‘Tenet’ review: Worth at least 17 rewatches

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'Tenet' review: Jack Cutmore-Scott, John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet
Jack Cutmore-Scott, John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet

Tenet review in a nutshell: After months of not going to the movies, Tenet is a cinematic treat to come back to — visually stunning (if cold-looking, probably because Christopher Nolan is red-green colourblind), thrilling, mind- and time-bending. You’ll need multiple rewatches to fully appreciate and understand the things you’re seeing on screen.

Movie synopsis

A Protagonist is recruited by a mysterious organisation, Tenet, to prevent an apocalyptic event in this international spy thriller which unfolds beyond real time.

Would I recommend you watch it?

Yes. Christopher Nolan always makes movies that are worth watching, even though you may not get everything on first watch. But if you dislike brain puzzles, this movie isn’t for you.

Tenet is in cinemas now in select parts of the world. If you’re in the U.S., it’ll be in cinemas in select cities on September 4. Get your movie tickets from Fandango.

Or continue reading for a full review with ALL THE SPOILERS IN THE WORLD.

Review of Tenet (with ALL THE SPOILERS IN THE WORLD)

To be honest, this is less a review of Tenet than it’s me trying to suss out what I understand after watching the movie, and some brief thoughts. If you’re reading this review/recap to understand the movie, others will probably do a better job. (I’ve included links at the end to articles that helped me understand the parts I didn’t.)

I came out of Tenet feeling like I could watch it 10 times and still not comprehend the specifics of how inversion works. I thought I got the theory, but then the scenes in the movie of inversion in practice just made me more confused than ever.

But I get the general gist of the story. When distilled down to its very essence, it’s about some guys going back in time to stop a bad guy from ending the world. (I know the trailer keeps saying that it’s all about “inversion”, or reversing time, and not about time travel, but it’s about time travel. Just not the way it’s conventionally shown on screen.)

FULL synopsis of Tenet (once again, ALL THE SPOILERS IN THE WORLD are below!)

Below are spoilers for the ENTIRE MOVIE! Only read before watching if you like ruining things for yourself. I guarantee you’re not going to enjoy your experience as much if you don’t watch it yourself first and try to understand it before reading what other people think of it.

During a terrorist siege in Kiev at an opera house, a CIA agent (John David Washington) and his team are tasked to retrieve plutonium from a source who’s in there. While executing that mission, the CIA agent — who’s never given a name, and only called the Protagonist — sees the terrorists planting bombs among the unconscious audience. He goes to remove the bombs and is nearly killed by a strange bullet moving backwards in time, but a masked man who isn’t part of his team saves him before disappearing elsewhere. (The masked man apparently has a red string hanging off his pack, but I didn’t notice this part.)

John David Washington as The Protagonist and Rich Ceraulo Ko as Timmy running away as the top level of the opera house blows up behind them
John David Washington as The Protagonist and Rich Ceraulo Ko as Timmy running away as the top level of the opera house blows up behind them in Tenet

Having successfully removed the bombs from among the audience and planted them out of harm’s way, the Protagonist and his team leaves, but they’re captured by some bad guys and lose the plutonium. The rest of the Protagonist’s team doesn’t make it, and the Protagonist is tortured for hours. He bites on a CIA-issued suicide pill to die.

The Protagonist wakes up on a ship, clearly not dead, though to the rest of the world, he’s labelled as dead. Choosing to die and not give up any info even when tortured is apparently a test that very few people pass, and the CIA official he talks to tells him that this very secretive organisation called Tenet wants to recruit him. He goes to a mysterious place where a scientist (Clémence Poésy) shows him some bullets that go backwards in time, and tells him about inversion. It’s a process of reversing an object’s entropy so it travels backwards in time, and looks like it’s moving in reverse in our linear, forward-travelling world.

Tenet is apparently an organisation that’s founded in the future, and sends messages to the past through inversion. (Or something. I can’t really remember this part, or who it was that told this to the Protagonist.) The point is, something terrible is going to happen in the future, and they have to stop it now.

