The New ‘Tenet’ Synopsis Is Confusing AF

     May 22, 2020


Last night, Warner Bros. released a brand new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming original film Tenet. It was exciting and explosive and hella confusing. If you can succinctly explain the plot of Tenet to me right now, I have no choice but to assume you are an astrophysicist.

But the trailer wasn’t the only Tenet-related thing that was released last night. Warner Bros. also dropped a new official synopsis for the movie, and if you thought that trailer was confusing, wait until you read this. Here’s what the official plot of Tenet is, as described by WB:

John David Washington is the new Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi action spectacle “Tenet.”


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.


Not time travel. Inversion.


Image via Warner Bros.

What. The. Hell.

Okay first of all, there’s the fact that John David Washington’s character is named Protagonist, as evidenced by the capitalization of the word. This synopsis uses the world Protagonist as a proper noun, which could be hinting towards some meta-textual layers baked into the DNA of Tenet’s story. Is this a time-related movie about storytelling?

Second of all, while Robert Pattinson recently broke the news that Tenet is not about time travel, that trailer felt very much like some sort of time travel was involved. This synopsis doubles down on the “well, actually” of Nolan’s time travel rules, noting that they’re not traveling through time in Tenet. They’re inverting it.

There were references in that trailer to slowing or stopping the flow of time to change the future. I’m pretty sure only Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland understand what that means, so I’m not even gonna try to venture a guess. But, much like the trailer, this synopsis intrigues more than it explains.


Image via Warner Bros.

And I’m fine with that! I enjoy not knowing exactly what movie I’m going to see. It’s rare to be genuinely surprised these days, and leave it to Christopher Nolan to make a movie that literally cannot be understood in its marketing.

I’m tickled by the idea that Nolan made a spy movie on his own terms. He didn’t just craft a James Bond ripoff, he layered an international espionage tale with time-bending mechanics and possibly even a fourth-wall-breaking narrative.

In short, this new Tenet synopsis only makes the movie that much more confusing, and I am here for it.

As for when we’ll see Tenet, Warner Bros. hasn’t officially moved the film off of its July 17th release date just yet, but the trailer conspicuously left out an exact release date, only noting that the film will be coming to theaters. So don’t expect Tenet to surprise drop on HBO Max.

For a deeper dive into Christopher Nolan’s madness, check out everything we know about Tenet so far and our ranking of all his previous films.

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