Tenet, the highly-anticipated time-bending thriller from director Christopher Nolan, is finally opening in theaters. The movie has already opened in over 70 countries worldwide and is launching in the U.S. over Labor Day weekend. But not all American theaters are open, so your local screen may not be showing it.
Tenet stars stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh. The globe-trotting espionage thriller involves a mission to prevent World War III from breaking out.
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Nolan has insisted to the media that Tenet doesn't feature time traveling, but there's definitely something strange going on with time (and space) in the film. The famously secretive director hasn't said what's actually going on, and Tenet's cast members don't seem to know that much.
The delays in the film's release — due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — have stoked all sorts of theories and speculations about the plot, characters and themes. Now, fans will finally have a chance to see what's what for themselves. Here's everything to know about Tenet.
Tenet release date
Tenet was originally scheduled for theatrical release on July 17, 2020. Due to COVID, it was delayed to July 31, then August 12.
Finally, Warner Bros. decided it couldn't wait any longer and formed a tiered theatrical release. The movie opened August 26 internationally in 70 countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the UK.
Tenet will open in the U.S. on September 3 in select cities, then gradually roll out across the country.
Tenet release in U.S. theaters
While Tenet is theoretically premiering on Sept. 3, the bigger question is: Where?
Many theaters remain closed due to pandemic safety regulations. Currently, Comscore says that 50% of theaters in the U.S. are open for business.
While drive-in theaters running and have played new releases (like Unhinged with Russell Crowe), Warner Bros. has put restrictions on Tenet's availability. The movie can only play in outdoor venues if indoor theaters in that particular market are open.
Tenet won't be playing in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as theaters there remain closed. Other big cities have reopened venues, including Chicago.
Tenet box office
Tenet has already made $53.6 million in overseas markets and Canada.
As far as the domestic box office, Warner Bros. is keeping quiet about its expectations. Industry insiders are estimating Tenet could pull in $20 million over the three-day weekend.
That's certainly not the big opening weekend that a $200 million blockbuster usually does. But Deadline (opens in new tab) notes that the studio — really, all of Hollywood — is counting on the long game.
"Rival studios are rooting for them: If Tenet wins, everyone wins, and even if Tenet opens the doors to movie theaters slowly, the industry couldn’t be more grateful."
Tenet on streaming
Movies that were scheduled to open this summer generally went one of two ways when faced with the pandemic-induced theater closures: Delay their release for months or even years, or move to streaming.
For Tenet, the latter was never an option. Nolan is well-known for being a fanatic about the theatrical experience. Opening in theaters was likely baked into the contract with Warner Bros.
None of the three Tenet trailers have been particularly helpful in figuring out what the movie is about. All of the trailers, including the final trailer (below), allude to some kind of time-bending. A scientist (Clémence Poésy) shows the Protagonist (John David Washington) two bullets and tells him one is going forwards in time and one is going backward. Can he tell which is which?
Later, when the Protagonist is shooting at a target, he wonders why it feels so strange. "You're not shooting the bullet," she explains. "You're catching it."
"Whoa," he replies. Same.
Nolan isn't just secretive about his movies' plots; he can also be secretive about the cast, too. While the leads of Tenet were announced while the movie was filming, some cast members were only revealed by the trailers.
Here's Tenet's cast list:
- John David Washington as the Protagonist
- Robert Pattinson as Neil, the Protagonist's handler
- Elizabeth Debicki as Kat, Andrei's estranged wife
- Kenneth Branagh as Andrei Sator, a Russian oligarch who communes with the future
- Clémence Poésy as Barbara, a scientist
- Dimple Kapadia as Priya
- Denzil Smith as an arms dealer and Priya's husband
- Michael Caine
- Aaron Taylor-Johnson
- Himesh Patel
- Martin Donovan
- Sean Avery
- Jack Cutmore-Scott
- Rich Ceraulo Ko
- Fiona Dourif
- Yuri Kolokolnikov
No spoilers here! And you likely won't any in the reviews of Tenet (and if they are there, they'll be clearly marked). So far, Tenet has a 82% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Here's a round-up of Tenet reviews:
New York Times (opens in new tab): "... Take away the time-bending gimmick, and Tenet is a series of timidly generic set pieces: heists, car chases, bomb disposals, more heists."
Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab): "Because as much as Tenet succeeds at being visually and technologically dazzling, it is more often than not almost unbearably draining. Like most Nolan movies, it refuses to come up for air; even as the camera glides smoothly across the cliffs of Italy’s Amalfi Coast or the spare Nysted Wind Farm in Denmark, there’s a stressful tinge to the proceedings ..."
BBC (opens in new tab): "In terms of spectacle, Tenet delivers. The stunts, the camera work and the scale are impressive. As is Nolan's appetite to use blockbuster entertainment as a platform to seriously consider existential threats, the unconscious mind, and cutting-edge physics."
The Sydney Morning Herald (opens in new tab): "Tenet contains the best and worst of Nolan. Spread over a broad and beautiful canvas spanning seven countries, it has a barely comprehensible plot ..."
Collider (opens in new tab): "Make no mistake, Tenet is as ambitious and spectacular as the best of Nolan’s films, and in many ways it feels like a collection of his greatest tricks — incredible set pieces full of awe-inspiring practical effects, an elegant storytelling maze full of grand ideas, but also detached and cold characters, horrible treatment of female characters, and a lack of playfulness."
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