The inverted bullets that the scientist shows him are similar to the bullets the Protagonist saw in the Kiev opera siege. They’re made of special materials only found in India, so the Protagonist goes to India to seek out the most powerful arms dealer there, Sanjay Singh, and ask him how did the terrorists at the Kiev opera siege get hold of those materials. He contacts a guy he knew from his CIA days, Mahir (Himesh Patel), to get him someone who can help him get an audience with Sanjay Singh (Denzil Smith), who lives in a tall, well-guarded building in the middle of a city.

Himesh Patel as Mahir in Tenet
Himesh Patel as Mahir in Tenet

The guy Mahir finds turns out to be Neil (Robert Pattinson), who guesses that the Protagonist likes Diet Coke on their first meeting, and whom he gets along well with. Even so, the Protagonist doesn’t tell him about Tenet, or why he wants to meet with Sanjay Singh.

Neil helps him to reverse bungee-jump their way into Sanjay Singh’s tower and subdue the guards, a very cool sequence that you can see from the trailer that looks like they’re scaling the wall of the building backwards. (This is definitely a deliberate choice in theme with the movie.)

John David Washington as The Protagonist and Robert Pattinson as Neil reverse bungee-jumping into Sanjay Singh's tower
John David Washington as The Protagonist and Robert Pattinson as Neil reverse bungee-jumping into Sanjay Singh’s tower in Tenet

Anyway, the real arms dealer turns out to be Priya (Dimple Kapadia), Sanjay Singh’s wife. She knows about Tenet, and she tells him about Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), a Russian arms dealer who has the materials. (Or something similar. I can’t really remember this part too.)

The Protagonist goes to London where he meets Sir Michael Crosby (Michael Caine). I cannot remember what’s his role in the organisation, but Michael Caine is there just for that one scene to have lunch in a very uppity restaurant and tell him more about Andrei Sator and his wife Katharine Barton (Elizabeth Debicki), the art appraisal specialist who could get him an audience with Sator.

Sir Michael Crosby passes the Protagonist a forgery of a Goya painting that’s apparently the second one in a set of two that a forger, who was very close to Katharine Barton, did. Sator has the first one, and he bought it for US$9 million at an auction after his wife appraised it as a genuine Goya painting.

John David Washington as The Protagonist going to meet Sir Michael Crosby (Michael Caine)
John David Washington as The Protagonist going to meet Sir Michael Crosby (Michael Caine) in Tenet

The Protagonist brings the second forgery to Katharine, who reveals that no, she didn’t mean to defraud her husband, she had been fooled by the painting; and no, she wasn’t having an affair with the forger, who’s now paralysed and mute because of her jealous husband’s goons. She wishes she had taken the chance to betray him though, because she no longer loves her husband, who’s now holding the painting over her as blackmail to stay with him or he’ll send her to prison.

Katharine mentions a yacht holiday in Vietnam that they recently took, where she tried to love her husband again. It was ruined when her husband tells her he’ll let her go if she promises never to see her son again. Later, she went ashore with her son for sightseeing, and when they came back to the boat, she sees a woman diving off the boat, and her husband went missing for some time. She says she wasn’t jealous of that woman, but she envies that woman’s freedom.

Sator sends his goons to beat up the Protagonist, but the Protagonist wins, which gives Katharine hope for the first time. She tells him to help her destroy the painting, which is kept in a tax haven storage hangar in Oslo for the super rich, and she’ll help him get an audience with her husband.

The Protagonist and Neil, with the help of Mahir, plan a heist/fire at the airport where they crash a Boeing plane into the hangar to create chaos so they can break into Sator’s hangar to get the painting. However, while they’re there, they discover an inversion turnstile in his hangar and are attacked by two masked assailants coming through the turnstile. The Protagonist fights with one of them in reverse, in an extended, mind-boggling sequence that I can’t make head or tail of, while Neil chases after the other, who’s moving normally, but the assailants get away.

John David Washington as The Protagonist in Tenet
John David Washington as The Protagonist in Tenet

The Protagonist meets with Priya again and she tells him that Sator is working with and receiving messages from some people from the future who want him to help end the world. Tenet needs to know where he is keeping some secret supplies, or hiding some secrets, or something. (I can’t remember this part, sorry.) Basically, he must be kept alive. She tells the Protagonist that he can lure Sator into a partnership by telling him where he can get plutonium-241 — the piece that the Protagonist’s team was supposed to retrieve in the Kiev opera siege but failed.

