Fan Theory Suggests Christopher Nolan's Tenet Is an Inception Sequel

It's just under a year before Christopher Nolan's Tenet hits theaters on July 17, 2020, but for fans who caught Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw in theaters this week they got a first look at the mysterious film. A 40-second teaser trailer for Tenet debuted in front of Hobbs & Shaw, but instead of answering some questions about Nolan's secretive project it's only prompted more questions and theories -- including one that the film is actually a stealth sequel for Inception.

From all descriptions of the teaser, there's not a lot to work with in terms of details. Title cards in the teaser make the announcement that "Time has come for a new protagonist" and "Time has come for a new mission" before showing star John David Washington, who is described by The Hollywood Reporter as "moving in reverse in some sort of loop" in the teaser. The teaser and the official description of the film -- "an action epic involving the world of international espionage" together in the absence of other details then have fans already making the connection to Inception. As fans may recall, Inception saw Dominick "Dom" Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team using experimental military technology to get into the subconscious of targets to extract valuable information from a shared dream world in an act of corporate espionage. In the film, Cobb is also running from a murder charge in the U.S. stemming from his wife's suicide, his children left in the care of his father-in-law (played by Michael Caine.) At the end of the film, having apparently successful carried out a major mission for a Japanese businessman, is able to return home to his children, though the ending is left ambiguous as to whether it's real or a dream.

With Tenet, though, fans are thinking that maybe the ending of Inception was real and now we'll get to see perhaps those children's story, continuing the Inception universe and setting, while also allowing for an exploration of new themes and new stories. As The Hollywood Reporter speculated, Tenet could reveal that the dream tech developed for the military in Inception has gone even further, or been developed into something even more dangerous, this time allowing spy missions to not work in the realm of dreams but possibly travel through time. Perhaps the events of Inception had terrible, unforeseen consequences, leading to a next generation having to deal with things. The idea of dealing with a next generation is also intriguing as Nolan has notably shifted the focus of things in films such as Interstellar from being the story of the “older” protagonist and seen a focus in younger generations being the “heroes”. In Interstellar specifically, Murphy Cooper, not her space travelling father, who ultimately save humanity.

It's also possible that Tenet is entirely unconnected to Inception. One of the things that makes Inception so fascinating is the ambiguous ending as its left for fans to decide for themselves if Dom's return home to his family is real or a dream. Depending on how Tenet plays out, if it were a sequel to Inception, it might "solve" that sort of ambiguity, a somewhat surprising move as Nolan himself doesn't really break down his endings. For now, it seems we'll simply have to wait for more information about Tenet to find out what it's all about.


Nolan and Emma Thomas are producing Tenet, with Thomas Hayslip serving as executive producer. Other behind the scenes hires include Hoyte van Hoytema as director of photography, editor Jennifer Lame, production designer Nathan Crowley, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, and VFX supervisor Andrew Jackson.

Tenet will arrive in theaters on July 17, 2020.

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