Five things to watch when you’re not watching Tenet

Five things to watch when you’re not watching Tenet

Words by Anthony Morris

Tenet was shaping up to be the biggest film of the year.

After a series of delays, last week finally saw director Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster Tenet hit cinemas. Okay, cinemas outside Victoria: thanks to coronavirus restrictions that have seen the state’s cinema’s shut their doors, we’ll have to wait until… well, for the next couple of weeks at least.

There’s no getting around it: this sucks. Tenet was shaping up to be the biggest film of the year, and while reviews have been varied, the critics are united in saying it’s one to be experienced on the big screen. But just because we’ll have to wait yet another few weeks to finally see it doesn’t mean we have to miss out entirely: we’ve put together a list of five viewing options to help ease the pain of a Tenet-free lockdown. Though you might want to also avoid free-to-air television, because those commercials for Tenet saying it’s “in cinemas now” is really rubbing salt into our wounds.

When you want to know more about “The Protagonist”:
Tenet’s lead character is known as “The Protagonist”; which may be for spooky spy reasons or just because nobody actually says his name in the movie. He’s played by John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son), whose career has really taken off in the last few years. He was a series regular on Ballers, and had a small role in the (excellent) Robert Redford retirement film The Old Man and the Gun, but he really came to the notice of audiences with his leading role in Spike Lee’s 2018 film BlacKKKlansman. There he plays Ron Stallworth, a cop in 1970s Colorado Springs who manages to infiltrate the KKK (over the phone) and along the way comes to realise things aren’t quite as simple as cops always being the good guys. Based on actual events, it’s a darkly funny, occasionally uncomfortable film that’s a great showcase for Washington – though it’s unlikely his corny “white” phone voice gets much of a go in Tenet.

BlacKKKlansman is available on DVD, blu-ray, and streaming services including Netflix, Fetch, and Apple TV

When you want to get into the time travel angle:
Pretty much the first thing everyone guessed about Tenet from the trailers is that the story somehow involves a limited form of time travel – not so much jumping back and forward in time, as the ability to make time run backwards for a while (which is handy if, say, you’d like the bullet someone just shot into you to come back out again). While there’s hardly a shortage of time travel movies out there – and Nolan himself has always been fond of stories that play around with timelines – if you really want to go on a time travel binge, good news: from September 3rd SBS On Demand will have the complete run of the TV version of 12 Monkeys available to watch. That’s four whole highly entertaining seasons of messing about with timelines in an attempt to cure a deadly pandemic that wipes out most of humanity (uh oh) – and unlike a lot of recent science fiction series, this one actually manages to wrap everything up in a way that works.

12 Monkeys is available on SBS On Demand from September 3rd

When you want to watch another Christopher Nolan movie:
From all reports Tenet is, in style at least, something of a successor to Nolan’s biggest hit Inception. Which is probably why Inception was re-released into cinemas as part of the build up to Tenet; if you’ve got a copy lying around the house it’s always worth a second look, if only to try and figure out if the top does start to topple at the end. But there’s more to Nolan than just a lot of handsome guys in grey suits doing spy stuff; if Tenet’s take on time is what you’re interested in, both his previous film Dunkirk and his early film Memento mess about with timelines in ways that make the drama even more intense. Or you could just watch Interstellar and dream about a future where you can not only travel out of your house, but to the stars.

Christopher Nolan movies are available pretty much everywhere, though Memento is currently only available to stream on Fetch.

When you want to forget Tenet is even a thing:
What’s the one genre it’s safe to say Nolan won’t be tackling any time soon? Westerns! Which is probably a good thing, because a steely-grey colour pallete and fondness for cities and technology don’t really go well with the wild west. What does go well with the West whatever the era is Kevin Costner, who has quietly become the go-to actor when you’re looking to tell a story in which a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do (and what he’s gotta do just might involve killing off some varmits). Two of Costner’s recent trips out west are out now on DVD and blu-ray: the mini-series Hatfields & McCoys, a gripping take on the notorious feud between two families in the wake of the American Civil War (he plays the aptly named Devil Hatfield; the always entertaining Bill Paxton heads the McCoy family), and the first two seasons of gritty modern-day western Yellowstone, in which he plays a modern-day cattle farmer with some distinctly old west attitudes towards those who get in his way.

Hatfields & McCoys and s1&2 of Yellowstone are available on DVD amd blu-ray; the just concluded third season of Yellowstone is available on Stan

When you’ve seen the trailer featuring that plane crash too many times:
Crashing planes are a mainstay of Hollywood action, but is it just me or does the plane crashing into an airport hanger that’s a big part of the Tenet trailers look a lot like the plane crashing into an airport hanger that’s a big part of the opening of the awesome 90s action movie Face/Off? Legendary director John Woo isn’t someone who’s usually cited as one of Nolan’s inspirations, but Face/Off – which combines a lot of great action involving men in snazzy suits with a pretty nutty high-tech gimmick – definitely feels like the kind of film Nolan would have made in the mid-90s. Plus Face/Off features classic hams Nicolas Cage and John Travolta chewing the scenery like they haven’t eaten in a week: you really don’t need any excuse not to watch (or re-watch) it this (and every) weekend.

Face/Off is so good you already have it on DVD and blu-ray at your house, but it’s also available to buy or rent on Apple TV and Fetch.