Kat helps the Protagonist to get an audience with Sator at a dinner party. Sator is about to have him tortured and killed out of jealousy when the Protagonist tells him about the plutonium-241, which stays his hand. Sator tells the Protagonist to meet him the next day to play a sailing sport for rich people.

Elizabeth Debicki as Kat and John David Washington as The Protagonist in Tenet
Elizabeth Debicki as Kat and John David Washington as The Protagonist in Tenet

The next morning, Kat looks perky because she thought the fake painting was destroyed in the hangar chaos, and she can finally escape her abusive husband with her son. To her dismay, Sator reveals that he moved the fake painting out of the hangar before the fire, which means he still has a hold over her.

Both Sator and a pissed off Kat go to meet the Protagonist in a boat, and they go sailboat racing. Halfway through, Kat cuts off Sator’s harness and pushes him into the sea to drown, but the Protagonist turns the sailboat around and rescues him.

Elizabeth Debicki as Kat in Tenet
Elizabeth Debicki as Kat in Tenet

Back on Sator’s yacht, Kat accuses the Protagonist of using her and says Sator will seek retribution against her for trying to drown him. The Protagonist feels guilty and gives her a gun to protect herself.

Later, he goes to see Sator, who says he now owes the Protagonist a favour and asks him what he wants. At first, the Protagonist tells him to not seek retribution towards Kat as the favour, but Sator pretends that it was his own careless mistake that he nearly drowned, and that she didn’t push him into the water. The Protagonist then asks Sator to help him steal the plutonium-241 in Talinn in Estonia. (I can’t remember this part either, so I’m not sure how the plutonium-241 ended up in Talinn after the Kiev opera house siege.)

Back in their bedroom on the yacht, Sator comes in and wants to whip Kat with his belt, but she says that she will scream so loud that the Protagonist will hear and come and stop him, which would force Sator to kill him, which means his deal with the Protagonist won’t go through. So Sator angrily abandons his plan to punish her.

One of Sator’s special inversion shipments have arrived on the yacht, so he goes to inspect it. The Protagonist spies on him doing so, and sees him bludgeoning one of his crew members to death with a gold bar. The Protagonist is caught by Sator’s chief goon, Quinton (Yuri Kolokolnikov), and dragged in front of Sator, but for reasons I can’t remember and couldn’t really catch, the Protagonist isn’t killed, even though Sator is suspicious of his true motives. The Protagonist says he wants Kat to be the go-between to transfer the plutonium-241 after his team has stolen it, and Sator agrees.

Kenneth Branagh as Andrei Sator in Tenet
Kenneth Branagh as Andrei Sator in Tenet

The next day, Sator brings Kat to his warehouse, which is the first time he’s involving her in his arms dealings. I think it’s here when he tells her his miserable past, and there’s a flashback to when he was a teenager in the collapsed Soviet Union looking for plutonium in his ruined nuclear facility hometown to cash in on a government commission. Back then, he found a case with a message for him from the future and some gold bars, and he killed his friend who was with him.

Sator frightens Kat and she pulls out the gun that the Protagonist gave to her, but Sator says he knows she won’t shoot him because her anger has turned to despair. He disarms her, then brutally hits her, kicks her in the stomach, and spits on her when she’s on the ground. Then he calls someone and asks them to tell him what they see.

The Protagonist and his team manages to steal the plutonium-241 successfully. He and Neil are driving down the freeway when suddenly, there are cars driving inversely and we see Sator threatening to shoot Kat in the car next to them unless the Protagonist gives him the plutonium case. This part was extremely complicated, but the Protagonist eventually throws him the case, and Sator vanishes somewhere else that I didn’t see clearly, leaving Kat alone in the car that’s speeding inversely.

The Protagonist manages to throw himself into the other car and stop it before it crashes into other cars. Then there’s a firefight, and Sator’s goons capture the Protagonist and Kat. (I don’t know why Neil wasn’t captured, because he was with them in the firefight too. He went a bit further away to call for backup, but from what I could tell, he wasn’t that far away.)

