When is Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in cinemas? What is it about?

What we know so far about the latest blockbuster from the acclaimed filmmaker


Christopher Nolan ambitious new film Tenet, about a secret agent battling to prevent World War Three, is set for a release date later this year.


While Nolan’s most recent film, Dunkirk, brought one of the most famous events of the Second World War to life, his next project sees him returning to the genre of science fiction.

Following on from his groundbreaking work with Inception and Interstellar, Nolan’s new film about time “inversion” is set to be as mind-bending as you’d expect from the director, while featuring a stunning cast of acting talent.

As you might expect, many details about this film are shrouded in secrecy, but here’s everything we know so far…

When will Tenet be released?

Christopher Nolan has once again claimed pole position in the summer movie season line-up, with Tenet scheduled for release in UK cinema on Friday 17th July 2020.

Of course, there is some doubt about whether the film will stick with that date, given that the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered cinemas across the globe and reopening them is not without its risks.

Warner Bros has stuck to its guns for the time being, but we’ll update this page if Tenet’s release date makes a last minute change.

What is Tenet about?


Good question! The plot for Tenet has been kept very quiet, as tends to be the case for a Christopher Nolan film, but we do know a few scarce details.

“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,” says the film’s official synopsis.

Yes indeed, Tenet looks set to play with the laws of time in new and interesting ways, as shown off in the first trailer which sees some impressive stunts rewinding back and forth in a very intriguing way.

It might be notable that we don’t even know the name of the main character in Tenet, only that he is played by up and coming actor John David Washington, as some fans speculate it could be connected to one of Nolan’s previous films.

The actor’s comments about how Tenet is an “in-law” to Inception has only fuelled those theories. Could the central character be somehow linked to another character from Nolan’s cinematic CV?


The trailers also make reference to themes regarding death and the afterlife, proving once again that Nolan isn’t afraid to tackle big ideas in his ambitious blockbusters.

We can safely assume that the storyline will be kept largely under wraps until the film’s release, especially as even its co-star Robert Pattinson was only allowed to read the script while locked in a room.

The second trailer also includes Pattinson’s character suggesting they crash a plane into a building – which is later teased in the trailer.

Washington has revealed that Nolan really did crash a real-life plane into a real-life building, in an interview with CinemaBlend.

“That was a real plane, and that was a real building that they crashed that plane into,” he said. “And we, cast and crew, all witnessed it. It was epic! It was incredible, we all cheered and hurrayed and hurrahed when they yelled cut after Chris felt like he got it. What you saw is really what happened – at least the night I was there.”

Tenet YouTube Screenshot

We also know the film has been a truly international production, with stints filming across Denmark, Estonia, India, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.

What does Tenet mean?

Tenet is “a principle or belief, especially one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy,” according to Google.

Of course, the word itself may not actually have relevance on the plot of the movie. Rather, it could well be something completely random that Nolan is using to throw us off the scent.

Interestingly, Tenet is a palindrome i.e. a word that reads the same backwards as it does forwards. Given that the film plays around with time travel, including by showing action sequences in reverse, this could come into play at some point…

Who is in the cast of Tenet? 


Nolan’s films have historically featured top Hollywood stars and Tenet is no exception, with its cast including both Nolan regulars and first-time collaborators.

The leading role will be played by rising star John David Washington, best known for his role in Spike Lee’s awards contender BlacKkKlansman. He is also the son of Hollywood royalty, Denzel Washington.

Co-starring alongside him is Robert Pattinson, whose career has seen a meteoric rise lately thanks to acclaimed indie fare like The Lighthouse and, of course, his inheritance of the iconic Batman role.

Elizabeth Debicki will also appear in her first collaboration with Nolan, whose recent credits include Steve McQueen’s Widows and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Amongst those returning to work with the director are Michael Caine (who has featured in five Nolan films) and Kenneth Branagh, who played a key role in Dunkirk.

The cast also includes Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Himesh Patel (Yesterday), Clémence Poésy (The Tunnel) and Dimple Kapadia (Rudaali). 

Who is composing the Tenet score? 

Surprisingly, not Hans Zimmer! This will be the first time that Zimmer has not worked on a Nolan project since The Prestige in 2006.

Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson will be taking on the musical mantle, adding to a CV which includes a Best Original Score Oscar for Black Panther.

Nolan will be reunited with a number of his other frequent collaborators on the film, however – including cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema.

Is there a Tenet trailer?

In fact, there are two! The first trailer was first shown exclusively in cinemas, before finally making its way online in December 2019. Since then, its racked up more than 20 million views, showing anticipation is high…

A second trailer premiered on Fortnite in May 2020, although notably it doesn’t include a release date, prompting suspicion that Tenet could be delayed if cinemas have not completely reopened following the coronavirus pandemic.


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