S1: I want to tell you my secret now, I see.
S2: Charlotte, greatest Fabo.
S3: What’s in the box, your.
S2: You’re blowing up right now.
S4: Hello and welcome to Slate spoiler specials. Today, we’re spoiling Christopher Nolan’s puzzling movie TENNET. I am Sam Adams, the senior editor at Slate, and I’m joined today by Alissa Wilkinson, Vox’s film critic. Thanks for having me. All right. So we both saw Tenet in movie theaters, which as of this moment is the only way you can legally see it. And I feel like in the interest of transparency and public health, we should be clear about how that happened. In my case, I actually thought twice so that I could write the explainer that Slate ran, because as we will shortly get into, it’s a very hard movie to understand. Having seen only once both times I was at a press screening in a full size theater with I think one time five and the other times six other people. It was like first thing in the morning I had, you know, talk to the publicist beforehand and ensure that were not going to be too many people. Their theater had just been cleaned, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That felt like roughly safe. But those are also not circumstances that anyone else can kind of guarantee to duplicate in the real world. I know some people have gone out there and you can actually rent out a theater to a screening and just invite a few of her friends. It’s also been Drive-Ins, which is a relatively safe way to see it. But I think it’s just important to say upfront that we’re not endorsing the idea of like going to a movie theater and seeing this movie, even though we are talking about it.
S5: Yeah, that’s right. And another thing about press screenings is that people typically aren’t eating during them. And that’s probably one of the reasons that I’m least excited to go back to a movie theater, is having people eat and drink and thus have their masks off. So in the future, this will be available to rent perhaps sooner than we think. And so that is a much better way to see the movie.
S4: Well, let’s I think you follow this more closely than I have. But you would want to talk about, like, just the box office that this movie like, are people actually seeing this movie in theaters? What are the signs so far?
S5: Yeah, I mean, you know, it opened abroad before it opened in the US and it did OK abroad. So like in Europe, a lot of theaters have reduced seating capacities, but they’re in better shape, a lot of countries than we are. And so people are in the theaters and they’re going to see it in the US. I think we just passed the second weekend of the film opens on a Thursday before Labor Day, and I was reading that in the second weekend. It only fell twenty nine percent, which is pretty good, except that that’s only about like six and a half million dollars. So this is way, way, way lower than you would normally expect. A movie like Tenent, like I would say normally we’d be well above the half a billion mark worldwide at this point. And I think we just hit two hundred million worldwide. And of course, that’s due to lots of factors, including movie theaters aren’t open in New York State where I live and in California, and they aren’t open in some other places. Some movie theaters decided not to open because opening at reduced capacity doesn’t allow them to make enough money to pay their employees. So just doesn’t make any sense. And of course, some people just don’t feel safe going to the movies. And that’s also reasonable. And maybe they do feel safe, but it’s not the movie they want to go see. I wonder about that, too. I wonder if a franchise film might have done better or whether putting all the eggs in this particular basket made any sense. So in any case, it’s not making a lot of money. And I think that might be one reason that Wonderwoman moved its release date from October to Christmas last weekend, just knowing that maybe buying some time will give people more confidence or there will be more theaters open or whatever, literally nobody has any idea what’s about to happen.
S4: Right? I mean, this was the movie that was going to kind of save movie theaters. Christopher Nolan, as I think most people know, is maybe the sort of most ardent advocate, certainly as far as movie directors go of seeing movies in theater, preferably shot on and exhibited on celluloid film. He’s really pushed for that. He’s done things like, you know, given IMAX theaters like a couple of days. Head Start with movies. Warner Brothers rescheduled the date for this movie three or four times, just hoping the theaters would open. And I think theaters were kind of hanging on for Tennet to bring people back in. And they finally decided at least the rest of the world was more or less ready for it. And some places in the US where it’s not safe in movie theaters, but I guess I don’t think we can hold either Christopher Nolan or Warner Brothers responsible for that. No, there are other things in play. So you wrote in your review of TENNET. I couldn’t spoil it even if I wanted to. So thank you for coming on in trying. Yes, we are going to, in typical spoiler special fashion, kind of walk through the plot of this movie to the extent that we or anyone understands it. As I said, I’ve seen the movie twice. I’ve spent far more time than any human being should kind of poring over Reddit threads and online posts about it site. Feel like I mostly understand that there are definitely parts where I think the conclusion that you can solidly come to is that you just don’t know because there’s gaps in it which normally buy like a movie doesn’t have to kind of tell you everything. But this is as we’ll get into like a very mechanically driven thing. So when there’s handwaving in and I feel like it’s more of an issue than it might be in another film. Yes. All right. So why don’t you just set up the first scene for us? Like, where do we start? How does it get rolling?
S6: So we’re in an opera house. The fact that it’s an opera house is actually important to a weird thing about the movie that we’ll talk about later, I’m sure. But anyhow, it’s an opera house in Kiev. There is a CIA agent played by John David Washington, who I think somewhat obnoxiously is called the protagonist in the film. But anyhow, that’s what he’s called. And they’re in an opera house. The Opera Orchestra’s tuning up. The audience is all there. And then an undercover operation is underway and some guys break in with guns and start firing. And at this point, if you’re watching the movie, you have basically no idea what’s going on, nor does anyone else. But the craziest thing that happens during this scene is that, you know, as you’re trying to sort out what’s going on and there are gunmen firing and they’re trying to kind of take control of the situation, they put the audience out, basically release something that makes them kind of fall asleep, essentially. And then, you know, we’re looking at sort of a bullet that’s been fired into a piece of furniture and the bullet apparently kind of reverses, then goes back to a hostile gunman.
S4: And this is the first time that we discover that something is odd about this world ready to think it is kind of disturbing element of this first scene that, you know, the first kind of major American movie to be released in theaters opened with the scene that illustrates how quickly an aerosolized gas can spread through a large theater. Yes. Yes. It’s not something I wanted to be thinking about at that point.
S6: No, not at all. You know, it’s the first time that I believe we hear them say this key phrase, we live in a twilight world. And it’s sort of this like passphrase that someone says the first half of and someone says the second half of. And that kind of is supposed to be an indicator that we’re in on something, but we don’t really know completely what’s going on, obviously.
S4: Yeah, there’s two elements to keep particular note of in this first scene here, one, two or three. I guess one is that sort of reverse bullet that you mentioned, which we just see. It’s kind of basically a bullet impact running in reverse that the protagonist and it’s a little less pretentious than it sounds because he’s just not named in the movie. He’s only called the protagonist in the credits.
S6: But, well, I think he may get that name at the ends, like right at the end. But I grown so loud at myself that I’m not sure that I can say that for sure.