Robert Pattinson as Neil in Tenet
Robert Pattinson as Neil in Tenet

Sator’s goons bring them to his warehouse, which is divided into two rooms. From this point on, it gets hella confusing, because the goons bring the Protagonist to one side, while Sator drags Kat through the opposite side, but Sator is moving inversely while Kat is moving forwards in time.

Sator interrogates the Protagonist while on the inverse side of the glass, and asks him where’s the plutonium-241, while threatening to shoot Kat with an inverse bullet, which we found out earlier in the movie, is fatal for you. (This part was also confusing because I thought that the Protagonist already thrown Sator the plutonium-241 case, but apparently the plutonium wasn’t inside.)

John David Washington as The Protagonist in Tenet
John David Washington as The Protagonist in Tenet

Sator shoots Kat, and then we see another version of him emerge from the inversion turnstile into the Protagonist’s side of the room. (I can’t remember this part clearly too, so he may or may not have emerged from the turnstile. He may have just come through another door. The point is, there’s a version of him now in the Protagonist’s side of the room.)

Sator tells the Protagonist that he better not be lying or Kat dies. Then the Sator on the Protagonist’s side of the room goes into the turnstile and emerges on the other side, and we see the whole interrogation play out on Sator and Kat’s side of the room in a very confusing turn of events where the Protagonist is now speaking in reverse, because have I told you I don’t understand how inversion works? ???

The interrogation seen from Sator's inverse side of the glass
The interrogation seen from Sator’s inverse side of the glass in Tenet

Anyway, Sator, having gotten what he wanted, leaves, and his goons are about to kill the Protagonist when Neil arrives with military commander Ives (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Ives’ team of soldiers to save him. We find out that Neil actually knew more than he was letting on and he’s been in Tenet the whole time.

Ives explains that Sator is using a temporal pincer movement, where half his team is travelling backwards in time while the other half travels forward normally, so the backward-travelling half can tell the forward-travelling half what will eventually happen to them. That’s how Sator always knows what’s coming.

By the way, this theory sounds logical and easy to understand until you actually watch it in motion later. Then you’ll be like: Wtf is happening, and how is it happening? ?

Meanwhile, Kat is dying from the inverse bullet, so the Protagonist tells the soldiers to bring her through the turnstile so she can heal from the inverse wound by travelling backwards through time. So they all go through the turnstile, and the Protagonist tells Neil and the other soldiers that he wants to go after Sator to retrieve the plutonium-241.

Neil tries to dissuade him for reasons I mostly didn’t catch, one of them being “Whatever happened, happened.” But the Protagonist insists on going after Sator. (Where exactly is the plutonium-241 and what happened to it during the highway chase scene? I didn’t get this part.)

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in 'Tenet' movie
John David Washington as The Protagonist and Robert Pattinson as Neil in Tenet

Anyway, we learn more rules about surviving in an inverse world. Inverse travellers have to wear a special breathing apparatus, because inverse lungs cannot breathe normal air as they are travelling backwards in time while the air (and the rest of the world) is travelling forwards.

John David Washington as The Protagonist in the car on the inverse side of the highway chase scene
John David Washington as The Protagonist in the car on the inverse side of the highway chase scene in Tenet

We see the highway scene in reverse. I still don’t know what happened to the plutonium-241 in the process of the transfer, but the Protagonist turns out to have been in the flipped over car that we saw previously in the scene. Sator is there too, and he seems to have gotten the plutonium-241. He sets the flipped over car on fire, and the Protagonist looks like he’s a goner, but he wakes up in a shipping container with Neil and Kat.

Kenneth Branagh as Sator walking away after setting The Protagonist's car on fire
Kenneth Branagh as Sator walking away after setting The Protagonist’s car on fire in Tenet

Fire turns to ice inversely, so the Protagonist nearly died of hypothermia, but Neil and Ives’ team rescued him. They’re going to Oslo, where Sator’s tax haven hangar has the inverse turnstile that we saw earlier in the movie. I’m not sure why they were going there, but I think they wanted to give Kat’s wound enough time to heal, while also timing it to coincide with their hangar explosion so they can make use of the chaos to bring her through the turnstile to the other side forwards into time again.

