Despite fighting the good fight for so long, Warner Bros. finally conceded to reality last week when it officially delayed Christopher Nolan’s Tenet by two weeks to July 31. At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if further delays are still ahead. The $200 million film’s road to theatrical cinemas, much like most movies throughout the coronavirus pandemic, has been a bumpy one. Ironically, that may very well mirror the film’s twisty narrative, according to one cast member.
Based on the movie’s trailer, in which Kenneth Branagh’s “Russian national” is positioned as a villain who can communicate with the future, one would assume that he’s the antagonist of the story fighting against stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson. However, Branagh, who recently directed Disney+’s Artemis Fowl, warns that it isn’t quite that simple.
“Given the nature of it, as Chris to some extent sort of reinvents the wheel here, a lot of people start engaging with John David Washington’s character in both expected ways … so you might expect me to be an antagonist … but then (the story) doesn’t quite follow what you might expect as the story plays out,” he recently told Total Film.
He continued: “I kid you not, I read this screenplay more times than I have ever read any other thing I have ever worked on. It was like doing the Times crossword puzzle every day, I would imagine. Except the film and the screenplay didn’t expect you, or need you, to be an expert.”
When the first few details about Nolan’s upcoming blockbuster began to trickle out last year, it was described by some around the industry as a spiritual sequel to Inception. Not in any direct links that would send fans into a frenzy of shared cinematic universe easter egg hunts, but in the non-linear and mind-bending nature of that 2010 film. Branagh’s comments seem to support that idea and fans should expect some mental gymnastics heading into Tenet. After all, we still know very little about the actual plot other than that Washington’s spy character is attempting to avoid World War III through wonky time inversion.
Nolan is known for creating puzzle piece mysteries that require audience attention. The non-linear narratives of nearly all of his movies uniquely restructure stories so that they are rarely told in typical start-to-finish fashion. Tenet may be taking that approach one step further with the introduction of a certain form of actual time travel.
For months, Nolan and Warner Bros. held fast on the film’s original July 17 release in an attempt to relaunch mainstream cinema even as studios throughout Hollywood removed virtually every theatrical release surrounding it. Now that it has moved to July 31, Disney’s Mulan (July 24) is the first blockbuster scheduled to hit theaters since the pandemic began.