S4: But in any case, so you have this kind of backwards moving bullet sort of text of the scene is that John David Washington’s character is kind of disguising himself as Ukrainian police to go into this siege and retrieve what seems to be this kind of undercover CIA asset in there who is stashed some sort of Gigha in the back of this thing. And that we will find out later, is a piece of something called the algorithm, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But for now, you just need to know that it’s a valuable Google looks a little bit like a metal Jenga against the scientific name for it. Yes. And the other is the first introduction of this character when the protagonist sees this this bullet that is about to go backwards, although he doesn’t realize it through him, he’s moved out of the way by a character with kind of like a red string and like a little brass washer hanging off the end of his backpack. And that is, you know, a shot that’s very easy to forget the first time that the film doesn’t linger on it too much. But that becomes very important. You know, at the point in the movie, what we’ll talk about that all the way at the end. But those are two things to kind of keep note on. So the siege goes south. Protagonist is captured. He is tortured by a member of what we later found out, or I think they call them three Russians, just sort of generic mobsters. But they have gotten a hold of this Gigha. They start torturing him, yanking out his teeth, trying to get him to talk. He refuses and manages to bite down on the CIA issue, cyanide, which ought to kill him. Then he wakes up and finds out that this was, in fact, kind of a fake pill. He’s told by Martin Donovan, who I always enjoy seeing, even in a not very interesting part like this, that this pill is like kind of a test. I don’t think the implication is they set up this entire operation is just to test him. But I guess it’s just sort of a, you know, whatever the moment arises. But in any case, he passed. He is someone who would rather die than talk. Because of that, they have decided that this is the moment to inaugurate him into what they call Tenet. And at this point, Martin Donovan says, all I know is, you know, the word tenet. There’s a gesture which he makes by kind of interlacing the fingers of his two hands. And he says at this point, which is such a kind of indicative dodge of this movie, basically there’s a war going on and to even know its true nature is to lose, because this is audio, I have to tell you that my brain just exploded right out of my head because we’re spoiling the movie and we don’t have to stay in order. Let’s talk about what Tenet is also. Can you explain that?
S6: Well, the word tenet is a multilevel one here. So first of all, obviously, it’s a palindrome and palindromes and the idea of things reading the same kind of forwards and backwards is important to this movie. Also, it is the word ten reversed. I actually never figured out. I don’t know if you did. Why the word ten itself was important. Was there a reason for that?
S4: There is. We’ll get to the final sequence is a 10 minute siege that goes in opposite directions. So I think that’s the sort of the real mechanical reason for it. But there is another reason that the word. Well, there are several reasons why.
S6: There are several. Yeah. So, I mean, you know, and this is the kind of thing that my brain gets stuck on. So a tenet is a like a dearly held belief or principle, and it’s usually something that belongs to like a religious or philosophical system. And in this case, kind of a metaphysical system. So I think that’s important. But the biggest reason is that so I went and started poking around and realized that Tenet and Opera and several other words that appear in this film as plot points are actually drawn from this thing that sounds almost too bonkers to be real. So it’s this thing called the Satyr Square, which is a square palindrome that dates to like the 1st century. See, I guess I mean, people have been digging this up and dating it to like first and second century all over Europe for hundreds of years. And it’s this square that has five words in it. And I’ll just read the words. The words are sadder, a repo tenet, opera and rotas. And the way they’re put into the square is that those words read the same across horizontally and then they read the same across vertically. And then if you start on kind of the left corner or the bottom corner, which is not the direction that Latin is read, in which these are Latin words, they also read in that direction. So you actually end up with this. It’s sort of a four directional palindrome square. Nobody knows what this is, really. So people have tried to translate it when they find it. And it seems to be like a little thing about like a farmer who has a plow, but also it has many other interpretations that are all very mysterious. Like, for instance, one thing you can do with the letters of this square are rearrange them into a cross where the words in both directions on the cross are paternoster, which is Latin for our father. And then there’s like four letters left over, but they’re A and O, and if you arrange them around the cross, then you can easily say, oh, Alpha and Omega, which is a term that is sort of used in Christian theology to talk about God because he’s both the beginning and the end of time and Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end of the alphabet. So some people have done this rearrangement and said, oh, maybe this square was away for like Christians in early societies where they were being hunted to signal their existence to one another. That’s really interesting. But there are other explanations. So there’s been a Satur square dug up in Pompeii, which seems to indicate that this may not be Christian in origin at all, because that would have predated the the Christian era. It was unlikely that there were any Christians in Vesuvius where Vesuvius was when it erupted. So some people have thought, OK, maybe this has its roots in Judaism. Some people have found references to Greek or Egyptian gods in the square. Some people have noted that palindromes were considered to be confusing if the devil encountered them. And so they were used to ward off the devil or demons. So I wrote something about it and I got two emails from people who were telling me about different things that they’ve noticed. The square one and one was a guy in Milan who said, oh, yeah, here the square appears and it’s supposed to have cured wild dogs of their rabies. It’s been credited with quenching fires and carrying insanity. It shows up in Pennsylvania Dutch doctors manuals. This is actually a 19th century doctor’s manual, tells the reader that if you take this square and you inscribe it on butter, smeared on a piece of bread that will cure rabies. It’s also in some Greek Orthodox practices. And apparently Christopher Nolan is really into it, too, because he drew character names, locations and the title of the film, All From the Square. To my knowledge, the square doesn’t pop up in the movie explicitly. I don’t think we see it anywhere. But it is a. Kind of world hopping movie where they’re all over the place, and so it’s seems possible that, you know, he’s trying to signal something, it’s not just a cool trick, but it’s actually on purpose.
S4: That’s so interesting. And it’s so much more complicated than like, I think anything that’s going on in in this movie other than the plot, I guess I’m going to sort of just breeze through a couple of plot points here and kind of get to the next part that I think is worth talking about in depth, because there are parts of the plot that are fairly straightforward. And I’m never going to get going to get through the whole thing if we linger in all of those. So so, yes. So the protagonist, John David Washington, is told about the existence of this thing called Tennet. He is set off to get a kind of tutorial in what the movie calls inversion from Climos Poesy, who basically tells him there are materials lurking all throughout the world that have been zapped with what they call inverted radiation because of this or entropy runs backwards. None of this really means anything. That basically means these things have been kind of future hexed somehow. And there’s no way to tell like she demonstrates in a bullet. She’s put two bullets, Side-By-Side no way to tell which is which, except with the regular bullet. If you want to pick it up, you put it in your hand with an inverted bullet, which is traveling basically backwards through time. What you do is you basically. Act like you were going to drop it or you have already dropped it in the future, even though that hasn’t happened yet and it will leap backwards into your hand. So it’s like just forming the will to drop it in the future will make it reverse, drop itself into your hand. And so if you want to, instead of firing an inverted bullet, you start with an empty gun and you basically kind of sort of think the bullet backwards from the bullet hole into your gun, she explains. You’re not kind of shooting the bullet. You’re catching it. Yeah. Over this stuff like too much and wrap your head around it. Basically, all this means that some stuff in the movie goes forwards and some stuff in the movie goes backwards.
S6: I feel like I have to pause on this and say that I still I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. I think it’s to Nolan’s credit as a storyteller that he knows that all he has to do is explain this extremely quickly and show us some cool images. And we’ll just be like, all right, fine. Because every time I think about this, you know, the functional results of inversion is that you kind of are traveling backwards through time, which does not seem to me to be exactly what reversing entropy would be, although maybe I’m just showing my, like, lack of physics ideas. But, yeah, I mean, the whole idea is that you’re kind of anticipating fate or are you locked in fate and the mechanics of the universe. And thus when you think these things there, things you would have thought because you had to and not because you had free will. And that interplay of like free will and a mechanistic universe is very much part of the movie. But I don’t think he maybe he has and I’m just too stupid to understand it. But I don’t know that he’s totally figured out like a airtight way to explain what inversion is. He’s just kind of giving us what I think is a very strong, fast setup for this. And then we’re just like, well, that looks cool and it seems to sound cool.
S5: So let’s just go with it.