Anyway, they do that. And we realise that the two masked assailants that we saw the Protagonist and Neil fighting the first time round through the turnstile was actually the Protagonist travelling backwards in time inversely and emerging on Neil’s side of the turnstile forwards in time. While chasing the “assailant” back then, Neil had unmasked and seen him, and that’s how Neil knew they were going to be fine.

(I need to rewatch this part, because come to think of it, I don’t remember Neil and Kat going through the turnstile. But they must have, because they are all now travelling forwards in time together.)

The Protagonist goes to see Priya to tell her not to tell him about the plutonium-241 in the first place, so that the whole mess of Sator getting the plutonium-241 could have been spared, and the Protagonist could have left Kat out of it, but Priya refuses. She says that the plutonium is not actually plutonium for a nuclear weapon, but a part of the Algorithm, which is the thing that could end the world by causing the entire world to reverse its entropy and destroy itself.

With this piece that Sator just acquired, he now has all nine pieces that the people in the future wanted him to find. Tenet needs Sator to get the “plutonium” so that he would join all the pieces together and they can find the other eight pieces. It was split into nine because the scientist who invented the Algorithm in the future realised it wasn’t a good thing to have invented, so she split it and hid it in the past, and then killed herself to make sure that they couldn’t force her to make another one. (Think of it like the atom bomb, but worse.)

The Protagonist realises that Priya used him. She counters that the Protagonist also used Kat, and they all use somebody to achieve their aims. The Protagonist makes Priya give him her word that Kat and her son would be able to walk away unharmed after this, despite knowing too much about Tenet. Priya does so reluctantly.

John David Washington as The Protagonist and Dimple Kapadia as Priya in Tenet
John David Washington as The Protagonist and Dimple Kapadia as Priya in Tenet

Now that Kat is healed, there’s the problem of finding Sator. Sir Michael Crosby had told the Protagonist that an explosion occurred in Stalask-12, Sator’s old hometown which was a nuclear facility, on the same day of the Kiev opera siege. The Protagonist and Neil deduce that that’s where the Algorithm must have been buried/is going to be buried.

Kat reveals that Sator is dying. He wears a heart tracker that he’s constantly obsessing over, so they somehow figure out that he wants to choose when to die, and that his death is the kill switch for setting off the Algorithm and destroying the universe. They also guess that Sator intends to go back in time to his and Kat’s yacht holiday in Vietnam — the same day as the Stalask-12 explosion — which was the last time he felt happy and loved, because he went missing for some time during that holiday.

So the Protagonist’s team and Ives’ soldiers go back in time to that day, and Ives plans an operation at Stalask-12. Ives and the Protagonist’s half of the soldiers will be travelling forwards in time, while Neil is attached to the other half of the soldiers who will be travelling backwards in time in a temporal pincer movement. The soldiers will fight Sator’s team and provide a distraction, while Ives and the Protagonist go and retrieve the Algorithm. Ives has restricted it to only the two of them because nobody who has seen the thing can leave the field. Basically, it’s a suicide mission.

The night before the soldiers leave, the Protagonist gives Kat a phone, telling her to call the number programmed in it and reveal her location if she ever feels unsafe, or something along those lines. They say goodbye. She has to travel back one more day so that she has time to fly to Vietnam, where Mahir will meet her. The plan is for Kat to stop Sator from killing himself before the soldiers complete their mission and retrieve the Algorithm before it’s set to go off.

Anyway, the next day, the mission goes as planned, I suppose. It was very chaotic. I had close to zero idea wtf was going on with half of the soldiers moving in reverse. Also, a building was rigged to explode twice, once in reverse, once linearly. I’m not sure how it helped in any way, cool as it looks.

Skipping to the part which actually matters, halfway through Neil’s team’s mission, Neil sees Sator’s chief goon Quinton doing something that causes him to realise Ives and the Protagonist need help in their underground mission to retrieve the Algorithm. Neil splinters off from his team and goes to help them, in a befuddling sequence of events that I don’t really understand, and I’m not too sure I would understand even if I watched it another 17 times.

