10 Movies to Watch If You Can't See 'Tenet' in Theaters
By John Boone
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Why shouldn't a Christopher Nolan movie's release be as tricky as its plot will inevitably be? But after multiple delays, and depending on where you are, and amid a still-ongoing global pandemic, Tenet is now in theaters. Or it will be soon. Or it won't.
Following a summer without blockbusters -- or any movies in theaters -- Warner Bros. settled on a non-"traditional" rollout for Tenet, releasing it internationally in countries like Australia, Canada, Japan and the U.K. on Wednesday, with early screenings in the U.S. starting next week ahead of its official opening over Labor Day weekend. In cities where theaters have reopened, that is.
Which is to say, Tenet is out, but you probably won't be able to see it right away. And if you're wary of returning to the movie theater for a masked, socially distanced screening, you might not be seeing it anytime soon. But there is plenty to stream in the meantime.
Considering Nolan has kept Tenet shrouded in secrecy -- as he is wont to do -- here's what we know: It involves some sort of manipulation of time ("Not time travel. Inversion.") and an ensemble of spies (played by John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki) fighting "for the survival of the entire world." As such, here are our recommendations for what to watch until the time comes for you to see Tenet.
Tenet arrives 10 years after Nolan's magnum opus, Inception, the bar to which all Nolan films would eventually be held. (No disrespect, The Dark Knight trilogy fans.) It's an original concept with a stacked cast (fronted by Leonardo DiCaprio and starring Nolan staples Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine) and a zeitgeist-breaking ending we're still talking about to this day. (Was the top spinning or not?!)
We're not exactly sure what Tenet's twist on time-loops or time-travel or time-whatever is yet, but as far as time-travel films go, you can't beat a nifty crime thriller like Looper, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman who offs future marks sent back through time to be assassinated in the past -- including his future self (played by Bruce Willis).
Nolan has long credited the Bond franchise as a key influence on his own filmmaking, and with Tenet, he specifically sights this 1977 entry, which stars Roger Moore as 007 and sees Bond teaming up with a Russian agent to thwart the villain's evil plan. "It was pure escapism, with an excellent fantasy component to it as well with the car that turns into a submarine and all that stuff," Nolan says.
The one that put Nolan on the map. Memento is only the director's second feature, but you can already see his signature style coalescing, albeit on a much small scale. About a man (Guy Pearce) with short-term memory loss attempting to track down his wife's killer, it's a high-concept thriller that plays with structure and form and prompts more than a few conversations after the credits roll.
One of the lesser-known entries in Tony Scott's filmography -- arriving somewhere between Man on Fire and Unstoppable -- Déjà Vu revolves around an ATF agent who travels back in time to prevent a terrorist attack. Its star? None other than John David Washington's father, Denzel Washington.
John David Washington may have broken out in 2018's BlacKkKlansman, but he delivered another performance that year that is equally worth a watch. In this still-too-timely Sundance drama, Washington plays a cop navigating his conflicting feelings about the job following the police killing of a Black man.
This underappreciated reboot -- which stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as sparring spies -- shares Tenet's penchant for globe-hopping set pieces, international espionage and casting Elizabeth Debicki to look unreasonably glamorous on a boat. In U.N.C.L.E., she's the villain -- and oh, how fun it was to watch her play bad -- though her loyalties in Tenet remain TBD.
Robert Pattinson has arguably the most interesting career of any actor out there following his franchise heyday. He's gotten his props for turns in Good Time and The Lighthouse, but neither can prepare you for what he's doing in Claire Denis' bizarro, ballsy space thriller about a ship full of prisoners venturing into the vast unknown.
A modern classic of the time-loop genre, Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow (or as it's colloquially known, Live Die Repeat) has Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt restarting the same day again and again as he dies on the frontlines of an alien invasion. If Tenet isn't all it's cracked up to be, there is still the prospect of an Edge of Tomorrow sequel on the horizon.
This Andy Samberg rom-com with a twist -- about time loops, existential dread and a truly never-ending wedding -- probably isn't all that similar to Tenet, tonally speaking, but it does play around with space and time and is available to stream right now, from the comfort and safety of your own couch.