S4: You know, looking cool is maybe only by movie critics, but I feel like like looking cool. Part of Christopher Nolan’s movie sometimes gets short shrift because, you know, part of things moving backwards is just that they looks kind of neat and different. And some of the coolest sequence in this movie for me are actually not involving that. We move from this kind of explainer scene into, you know, what I think is one of the most striking images in the movie. He’s basically the protagonist is told or he has the idea, rather, that they need to examine the alloys that the inverted bullet is made of. And they then traces that particular alloy back to an arms dealer in India and decides he needs kind of an in an introduction to this. This introduces the character of Neil played by Robert Pattinson, who’s just this very kind of charming British, you know, John le Carre type super spy. If, like, there’s a kind of, you know, heaviness to this movie that weighs a down and a lot of places. But Robert Pattinson, I feel like it’s just like I’m going to spy movie like this is fun. I’m just going to have he’s doing sort of like an Alec Guinness thing all the way through it, which I really enjoy in a way that I don’t know the performances in this movie particularly enjoyable.
S6: Yeah, he’s kind of roguish in a way that we like in spy movies, but he’s the only one doing the Rogue in the movie. And of course, Robert Pattinson just has a very off kilter sense of what’s going on when he’s in a movie and always is delightful.
S4: Right. So they scaled the wall to this arms dealers apartment using I guess they’re sort of reverse bungee jumping, but there’s no time involved. They just kind of sort of walk up the side of the building and like, you know, sort of floaty gravity free way. There’s like one beautiful shot of them kind of bounding up the side of a building that’s just like, all right. That’s why we come to like Christopher Nolan movies like just to see stuff like that. Like, I don’t care what the reason is, it just looks neat, gets up there, sees a kind of older Indian couple in the house, immediately starts kind of quizzing the man about where this bullet came from and, you know, whatever. And he’s like, oh, I don’t know. And John David Washington says something like, I’m not the guy, you know, they send to convince people like this. I’m just not and to kill people. And then the woman steps out and says, well, actually, I know. And it’s just I think we’re supposed to be like, what?
S6: The arms dealer is a woman that riddle, you know, where the kid is in the hospital and the the father has been killed in a car accident. And the surgeon comes in and says, I can’t operate on this child. He’s my son. And we’re supposed to be like, how could that be?
S5: And the answer is surgeons can be women to this is the cinematic version of that riddle.
S4: Representation matters. Oh, man. Yes. So this arms dealer played by Kapadia explains to him a little bit more about Tennet. What’s going on is that there is basically a war between the present and the future. The future, for reasons that we do not know yet, is kind of intent on just, you know, destroying the present or doing. Something to the president, we don’t quite know what, but we know that they’re present tense emissary is a Russian arms dealer named Andrei Sartore, which is a name you’ve already talked about and played, of course, by noted Russian actor Kenneth Brana doing a completely absurd accent. So he is kind of their go to guy in the present. There’s a whole mechanical thing about how they he sort of radios the future just by, like, sending off to sending an email or whatever, saying with a drop point and then they get it in the future and then they reverse time and they will bury gold bars to pay him or weapons or other things to set up in the present. And so they can sort of sort of communicate back and forth, even though we never actually see these these future people involved. And so we need to get our characters to this Russian arms dealer. And the person is going to make that happen is his wife, Catherine, played by Elizabeth DeBakey.
S6: They have a bad relationship. He’s a cruel man. That is very clear. Very quickly. She wants out. She has a son. And Sadr is holding hostage by threatening to keep her from being able to see her son. Like part of the collateral for this blackmail is that cat sold Sadr a forged Goya drawing. She’s an art appraiser. She didn’t know it, but he uses that fact to keep her under his control, to keep her with him. He’s just a very controlling man, as you would expect, of someone who’s trying to control literally the fate of the world. And so, you know, one thing that they can do in order to get help is to get that drawing from Freeport. So a Freeport is a facility where very wealthy people who acquire artworks can kind of keep their art and like visit it like a little art zoo without having to pay, you know, taxes or duties on it and actually import it so they decide they’re going to steal the drawing. There’s also this kind of interesting dynamic, which I guess we can bring up now, which is that Cat and the protagonist seem to have some kind of like a it’s like the Christopher Nolan version of a Bond Girl situation, which is to say there’s no sex at all. It’s just very much this, like little back and forth, like little bit of witty dialogue to say that these two people are connected in some way. And so that all kind of happens very quickly, I think. But then it kind of becomes part of the picture that way. Then they get to the free port and they discover more than art inside of it. I wasn’t really clear on why, but but perhaps we should talk about what they find inside.
S4: Let us let us attempt to talk about what they find inside. So, yes. So they go to this report, which is sort of like just a DMZ for valuable things and is run by Andrei Sader and his security company of ROTAS Security. And they have this this forged Goya drawing by a forger named Repo, which now all our all our Sator Square words are in play in the movie. So they work out this whole sort of standard spy movie type ruse to get into this free part, which is heavily guarded and involves crashing a plane into the hangar. I’ll type this thing, which is then going to distract all the guards. They then have to force their way into several locked doors and dodge the haloed fire extinguishing system, which would suffocate them, finally make their way to the center of Satan’s vault, which they think is going to contain the GooYa. And instead they find what we are going to quickly learn is something called a temporal style, sort of looks like a big metal donut with a window down the middle of it. It’s kind of a revolving structure that will kind of take you from one side of the room, spin around them and let you out on the other. And this is a setup that we’re going to see several times in the movie. And we are about to learn, although not understand for a while, that basically time runs in one direction on one side, and then you get in the style, turn around, and then when you emerge on the other side, you are moving in the opposite direction. So in fact, one way to know whether to go into a temporal style is if you see yourself emerging on the other side, that means you just went in and so it’s safe to go in. So John David Washington and Robert Pattinson are on opposite sides of this thing. Suddenly, a man clad all in black emerges from both sides of the style at the same time, moving forward on Robert Pattinson side, moving in reverse, John David Washington side, they both fight this guy, even though he’s moving in reverse time on John David Washington’s side. He gets away from patents and chases them around the corner after kind of accidentally removing his gas mask. Sees this person on the floor. We don’t see what he sees, but it’s enough to get him to just abandon this person and run back to. John David, Washington, so, I mean, there’s a lot about this movie that I didn’t understand the first time through that immediately it was like, OK, well, I know I know exactly who that hidden person is. Like, these are both these people that are John David Washington moving in opposite directions, which turns out to be true. So he has this fight with his rehearsed self that he does not know is his reversed self, his reversed self gets away, did not find this GooYa, which they were going to use to kind of get Elizabeth Libicki in their sway. But they have uncovered this mechanism and now understand something about how time travel works in both directions, which is sort of that I guess that’s what they retrieve from the heist, is that info, we should say, right outside the turnstile to or the, you know, whatever time machine, when they enter the room, they’re sort of the remnants of a fight.
S6: John David Washington says something like, oh, no, it’s a fight that’s already happened in the future or something like that. It’s very like, oh, like this is what it’s going to look like. And so when they fight in that room, we kind of see the bullets reverse themselves out of windows and all of this kind of stuff. And I guess because we’re spoiling this, we can say later we’ll see the same room and we’ll see the fight. But it’s kind of in the other direction. And for me, that was the most interesting part of the movie. I think just from like kind of a choreography perspective is that it’s noticeable that one person looks slightly wrong in these fight scenes, like someone looks like they’re fighting weird, but they kind of had to choreograph fights where one person would look weird no matter which direction you shot it in or ran the tape in. And that’s not super easy to do.
S5: I have referred to this elsewhere as sort of back masking for movies where you’re running things backwards and they feel a little uncanny. You’re not really sure why. And that’s what happens in this scene.