Because it looked like Ives was shot by Quinton and died. Or was he shot and merely wounded for the time being? Cause there’s this whole part where the Protagonist is the only one who’s standing and conscious behind a locked gate, talking to Sator on the phone and trying to convince him not to go ahead with his plan, while Quinton is rigging bombs around a well on the other side and preparing to throw the Algorithm in.

Also, there’s a dead soldier on the other side of the locked gate with a red string on his pack. I can’t remember if the dead soldier was dead from the start, because I could have sworn that he was alive and trying to unlock the gate at first before he was shot by Quinton, but later events will prove me wrong. At a crucial moment later, the dead soldier is “revived” in reverse, unlocks the gate for the Protagonist and disappears backwards into the tunnel. Then the Protagonist tussles with Quinton who’s rigging bombs around the Algorithm and about to throw it down a well. Ives is in that fight too. I can’t remember when he got off the ground.

I obviously need to rewatch this scene. If you cannot tell from this entire “recap”, my memory is extremely faulty.

Meanwhile, as the operation is going on, Mahir and Kat are in Vietnam on a boat close to the yacht where Kat and Sator were holidaying before. Mahir passes Kat a gun and tells her not to let Sator kill himself, or kill Sator herself, before he signals to her that the soldiers have accomplished their mission. Kat swims to the yacht and gets on after her past self has left to go sightseeing with her son. She greets Sator, who arrives on a helicopter shortly after her, and seems suspicious of her. She tries to play along and treat him lovingly, and then while he’s making the phone call to gloat at the Protagonist, she spills water and sunscreen on the deck to make it slippery.

Later, she asks Sator to turn around so she can put sunscreen on him, but halfway through, She sees her past self and her son coming back to the yacht, and realises she’s running out of time. Kat decides she doesn’t want to play along anymore to let him die happy and thinking he had won, and decides to kill him even though she hasn’t gotten the signal yet from Mahir that the Algorithm is safe.

Kat reveals that she’s from the future, and then as Sator’s about to attack her, she shoots him and pushes him off the yacht with the help of the slippery floor. Then she dives off the yacht, thus revealing that she is the woman that she mentioned she saw diving off the yacht and looking free in her early conversation with the Protagonist.

For some reason, Sator’s death didn’t immediately trigger the bombs/the Algorithm. Neil up top has somehow linked a rope to the Algorithm and tied it to a vehicle he commandeered. Before the bomb goes off, Neil drives the vehicle forward and pulls the rope up, and Ives and the Protagonist, who managed to overpower Quinton and throw him down the well, and were both holding on to the Algorithm, are pulled up with it.

Later, Neil, Ives and the Protagonist are alone in the desert. Most of the distraction team of soldiers have gone back after the operation. Ives intends to kill Neil and the Protagonist at first, since no one who saw the Algorithm can leave the field alive, but he decides to separate the Algorithm into three, and gives a part to each of them to bury. Ives says better not let him see them again or he’ll kill them. Neil and the Protagonist say he won’t be looking for them earnestly, right, and Ives says yes he will. I don’t know if he’s joking or not.

Then the Protagonist sees the red string on Neil’s pack, and realises that the dead soldier behind the locked gate he saw was Neil. And he realises it’s the last time he would see the present Neil, and he’s emotional. Neil says it’s the end of their journey for him, while for the Protagonist, it’s just the beginning. He passes the Protagonist his third of the Algorithm, and goes back to the base with Ives, presumably to go through the inverse turnstile and enact the sequence that’ll cause him to help the Protagonist to unlock the gate and then die. Before leaving, he tells the Protagonist it was him who recruited Neil all those years ago, or far into the future for the Protagonist. And then they leave, with the Protagonist holding two-thirds of the Algorithm.

John David Washington as The Protagonist looking emotional as he says goodbye to present-day Neil
John David Washington as The Protagonist looking emotional as he says goodbye to present-day Neil

Back in London, Kat is going to pick up her son from school when she feels uneasy. Priya and a goon are in a car watching her, and they’re about to kill her before her son comes out, when suddenly, the Protagonist shoots the goon from the backseat. The Protagonist says that Priya promised to leave her alone, but Priya says it’s her job to tie up loose ends. The Protagonist says that’s not her job, and he figured out that he wasn’t working for her. All this while, the both of them were working for him, because he’s the one who founded Tenet in the past. She says better tie up the loose end then. And he shoots her.


