Tenet producer compares Christopher Nolan's new movie to Inception: "It’s very much its own thing”

John David Washington and Elizabeth Debicki in Tenet.
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Christopher Nolan previously called Tenet, “No question... the most ambitious film we’ve made.” Filmed across seven countries, it boasts a huge international cast and large-scale action set-pieces. 

“It’s a film of great ambition and great scale that takes a genre, namely the spy film, and tries to take it into some new territory, and tries to take the audience on a ride they might not have had before, and might not be expecting,” he tells Total Film in the new issue. “But it uses the conceits of the genre to do that – not unlike the way with Inception we took the conventions of the heist genre, and used the audience’s familiarity with that to try to go into some more unusual, surprising areas. 

"With Tenet, we’re looking at first and foremost giving the audience an incredible ride in the spy movie genre, but using the audience’s facility with following the conventions of that genre to push it into some interesting and unexpected territory.”

On the surface at least, Inception seems like the most obvious point of comparison from Nolan’s back catalogue: mystery mission; trailer packed with striking, beguiling imagery; sharp-suited leads. 

Emma Thomas – who has acted as producer on all of Nolan's features – concurs, albeit with some hesitation due to some inaccurate online scuttlebutt. “It’s very much its own thing,” she says. “It’s in no sense a re-tread. But I think that there are elements of Memento. I think the obvious film I would compare it to is Inception, because it is a similarly globetrotting, mind-bending, huge... spectacular. 

"But I read a bunch of stuff early on when people were speculating about what it was, and speculating that it was a sequel to Inception. And it’s very much not that. So I almost hesitate to compare the two. But when you look at where it sits in Chris’ body of work, I would say it’s in that vein.”

Tenet adorns the cover of the new Total Film magazine (here's a pre-order link), which includes extended interviews with Nolan, Pattinson, John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh. Total Film subscribers will get an exclusive cover featuring John David Washington's protagonist, and the newsstand cover features Washington and Robert Pattinson. Check them out below.

Total Film's Tenet subscribers' cover

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Total Film)

Total Film's Tenet cover

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Total Film)

The issue is available in shops from Friday, and will also be available digitally for your tablet from wherever you get your digital mags. You can start a Total Film subscription beginning with issue 299 (the Tenet issue) by heading to MyFavouriteMagazines.

Tenet is scheduled to open in cinemas on July 17, 2020.

Matt Maytum
Deputy Editor, Total Film

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, looking after the long-form features there, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.