S4: One of the reasons why I’m there’s such a push to see this movie in theaters. And, you know, one of the times I saw it was an IMAX and it looked very big and pretty and loud. And that’s all very nice. But the version of this movie that I kind of want to see is a one at home with the subtitles turned on because Christopher Nolan hates nothing as much as he does intelligible dialogue. And there’s so much in this movie which is already so hard to follow where you just like what? I’m sorry, you just said an important sentence, but it’s through like a crackly walkie talkie in a thick Russian accent with explosions going off all over the place. And I didn’t hear any of it. And I also want to see the version where some fan has gotten a hold of a digital file of this movie. And it’s like lining the sequences that are running in opposite directions at the same time. And you can really see how those mechanics work if they actually work and appreciate it on that level. They’re going on a structural sense. I mean, this is a movie. The movie is itself a palindrome in the sense that it opens with a big action set piece. It closes with a big action set piece. There are two Freeport sequences running in opposite directions through time. And then there’s the the middle action sequence, which is sort of two sequences back to back and reverse that, in fact, have a reversal point in the middle. And I think that is roughly two hour and 20 minute movie. And I think that sequence happens at more or less exactly an hour, 10. So it’s right in the middle of the movie.
S6: And I’m sure that’s I don’t know if it is to the second, but that seems like the kind of thing that Christopher Nolan would very much enjoy making sure actually works just as he’s in that there were a lot of rumors about this movie that went around, but one of them was that the entire second half of the movie was just the first half run in reverse, which sounded unpossible to me. But it turned out to not quite be true, but more true than you would have expected in your typical summer blockbuster.
S4: So this brings us to kind of the big set piece in the middle of the movie, which is also the hardest to explain. So we’re going to try to muddle away through it and do our best. There are definitely parts in the sequence that are just not explained. And no matter how many redit levels deep I have gone into it, you find people just kind of throwing up their hands.
S6: Well, and there’s this, there’s the line about like don’t think, just feel it. And I both find that to be a very silly thing to say about a movie like this, because it’s sort of devoid of emotion in a funny way. But this is definitely the point where my brain just gave out and I was like, this looks super cool. At some point I might understand what’s going on and I’m not sure that I understood it any better by the end than I did midway through. But you saw it twice. So that helps, I hope.
S4: Right. I’m going to do my best. All right. So we get when we still have this metal giggle from the opening sequence that is floating around, it has been sort of stolen by these rogue Russians who apparently are under the impression that it is plutonium to forty one, which is a kind of, you know, weapons grade isotope when they were very valuable on the weapons market. They are told it’s something that Sator really wants. And because they failed to get the GooYa and get Elizabeth Libicki in their pocket, this is now this is the leverage. They’re going to use over him, they’re going to get this thing that he values and then use that to kind of barter with him so they find out somehow that it’s being transported on a convoy through Tevlin. I believe it was sort of funny thing about the movie is a lot of the locations in it are like Oslo, kind of sort of palindromes or something. Taylan just has like a lot of tall, skinny letters that kind of look the same when you when you write it down. So I don’t know if that’s intentional or not or just another little funny thing about it. But OK, so in any case, they find out this, things being transported by a truck convoy. So they’re going to swipe it. They come up with this plan. Again, this part’s like fairly straightforward, where they’re just going to kind of sandwich this moving truck between two other moving trucks trying David Washington’s going to one of them as a fire truck is going to kind of go across to the truck with the Gigha on the extending ladder from the fire truck, you know, cut through the ceiling, retrieve this thing, which he still thinks it’s plutonium. That all goes as planned. He extract this orange case, which he thinks is going to have this plutonium. He’s got his plutonium proof gloves on for the purposes of opening. It opens the cases he and patented are still speeding down the highway and finds this metal giggle from the first scene. And he’s just like, what the hell is this? Right. At that point, he looks over and there’s a black SUV speeding down the highway with Kenneth Brown with a gun to help Elizabeth pick his head. And Solder has a gas mask on at that point, which we’re about to find out why. But in any case, he’s obviously threatening to shoot her unless they hand over the case. So the protagonist being the hero does not let the woman die, even though he knows that the fate of the entire universe could be at stake. So he throws in the case. We do not know at this point that he has already taken the giggle out of the case, but in any case throws him the case. SADER It kind of jumps out of the car into another car, leaving this car with Elizabeth DeBakey in it, speeding backwards. I should have mentioned it’s going in reverse, regular reverse, not time reverse, just actually moving backwards on the highway. It’s kind of like smashing this car. So he kind of jumps from the car, stops it, the bickie that there was a very amusing appreciation of her by illness. Yes. Of her tallness in this movie. So because she is six foot three, she manages to unlock the doors with her heel while tied up in the backseat of the car, which is, you know, if you got to use it, right. Yep.
S6: I briefly just want to say that the car chase is like such a fundamental part of any spy movie, which this movie is a spy movie without really feeling like one. But that is a place where it does. And right at the bit where they box the the truck in. I thought this is a really cool looking car chase because it’s sort of grinding down the highway in a way that’s quiet. And all of that was very surprising. And then it kind of turns into a more conventional car chase, except with a lot of things going backwards. And all of that is pretty cool.
S4: So she manages to do that. He pulls her out of the car, but then they’re both captured by understeer and taken to this warehouse.
S6: They end up at another one of satyrs warehouse. And this one also has a turnstile in it. And I think I remember reading that this is just described as a confusing interrogation. But basically we can kind of see Sadaa on one side of it and he’s saying all of these words that sound like something from Twin Peaks where they’re just like backwards and it’s confusing what’s happening. I honestly still don’t really know because my brain was working so hard to see if he was saying real words. And again, this is the problem with the dialogue in this movie is that when people are saying normal words in a normal forward fashion, sometimes it sounds like they’re saying them backwards because of the way they’re mixed. So it took me a while to catch up with that. But I think it’s worth knowing, going and watching it, that he is speaking backwards because he’s inverted. He shoots Cat with around. That’s also inverted. And then there’s also a normal satyr who wants to know where the artifact is. And all of this is happening while John David Washington is tied up.
S5: But then Tenet arrives to free him and he goes in and he can you explain the wounded cat situation and why they need to stick around a turnstile?
