What about your understanding of quantum mechanics, entropy or the ability to think time non-linearly? To say it right from the start: You can enjoy Christopher Nolan’s new film without understanding too much of the plot. You don’t necessarily need a master’s degree in physics either. But if you don’t just want to surf the – admittedly impressive – visual surface of “Tenet”, you should at least have the will to get involved in the complicated construction of this thriller.
Typical agent film: the suit has to fit, too
The film starts more conventionally: We experience a commando action in a packed concert hall. Here just a single projectile flying back into the muzzle has a disturbing effect. The torture scene that follows then follows the standard procedures of Russian mafia thugs. The CIA agent, who is only known as the “protagonist”, has his teeth pulled – in a rather unhygienic way. But somehow he still gets the cyanide capsule swallowed. All just one test, of course, because – you know that too – things are only really getting started now: the world has to be saved. Equipped only with a code word (just that “Tenet”), the character played by John David Washington goes in search of explanations for the apparent suspension of cause and effect.
And so we hunted around the globe: a break-in into the house of an arms dealer in Mumbai, flirts with an art expert in London, the infiltration of a duty-free warehouse in Oslo. That too: all of the classic narrative elements of an agent film. And John David Washington, the son of Denzel Washington, cuts a really good figure as the protagonist in every scene and in every outfit. Even the most beautiful quote in the film fits into this notch. It comes from the agent father played by Michael Caine, who advised his pupil to update his suit: “You won’t get very far here with Brooks Brothers.”
Attack from the future
Gradually, however, the image of a threat unfolds that is so elementary that it must be averted at all costs: the world is being attacked from the future. This is made possible by a technology that allows objects, but also people, to move backwards through time. This is the time travel hammer in the film and from now on at the latest it starts to get complicated. How exactly does this “inverting” work? What happens if someone moves backwards through the forward action? And – the mother of all time travel questions – what if I, as a traveler in the past, influence the future through my actions?
As I said, this is not easy to cognitively process and even the smart protagonist can often be seen to want to understand these monstrosities. Fortunately for him and the audience, he is given a certain Neil. Robert Pattinson plays it as a slightly drunk looking guy with nicely battered suits (Read about Robert Pattinson’s crazy quarantine photo shoot here.) In addition, Neil is always a bit more informed when it comes to the matter of inverted time. But just because of that, a little more carefree: Why brood too much? Make it easy. In doing so, he also gives instructions for any overburdened viewers.