My brief thoughts about the movie

Like all of Christopher Nolan’s other movies, while the overall gist is understandable, it’s the specifics, the special concepts that he made up to give the movies the originality that they’re known for that are so hard to grasp. And Tenet was made especially difficult for me to grasp on first watch because my memory is full of gaping holes, *and* I didn’t catch everything they said in the first place, which obviously doesn’t help.

And watching people move backwards in time while the rest of the world moves in reverse to them is a visual concept that I still cannot get my head around. How did they even film it? Christopher Nolan is said to like filming things in real life as much as he can and eschew green screen, which is why a lot of the interviews that I’ve seen are in awe of him actually crashing a Boeing jet into a building instead of doing it through CGI. To me though, that wasn’t the impressive part of the movie. The impressive part was all the inverted scenes. There’s no way CGI wasn’t involved in some of them.

This featurette attempts to explain how they filmed it for real, but I still don’t see how CGI isn’t involved.

This is the second time Kenneth Branagh has played an explosive Russian evil villain. (Or at least, the second time I’ve seen him as one. The first was in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.) He was so scary and abusive that the UK theatrical release required the scene where Sator kicks Kat in the stomach to be cut to receive a 12A rating, which is akin to PG13 in Singapore.

I’ve never particularly liked Robert Pattinson, but I like his chemistry here with John David Washington. It hurts to know that the end of the movie was the end of Neil’s journey with the Protagonist, and he left him knowing he was going to die, even though for the Protagonist, it was just the beginning. :'(

The ending song by Travis Scott is great. I understand the lyrics about as much as I understand inversion, but the beat is sick, and he’s incorporated all the major motifs of the movie into the song.

It’s a very cinematic film, as in, it should be watched in a cinema. (I believe most films should be watched in the cinema first, but some really seem like they can be watched at home.) The scene that particular drove that realisation for me was the rich people sailing sport scene. The surround sound of the waves and sea spray while watching the boat navigate the choppy water made me feel like I was there with them.

I’m glad that Warner Bros stuck it out and waited to release Tenet in cinemas, instead of going to premium video-on-demand like many movies did during this pandemic. (Christopher Nolan believes strongly in the cinematic experience, so that probably played a huge part, since they wouldn’t want to piss off their star collaborator.) After months of not watching a movie in cinemas, it’s a treat to come back to a gorgeous and cerebral film like this.

Scenes I definitely need to rewatch at least another 29 times, probably

  1. The part where the masked man (Neil) saves the Protagonist from the inverse bullet in the Kiev opera siege, because it went by too fast for me to catch.
  2. The highway chase scene, so I can observe carefully what happened to the “plutonium”. I also want to know why Neil wasn’t captured along with the Protagonist and Kat.
  3. Sator’s temporal pincer interrogation of the Protagonist after the highway chase scene, and when Neil and Ives come in to save him, cause I can’t remember what Neil said to the Protagonist to try to dissuade him from going after Sator again.
  4. The *reverse* highway chase scene, so I can figure out what happened to the “plutonium”, and where Sator disappeared to when he left Kat alone in the other car. I saw the “plutonium” bouncing in the Protagonist’s car, and then suddenly the car flipped over for some reason, and then Sator appeared outside. Huh?
  5. The journey in the shipping container to Oslo airport. It’s during this time that Neil tells the Protagonist about the grandfather paradox (if you go back in time to kill your grandfather, will you still exist?). And the Protagonist asks Neil too about if they’re already here in the present, and “whatever happened, happened”, doesn’t that mean that whatever they were trying to prevent didn’t happen? I forgot what was Neil’s answer.
  6. The reverse airport hangar scene, so I can see when Neil and Kat went through the turnstile too.
  7. The entire temporal pincer military operation in Stalask-12, to see if I can make any head or tail of it.
  8. The moment when Sator dies, because I don’t know why his death didn’t immediately set off the bombs/Algorithm.

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