S4: I will do my very best. Yeah. So as you mentioned, there’s this interrogation going on. You have this another setup where this there’s a temporal style at one end of the room, there’s a kind of glass wall down the middle of it, preventing the two sides from interacting. John David, Washington is brought in on one side. There’s like a red and blue color coding that’s that’s introduced in the sequence where red is kind of the forward moving side and blue is a backwards moving side. And we’ll see that come up again in the final scene. But this is where it’s introduced. So John David Washington brought in on the red side, tied to this chair, watching on the blue side as a backwards Kenneth Branagh is threatening to shoot Elizabeth DeBakey. And we see, in fact, because there’s already a bullet hole in the glass on his side that he has. Already fired the gun, and so it’s just a matter of we know the bullet is going to move and it’s just kind of a matter of what part of her body it’s going to to move through. He ends up shooting her or catching her, I guess, in the gut after interrogating him as to like where this guy is. And that’s when Tenet in the form of which is now kind of a group of soldiers, I guess, from the future, led by Aaron Taylor Johnson playing a character named Ive’s. They kind of come in and save the day backwards. Kenneth Branagh gets away because he has somehow realized during the course of this interrogation where the killer is, even though the protagonist, because he is not someone who talks, has not given up that information directly. But anyway, so Tenet comes in, Kenneth Branagh runs away backwards. They have to get into the temporal style to get to the other side to kind of rescue Elizabeth DeBakey. But at this point, they learn that she’s been shot with an inverted bullet. And because of that, her body is in addition to the wound. Her body is contaminated by this inversed radiation. And that is its own problem. And the only way to fix that is to kind of start her moving backwards through time. She needs to be inverted herself and the wound has to heal while she is moving in an inverted direction in order to in order to heal properly or something. So they all get kind of flipped around at this point. And I’m just going to talk through this next part. I’m going to sound like a lunatic. I’m pretty sure I’m right. But in any case, so John David, Washington decides after his reverse that he needs to go and stop Sator from getting this thing. Probably also, you know, try to rescue Elizabeth Hibiki before she’s taken captive in the first place so that she then doesn’t get reverse shot. So he gets in a silver sub, starts speeding back towards the chase the way he knows where the chase is. And this is just purely like the bed in the first bill and Ted’s excellent adventure where they decide, like, well, we can’t find my dad’s keys. Well, if in the future we find my dad’s keys and then we go back to the past and leave them behind the sign, then they’ll be behind that sign right now. And then they just go and look and they’re burning the sign. Yes. It’s like it’s kind of like time traveling magic or anything you decide you’re going to do can already have been done, therefore is done in the present. So he pulls out his phone and starts tracking this tracker and you don’t know where that’s from. He tracks the tracker to the case that Kenneth Branagh threw out the window and then he plants the tracker. So he sort of been following the tracker, moving through time, even as he’s been moving backwards through time and planting it like after he finds it. If that makes any sense to you, you may understand this movie. If it doesn’t, I thoroughly understand and sympathize. Guess one thing I forgot to mention is at the end of that first car chase, he sees the silver car kind of flipping over backwards. If they first see it flipped over and crash and then they see it kind of pinwheel running through the air backwards as they’re coming to a stop, we now realize this is the silver car that he’s been speeding towards the chase. He basically catches up with his forward moving self and they exchange the vehicle. At some point. We didn’t see what happened to it when they were moving forward, when it came out of the case. Now, we realized that he he basically gave it to himself, moving in the other direction. There’s kind of a significant kind of provocative like when the protagonist is moving forward, like we see that he sees something and then we don’t see what it is. Now we realize that he saw himself. He gives it to himself, but then he has his car accident, flips over, is trapped inside, does not rescue Elizabeth DeBakey. Kenneth Branagh comes up and basically drops his lighter on the leaking gas. This should, in theory, blow up the car with the protagonist in it. But because he’s moving backwards, the heat is exchanged in reverse and instead it it freezes. So he is rescued from this. This is at least the second time in the movie where he should be dead and somehow isn’t, which there are already so many theories about that. How exactly Sader ends up with the Gigha at the end of this sequence is not explained. He clearly does my kind of extraction from it, I guess. Is that because once he figures out that it is in the protagonist car moving backwards, then all he has to do is find the car somewhere forwards in time where it had a will already have been and snatch it. So as a result of trying to undo it and it’s happened in the past, the protagonist is actually kind of close to temporal loop. And given Sader the thing that he was trying to keep away from him, this is really confusing, but basically also establishes in the movie that this isn’t something that they can be like, well, why don’t we just, like, travel backwards in time forty years and kill Kenneth Branagh when he’s a baby? Things once done cannot exactly be undone. They can kind of be redone like it’s sort of an upwards. Roll like we see the car flipped over and the first the first entry, we don’t see it lit on fire, so that was something that hadn’t happened yet. So you can kind of add layers to the past, but you can’t actually quite undo it. And this also introduces the idea of like multiple selves moving through time in different directions. And that will be something that as we learn, I think it’s moving. It’s even more confusing that you can kind of do a potentially, like, infinite number of times, which is just my head hurts.
S6: Even even having explained that, there’s like a couple of world building things that come in here. One is he is told at some point that it’s really important. You don’t, I believe, talk to your like if you’re inverted. It’s important that you don’t talk to the other version of you. You can’t touch yourself, can’t touch yourself. That’s what it is. So you can’t it’s important that matter doesn’t touch matter there. Which makes me think that this is a little bit like a version of a kind of multiverse theory where there are multiple universes, but they exist in like not the same time continuum, but the same space continuum or something like that. And you kind of risk imploding the physics of the universe if the universes overlap one another. I don’t know if that made any sense, but that’s the only way I can kind of reconcile this idea of multiple people moving through the same space where it is plausible that they might touch one another. But it’s very important that they do not.
S4: And that becomes very important because eventually we learn that the kind of the goal of the future is to reverse like their entire world and have not just like individual people or object moving back with time, but everything. And at least according to our present tense people, at that point, the entire universe would kind of effectively collide with itself. And so everything would be instantly annihilated. And that doesn’t actually seem to be their their plan. So presumably they think something something else will happen. But that’s kind of the Armageddon that they’re trying to forget.
S6: And there’s a huge amount of handwaving that this movie does by kind of saying, well, future people probably like have figured out that thing.
S5: That seems like a catastrophe that’s waiting for this in the kind of future part of this plan.
S6: What a silly sentence. And then the other thing is the gas mask part. It has something to do with oxygen and how you, like, metabolize oxygen. And so you basically, if you’re inverted, you need to mask. This is also has the very handy effect cinematically of letting us know which version of a person we’re looking at. But it also seems that in the future they may have solved this problem, but at least in the near presence or the very near future, that problem hasn’t been solved.
S4: So those are all little world building bits that are, again, very interesting because because where there’s whole, like, Tenent task force came from, like how they all got back, presumably from the future somehow maybe I guess they were recruited in the present on a separate track from the protagonist or something.
S6: But where they all came from, we just you know, we don’t you know, I kind of respect this as a storytelling choice where it doesn’t try to tie the whole thing down. But now that you’ve mentioned Bill and Ted’s, like I had just watched all of those movies, including the new one right before I saw this. And I thought about and the entire way through this because there’s something slightly more elegant in the bill and Ted handling of time travel in that some things are just goofy. And the Bill and TED movies know they’re goofy. And this movie, I am not sure that it is aware of its level of goofiness.
S4: There’s this great line towards the end of the new bill and Ted and I guess this is a minor spoiler. We’ll just say that it engages with multiverse theory. And at one point, Keanu Reeves just says, in case you’re wondering, I’m essentially an infinite me. That’s fine. Like, that’s just an elegant, brief, semi nonsensical, but like, that’s enough of an explanation that you could just move past it and enjoy the plot. And instead, we have, like, you know, scenes of like, you know, Robert Pattinson explaining the grandfather paradox. And and it’s just like I kind of prefer the I’m essentially an infinite me approach to the sort of stuff.
S5: Yeah, I agree.
S4: All right. So this is the point where we start to essentially going backwards through the movie and retracing our steps. So we go back to the free part. Based on what happens is because, Elizabeth, the bickies character has been shot with this inverted bullet and now has this inverted radiation in her system. She needs to heal, traveling backwards. So they need to kind of send her going backwards through time for at least a week. The problem is she she can’t go backwards through time infinitely because she will run out of backwards air and suffocate in order to start going forwards again. She needs to find another temporal style to turn her around. And the problem is, a week ago at this point in the story, all the temporal styles were kind of controlled by the baddies. So we don’t know essentially like where she is. This is like she’s trapped on the ice and needs to find a hole to get out. So at that point, the protagonist is like, well, actually, you know, at one. Timbrell style that was like unoccupied a week ago based on what they knew is they need to go backwards in time to the Freeport on the day that they infiltrated it and put her through that temporal style and turn her around so that she is then reconverted, diverted, I guess, whatever it is, whatever the opposite, I feel like they need like a little travel inverter just so they can kind of revert people instead of having to keep going to Oslo.
