbusters with a brain, with a sense of scale that matches the expanse of ideas at their core. Inception can, of course, be enjoyed as a normal blockbuster – there are plenty of action scenes and some truly incredible visual effects – but there is much more than that. Inception’s longevity was secured by the theorising that came afterwards, with endless analysis on what was real and what wasn’t, particularly when it came to the ending.

Tenet has already got people talking about the finest of details. From the peculiar way in which the title appears (it also reads the same backwards as forwards) to the “it hasn’t happened yet” scene in the trailer, there’s no doubt it’ll have people talking for days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years afterward.

Tenet trailer

It’s a huge movie with a budget to match

Few directors have earned the trust of film studios quite like Nolan, especially when it comes to multi-million dollar budgets. Tenet is set to break all the records in this regard, with the budget being reportedly in the region of $225 million – his most expensive movie so far. His last film, Dunkirk, cost around $100 million, and previous works Interstellar and Inception were in the $150-$180 million range. The only one to come close was The Dark Knight Rises which clocked in at around $200 million. Not only that, in Nolan’s words, Tenet is his “most ambitious” project as well.

Most studios would be reticent to dish out the big bucks, particularly for an original, non-franchise property, but Nolan’s reputation, of course, precedes him. A favourite amongst cinephiles, Nolan’s films are always a huge event so it is no wonder his latest appears to have the budget to match. What this does prove is that in the hands of the right director, original stories can be a huge draw for audiences and that amongst a sea of remakes, reboots and sequels, originality is absolutely something that is worth spending money on.

John David Washington in Tenet trailer

It has an incredible cast

Where Inception had Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, among others, Tenet has John David Washington in the lead role. Having dazzled in Spike Lee’s brilliant BlacKkKlansman, Washington is clearly destined for big things, and this role in Tenet could propel him to superstardom. Meanwhile, Pattinson’s star is in the ascent with his upcoming appearance in acclaimed chiller The Lighthouse, and his role as our brand new Batman.

Of course, the cast includes Michael Caine who has previously appeared in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk. Tenet is his eighth collaboration with Nolan. Kenneth Branagh also has an undisclosed role in Tenet, following his role in Dunkirk. If this wasn’t enough, the film also features a host of young talent including Kick-Ass’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Widows’ Elizabeth Debicki and Yesterday’s Himesh Patel. We may not know much about their characters, but the cast list alone certainly offers plenty of reasons to be excited.

John David Washington in Tenet trailer


Tenet is scheduled for release on 26th August 2020. Do you think Nolan's latest movie will become the new decade's Inception? Let us know @Cineworld.


Sarah Buddery is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team. Follow her on Twitter.