Is 'Inception Tied to 'Tenet?'

Could Christopher Nolan's new film "Tenet" actually be a sequel of sorts to "Inception"?

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

John David Washington behind a glass with a bullet hole.

© Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

One film opened in theaters 10 years ago, and is set to help theaters return with its 10-year-anniversary screenings on July 17.

The other film hopes to be the savior of cinemas with an anticipated big opening in theaters everywhere on July 31.

© Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

But how else are these two epic sci-fi thrillers from filmmaking wunderkind Christopher Nolan that have reality manipulation in mind, "Inception" (secret agents operating in dreams) and "Tenet" (secret agents operating with the flow of time), related? Or are they even remotely connected?

According to "Tenet" star John David Washington (son of Denzel), who's pretty much been sworn to secrecy on plot details, there is some sort of thing going on between the movies' storylines.

In a recent Esquire interview, here's what the up-and-coming star had to say:

"I'd say ['Tenet'] is an in-law to 'Inception.'…They're related by marriage. They get together for Thanksgivings, family barbecues, like that kind of thing. Other than that, one lives in Europe, the other one lives in Compton."

While that isn't exactly a definitive that will play out specifically in "Tenet," there are some things to ponder, and easter eggs to look for once the film opens.

First, Nolan is known to be fascinated with how time plays, whether it's starting a narrative at its endpoint and working backwards ("Memento"), seeing how time gets murky in a region of neverending daylight ("Insomnia"), or how it slows down the deeper you delve into the dream state ("Inception") or speeds up relative to where you're at in the universe ("Interstellar").

By that count, the theme of Nolan's "Tenet" is nothing new. But the thread of global espionage that works through the stories of "Inception" and "Tenet" could be a more concrete pathway between the two. The coupling of the films' release and re-release may also hint at something.

There are a few more things that draw parallels between the films. The use of a highly trained group of specialists to accomplish a modern-day mission...a mission that seems quite impossible and involves the highest of stakes...and of course, the presence of actor Michael Caine in another mysterious yet knowing role – could he even be playing a slightly older version of his "Inception" professor?

© Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Until the movie opens, it's all just fun speculation. But watching the previews, there's something distinctly familiar about the new world of "Tenet" that at the very least seems to draw lots of inspiration from Nolan's previous film.

In a little over a month, we'll finally find out if the words "Inception" and "Tenet" are a part of the same sentence.

Tenet Poster




September 3, 2020

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Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango,, MediaTrip, and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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