S6: But anyhow, so they go there, they do this. And as a result, they kind of re encounter the the explosions and everything that had happened in reverse, which looks real cool. They also have the same fight that we saw, but we see it backwards. This is the point where it is confirmed that that was, in fact, John David Washington earlier when Robert Pattinson kind of looked at him and was amazed. But, of course, we’ve kind of known that. So after they get on inverted, we end up in the scene where they’re back there in front of the Opera House and they’re talking to Priya, who is the actual arms dealer. This is kind of the big explanation scene of what’s going on with the future people. And this is also where we discover that the Gigha is actually part of a bigger thing, which is called an algorithm. I am not confident from this film that Christopher Nolan knows what an algorithm is. I used to be a computer programmer and so I can confidently say that it is not a cylindrical God with five pieces, that the future has nine pieces, not ten, nine pieces, even though. Yeah, well that that changes it. It’s an algorithm is like a piece of code that kind of enacts a operation that does something. So, you know, this is like a physical version of this. And the important thing about the algorithm is that once assembled, it gives kind of the possibility of inverting the world and causing catastrophe. This sort of catastrophe you were talking about earlier, the person who kind of made it feels very bad about it. I believe Priya compares it to the Manhattan Project. And in order to kind of hopefully keep people from assembling this algorithm, the pieces have been sent back to the future and they’re being hidden in nuclear bunkers, essentially because they’re very safe and hard to track. Feature humans who who do want to cause the algorithm to be triggered have been using Sader. They’ve been communicating with Satur in order to get the pieces of the algorithm in one place. And we also find out, Katz says, that actually Satur is dying from pancreatic cancer, which seems like a real curveball to throw into the middle of this. But he’s dying from pancreatic cancer anyhow. He is going to trigger the algorithm by assembling the pieces together and then he’ll die and the world will die at the same time. And care is pretty sure that this is going to happen at this one kind of moments when he was happy and this moment was she the two of them went on vacation on like his yacht in Vietnam. And she was nice to him, really, kind of as a way to keep him from taking her son away. But he was happy. And so she’s pretty sure that’s the moment when the algorithm is going to be triggered. And so they decide to invert back to that day so that cat can kind of distract him and delay him and then it can grab the algorithm and keep him from causing this to happen. And what he’s going to do is assemble the pieces together and then send the information about where it is to the future. And then that’s sort of how the world will end, because then his intention to do that means that the future will have it.
S5: They’ll be able to do whatever they’re going to do with this giant cylindrical thing and the world goes poof. I feel like I missed some stuff in there, but that’s basically what happens.
S4: I think clearly whenever you do a sort of certainly a circular, you know, time travel, retracing your your own life through time, maybe you’re working in the shadow of Chris Marker’s Logitech or Twelve Monkeys. Have you seen kind of Terry Gilliam’s version of that? But early in the movie, when Cat is describing her relationship with her husband, kind of how basically trapped she feels with him. She talks about the same day off the coast of Vietnam where she was coming back to the yacht and she saw a woman diving from the top deck and she seemed so free and she envied her. And then she came back to the yacht and her husband was nowhere to be found. We will find out later. This is basically the moment that she is going to sink up with at the end of the movie, although it’s I think you can have an argument about whether or not she realizes that because technically her character never, like, fully read into Tenet. One of the ideas that I think Ive’s introduces into the equation is that kind of ignorance is their best weapon. So they’re eventually planning this big operation in Stealth Twelve, which is a. Former Russian closed city where Sator kind of grew up and in fact kind of got his start as an arms dealer and in fact received his first communication from the future. This is the thing I think he can’t spot the first time through. But when he’s telling the story about how baseball there was an explosion in Stockwell, the nuclear material was kind of blown all over the place and they sent people into the rubble to retrieve it. And because he was young and needed money and fearless and maybe wanted to get pancreatic cancer, who knows, decided he was going to go and fetch out this fissile material. And instead, what he finds is kind of case underground. And he opens it and you can see kind of a laminated piece of paper with his name written in Cyrillic script in it. So these are kind of instructions to him. And then the first thing he does, because ignorance is his weapon, if he kills the other person who is digging this thing out with him, just kind of murders him with a shovel as the story, as he tells it is, OK, this is the first time I, like, got plutonium, got my start as an arms dealer. What we’re actually seeing is this is the first time he kind of made contact with the future. And so the story is kind of bringing itself in a big circle because it’s all a big circle. The end of the movie is taking place on the same day as the beginning of the movie, etc., etc.. It’s all right. There’s a lot to talk about this without sounding like a lunatic. I apologize for that. Yeah. So they need to go back to Stulz 12. They knew at the beginning there was an explosion on the day of the Kiev opera siege. They have now decided that that explosion was Sator kind of burying the algorithm underground to be found by the future. So they need to go back and in time and stop him from doing that. And this is where it gets really nuts. So we have been introduced to, I think, in the warehouse, in the middle, but we’ve been introduced to the concept of a temporal pincer move at some point. Can you explain what that is?
S6: It’s basically where you have you have two groups of people who are the same people inverted and not. Right. Headed towards the same direction. And time is going to kind of bend back on itself with purpose. Right. The idea is like we have the experience of some of these to to lean on as the other ones are working. And so it’s like inverted and non inverted.
S4: Right. And the idea is like one group goes through in one direction and basically goes through the whole thing, gets to the end of the operation or whatever it is, and then briefs the team that’s about to move backwards on everything that just happened. So then the other team gets to move in the other direction through time with the benefit of the knowledge like everything that already happened. So they essentially kind of know everything before or technically after it happened. And you can sort of see this happening the first time through. Again, you don’t know what you’re looking at, but when his men are going out to kind of try and steal the quote unquote, plutonium from the heist, Sadr stays behind in the warehouse and he says several times to tell me everything that happens. And you later understand, once you’ve been introduced to this concept, that he is actually preparing to go backwards through it and he wants to be briefed on every detail so that he can then have this temporal pincer move. So they’re going to make this assault on Stults 12. They are split into two teams moving forward, blue, moving backward. We are told that the red forward moving team has already been briefed by the blue backwards moving team, although we have not seen them leave yet. Frank, we don’t know what they’ve been briefed about. He just says like this, this team has the benefit of a briefing from them. So then we go into this kind of closing operation, which is happening on a ten minute clock and ten backwards and forwards. You have these two teams moving through time in opposite directions. Through this ten minute span. The movie starts cutting back and forth basically from opposite. And so we start ten minutes out on both ends and red and blue and then it keeps kind of cutting back towards the middle. And the especially confusing thing is two things is one right at the middle, a blow up, a building in the middle of this thing. And one team blows at the top of it and the other team blows at the bottom. And it happens in one part moving forward and another part moving backwards. That’s another thing that just like looks cool, but it’s a why what is blowing up a building have to do with, like, stopping the future from getting this thing, but also this whole huge operation with these like hundreds of troops moving through time. And the Internet is all basically meaningless. Like the whole thing is just a diversion. Yes. Because what’s going to happen is this splinter group, which we find out is just the protagonist and Ive’s, they are the only people that matter and they need to take the sort of like secret underground tunnel to I believe it’s called a hypocenter, which is basically like where you would test like an underground nuclear explosion, like the sort of ground zero for that. So they need to make their way to the hypocenter because they’ve figured out that’s where Sator and his particularly his freakishly tall henchmen. That’s where they’re going to bury the algorithm for the. And then once it’s there, Sader can kill himself, his little bit of sort of death, Fitbit will transmit the location, just send out an email saying here’s where the thing is, and then the future will be able to find it. And then it’s kind of gameover throughout all time. So they need to go through this tunnel while everything else is blowing up above them just to kind of distract the other people because they realize from the can of plutonium heist in the middle that they have to figure out a way to do something that the other team won’t be able to get the end of and then figure out what happened. So they need to let the explosion was going to bury the algorithm. They need to let that still happen. They need the other team needs to think that it’s been safely buried and left for the future because otherwise they can just go around again in time and undo it. So they need to think that they succeeded when in fact they failed to leave. The two of them just need to sneak all the way down to the thing and, like, steal this thing right before the explosion goes off.
S6: And it’s very like trying to throw, like, a wrench in the works of time, like because, as you said, you can kind of loop back on yourself and fix things that went wrong, sort of. Or like in this case, because what the thing is that they’re trying to do is like send something to the future. There’s a way to fix it. So they’re trying to kind of throw a wrench in there by making that impossible. And then the targets knives, like they kind of get to where the algorithm is and there’s this locked gate and then there’s like a corpse laying there and then the corpse comes back to life. And importantly, the corpse has that little red thing on its backpack. Right. So this corpse brings life. It’s a mass corpse. So we don’t know who it is. Saves them from this. Well, he likes that. He likes the game. Then he unlocks the gate and so they can get to the algorithm. But just as they are getting to the algorithm, CAT, meanwhile, has been on the yacht with Sadaa and is pretending that it is that that day in Vietnam. And she kind of knows what’s about to happen because she makes preparations before he shows up. She like she kind of Greece’s up the floor and like removes a chain. She acts sweet to him in the way that she would have. She kind of talks to him. He kind of looks at her differently. But then she just I mean, he’s not a good guy. She kills him and she kills him just as they’re grabbing the algorithm because she just can’t deal with the idea that he would think that he had succeeded in his in his quest. And then she you know, of course, it turns out she sort of sees her other version of herself, her past self, coming back on the boat with her son. She dives from the deck, therefore reinforcing what we probably already suspected, which is that she was the woman who drove off the boat that she saw dive off the boat.
S5: Before that, she told us about Momoa.
S4: You can tell that Kenneth Brown, a sailor, is not sort of falling under his his wife’s spell and the split is not going to work. That is that in the middle of this, you know, I love you. Let’s try again. Conversation. He’s like, oh, excuse me, love. Just need to sneak off, get on my walkie talkie and explain the villains. Motivation to the protagonist through a crackly walkie talkie hung on a gate several thousand miles away, which is a super normal thing to do. So what is what does he explain? If you could make out that dialogue, why is the future doing this in the first place?
S6: So in a kind of grandiose way befitting a movie villain, he says basically that the reason this is all happening is because in the future, climate change kind of made an unlivable future for the future people. And so their idea is that we kind of cut things off at the past and try again. And so the idea is that we’re kind of like, you know, cause time to divert right where we’re at this critical moment right now. This is garbled a bit, but that is the best I could make out. It also seems like a very strange thing to throw into the movie at this point, but that’s basically what’s going on. And it also left me with an interesting ethical and moral quandary, thinking about the future people now, because I don’t know they don’t know that this is going to work, but they’re willing to try it.
S5: And then there are other people who just kind of want to blow the whole thing up.
S4: Yeah, I mean, I think the idea is and at some point you kind of. Run into the problem of whether or not you’re just making stuff up to make the movie make sense until the gloss over deficiencies in the script, and I don’t know if I’m making either a different and possibly more interesting movie than the one Christopher Nolan actually made. But I think the idea is that basically in the future, they have gotten sort of at or near the point of no return, like they’ve tried everything that they can do. Nothing works like humanity’s dead. We have no future. And so their only chance and it may not be a great chance, but the only chance they have is to flip around and move backwards through the time they just lived. And if this happens to wipe them out, they were going to get wiped out anyway. If it means that they just wipe out the past the past fucking did this to us, to them in the first place, and they don’t really care. I think at one point maybe it’s Sader says, like every generation looks out for its own survival and that’s what they’re doing. And I think there is you have to dig a bit to get at it. But I think there is some sort of a potent metaphor for the climate crisis there in the sense that, you know, how could the future do this to this? How could the future, like, destroy their own past? And it’s like, well, they’re doing what we did there. So we need to live today and we’re going to cannibalize whatever else we have to do to survive. So they are going to literally like eating up their own past in the way that we are eating up our own future to keep our present the way it is. Maybe that’s not the movie.
S6: Maybe I’m making stuff up, but that’s well, I mean, that would be a reasonable way to do it. You know, it did make me think of how Hollywood movies seem to have like the reason Dejour for their apocalypses in different eras, whether it’s like the Cold War or like, you know, like a virus of some kind or whatever.
S5: And certainly this made me think of endgame, which also has this kind of a climate cast to it as well. But, yeah, that’s that’s basically what happens. And of course, they actually managed to prevent the algorithm from being put together. They break it up after the scene and the protagonist and Neil and Ive’s have different parts and they’re like, we’ll never see each other again. And we all need to keep our distance. And then Neil and the protagonist have this conversation because the protagonist noticed that that little red trinket on the backpack was is on Neil’s backpack, which suggests that Neil is the inverted corpse that saved him and unlocked the gate inside of the bunker.
S6: And so Neil has this kind of like Casablanca like moment with with the protagonist where he’s like, actually, we’ve been friends for a long time. And in fact, you recruited me and, you know, like, we’ll we’ll meet again. But this is kind of the end also because they’re headed in different directions. And so and then Neil also says this kind of interesting thing about how he has faith and what faith means is faith in the mechanics of the universe.
S5: And that that’s what that’s kind of how he lives. The idea that the universe is going to work in these directions, we can kind of throw ourselves on its mercy, which is very interesting.
S6: They split up and then the last thing we see is that he tries to assassinate Kat, but the protagonist instead assassinates Perea. The protagonist realizes that true to his name, he actually is the one who created Tennet. So this is kind of Nolan’s way of setting up for a sequel, it feels like or at least a graphic novel. But the idea is that, you know, he’s been in charge all along. He’s been masterminding it all along. He kind of didn’t realize it because it hadn’t happened yet.
S4: Right. So, yeah. So what’s happening in these last couple of scenes is this idea has been introduced before, but basically anybody who knows where the algorithm is or knows what tender’s risks kind of accidentally conveying that information to the future, then kind of use it against them. So so that’s why the book about it is like trying to kill Lisbet. The bickie at the end is like she’s just she’s a loose end, but the protagonist knows her and believes she can be trusted. And it’s also why you have this kind of parting the final scene where, as you mentioned, they kind of split the algorithm into three parts and then Ive’s and Neil and the protagonist also go their separate ways. He’s like, technically, we should all go somewhere and, like, kill ourselves, but I’m not going to check up on you. So do what you’re going to do. And it is also where we kind of get the introduction that’s going of final idea. Yeah. So we see Neil as the red string guy. He is the guy who saved the protagonist life at the end. He’s also the guy who saved his life at the Kiev Opera House in the first scene, which is taking place on the same day. And he says at one point to Ive’s, I’ve said something like, well, you know, how are they going to get that gate open? You know, I don’t know anybody who’s a better locksmith than Neil because Neil was the one who. Jimmy, all the doors in the free port, and he says, well, I’ll get them on the next pass. So Neil has gone through this operation at least three different times in two different directions. He starts on the kind of regular blue team going backwards. He then sees that the protagonist and lives are going in the ground to the tunnel and are going to be trapped by an explosion that seals the entrance and have to get out some other way, finds a temporal style in the middle of the operation. The five minute mark turns around, goes forward, drives the end and like drops down this rope so you can pull them to safety. Then he has to go back to the end of it, reverse again and become this guy who unlocks the door and then gets shot by the henchmen and dies there. But then he is also, at some other point, gone back in time and then before the Kiev Opera House scenario and then reversed forward to be there to save the protagonist from the backwards bullet in the first scene. So I lose count. It’s a point, according to one person on Reddit, that means there are six different Robert Pattinson running around in the fabric of this movie, which frankly sounds great.
S6: I mean, I think, you know, I mean, I think this is designed as catnip for Reddit, which I don’t say it’s just this is very much like the part of the movie that is designed so that you have to go back and pick apart the pieces in the future or the past. Who knows? And it’s the kind of the puzzle box part of this movie which actually makes it a hugely irritating movie to watch the first time, because you get to the ends and you’re like, I don’t even think I picked up on enough of that of the pieces of the worldbuilding to understand what was happening at the ends there. I do think it’s possible to watch it one time as I have, and come away with some kind of an idea about what it’s about more broadly rather than what its plot is about. But it’s not like a film that it’s a film that requires you to watch it a whole bunch of times if you are going to lay awake at night being like, but wait, how did that happen? Which is what a lot of people do. I should I should I say what I think this square’s importance to this movie is place to. Yeah, no one makes choices very consciously. Whenever you watch a Nolan movie, if something seems weird, it’s something he decided that he wanted to throw there as maybe a red herring, but more often as a little bit of meaning. What was interesting watching Tennet was that I feel like Christopher Nolan is really good at making movies that try to explain human phenomena in terms of like science and math and and like quantum physics and stuff like that. So I was thinking about Interstellar. I was saying about Inception. I think even back to momentos like the universe, I think, in his view, is kind of a mechanistic place where things happen for physics reasons because math and then he’s feels like he’s always trying to find what makes us human in the middle of it or like what it is to feel emotion in the middle of that. And so he does that thinking, for instance, about love in Interstellar. In this one, it feels like he’s trying to think about the phenomenon of of faith or like trust, I guess, in something that we can’t totally understand. He does that by making a movie that sort of we can’t we can’t totally understand.
S5: But the people in the movie are also having to trust a lot of stuff that’s really sounds pretty crazy and is like future people and stuff like that. And so faith and faith and fanaticism actually comes up a bunch of times in the film. Remember, the word Tennet does mean belief in a it’s a principle or a belief in a religious or philosophical system. So I think, you know, I could be making this up.
S6: And I’m pretty sure his this is kind of his attempt to weave his own little Satur square and to give us something that we’re supposed to kind of contemplate or think about over and over and over again to read it forwards and backwards and upside down.
S5: And in so doing, to think about what we don’t know about the universe and also the fact that we all kind of live all of our lives not knowing a lot and trusting things that we don’t really understand. I don’t have a clue how airplanes fly, even though I have had it explained to me through like YouTube videos. But I still get in them and they do. They fly and it’s wild or like riding a bike or whatever.
S6: There’s just a lot of things that technically we have explanations for, but they don’t fully capture how crazy it is to be human and experience all these things.
S5: You know, I think this movie kind of is trying to tap into that a little bit. I don’t think that’s too far afield, given his interest in leaving the Sadr Square into this. And I certainly respected the movie a lot. More after I thought about it that way, rather than when I was just sitting there being like, I don’t know what you’re trying to do here, man, I don’t think that totally papers over some of the difficulty of the film or the fact that some of these things we’ve talked about don’t quite make sense when you start picking at them. But it’s certainly made it a lot more interesting for me.
S4: Right, I mean, I think it feels very Nolan esque, I guess a better word that this is a movie, the titles about an article of faith is about, you know, you can understand this thing. You just have to believe. And then when I finally get to the end and Robert Pattinson is explaining things, this is saying that he keeps saying whatever happened happens. You know, that’s his way of saying, look, you can’t change the past. We’re not going to get into, like, back to the future type stuff. But also, he describes it at the end as an expression of faith in the mechanics of the universe. And the idea that, like Christopher Nolan’s like ultimate expression of faith is in mechanics. It’s like the Apple’s slogan. It just works. Yeah. You know, like it’s really not, you know, like that doesn’t actually seem like faith. Like the universe is like a trusted brand. Like, I really you know, I really believe that, like, I really believe that my iPhone will continue to behave in the way that iPhones behave. That’s not especially inspiring, I guess.
S6: Yeah. But there is this idea that any phenomenon we don’t understand sufficiently will be called magic, even if we, like, eventually come to understand it. And so I don’t know if that’s really where he is. He’s a famously opaque person. But the fact that they kind of chose this idea of like, don’t try to understand it, just feel it, which is just a hilarious thing to say about a Christopher Nolan movie, especially one that begs to be pulled apart. It signifies something to me about what he’s trying to do with this movie. I don’t know that it’s successful, but I do know that if its goal was to make us contemplate every contemplate it, that certainly has worked.
S5: And I’m sure there will be a lot more of that going on once people can watch this at home, too.
S1: All right. Well, thank you for doing this. Yes. I hope you all will enjoy Tenet when you see it. Preferably not in a movie theater at a Drive-In on video several months from now. When you listen to this podcast, see it in a safe way, wherever it is. But thank you for listening. Thank you, Melissa, for joining me. That’s our show. Please subscribe to the Slate spoiler special podcast feed. And if you like the show, please read and review it in the Apple podcast store or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have suggestions for movies or TV shows, we should spoil or if you have any other feedback you’d like to share. Please send it to spoilers. As Slate’s Dotcom, our producers Rosmarie Bellson Ferlazzo Wilkenson. I’m Sam Adams. Thanks for listening.
S7: This is Slate’s editor in chief, Jared Holt. I’m here because I want to thank you for everything you’ve done as a Slate plus member. Like many media organizations, we’ve had to traverse some rough patches these past few months. But unlike everyone else, we have you. It’s your membership that has made our journalism possible, and it’s your curiosity and passions that continue to guide our work. Every day, Slate sets out to bring you news analysis that is smart, illuminating and trustworthy. And that’s as true in our audio coverage as it is on our website. Whether it’s what next? Mary Harris sitting down with Dr. Anthony Fauci to discuss the nation’s coronavirus response or Virginia Heffernan hosting Mary Trump for a tell all on Trump cast or Jamelle Bouie joining the political gabfest to talk about this year’s protests against police violence. Our podcasters want to help you make sense of the biggest news in real time.
S8: We also aim to bring you important investigative features that you’re not going to read or hear anywhere else, like Season four, a slow burn, which looked at David Duke’s rise to power and what it took to stop him and which Vulture called a scorching listen for the class of RPG. An audio print production held by America’s host Dahlia Lithwick, who was staff writer Molly Olmstead, tracked down the nine other women and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg law school class and told the story of their lives and of an entire generation of American women. As we continue to cover the pandemic, the presidential election and the most consequential movement for justice and equality in this country since the 1960s sixties, we could not be more grateful to have you on our side. Thanks again for your support.