A Step In Time

The Latest Christopher Nolan Film ‘Tenet’ Is Released For Its Theatrical Debut, It Leaves Many To Wonder: Is Now The Right Time?


Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan’s latest film invites viewers to return to theaters.

Patrick Deliz, A&E Writer

As the first major film to be released in theaters since the pandemic, ‘Tenet’ has boldly tested the waters to see how willing people are to return to the movies during a global health crisis. The hope is that without much competition in terms of new Hollywood tentpoles, ‘Tenet’ will steadily draw crowds for weeks to come.’


An unnamed CIA agent—”The Protagonist”[played by John David Washington]—participates in an undercover operation at a Kiev opera house. He is aided by a masked soldier with a distinctive trinket, who appears to “un-fire” a bullet through a hostile gunman. After rescuing an exposed spy and seizing a strange artifact, the Protagonist is captured by Russian mercenaries. He endures torture before consuming a cyanide pill. He later awakens to learn the pill was fake; his team has been killed and the artifact lost.

The Protagonist learns that he is now employed by a secret organization called “Tenet,” whose mission involves the human race’s survival. He is directed to Barbara [played by Clémence Poésy], a scientist studying bullets with “inverted” entropy which allows them to move backward through time. She believes they are manufactured in the future, and there exists a weapon that can wipe out the past.

The Protagonist traces the bullet cartridges to Mumbai-based arms dealer Priya Singh. Assisted by a local contact named Neil [played by Robert Pattinson], the Protagonist confronts Priya [played by Dimple Kapadia], who turns out to be a member of Tenet. Her cartridges were purchased and inverted by Andrei Sator [played by Kenneth Branagh], a Russian oligarch originating from Stalsk-12, a former Soviet closed city, and who can communicate with the future.

The Protagonist approaches Sator’s estranged wife Kat [played by Elizabeth Debicki], an art appraiser who unknowingly sold Sator a forged Goya drawing. Kat reveals that Sator uses the drawing to keep her under his control. To enlist Kat’s help, the Protagonist plots to steal the drawing from Freeport, a facility within Oslo Airport. Inside Freeport, they find a machine (later referred to as “Turnstile”) from which two masked men emerge; the inverted one attacks the Protagonist, while Neil chases after the normal one. Neil prevents the Protagonist from killing the inverted man, adding that he “took care” of the other one. Priya explains that Turnstile is developed in the future and can invert the entropy of objects and people and that the two masked men were the same person.

In Amalfi Coast, believing the drawing was destroyed, Kat introduces the Protagonist to Sator, only to learn later that the drawing is still intact. The three go on a boating trip, during which Kat attempts to drown Sator, but the Protagonist saves him. Posing as a freelancer, he offers to help Sator retrieve a case of Plutonium-241.

In Tallinn, the Protagonist and Neil ambush an armored convoy and steal the “Plutonium,” which is the artifact lost in the botched Kiev opera house siege. His escape is compromised by two vehicles driven by inverted individuals, one of which is Sator, who holds Kat hostage. The Protagonist gives Sator an empty case. Sator retreats, leaving Kat in the speeding vehicle. After saving her, the Protagonist is captured and taken to Sator’s warehouse containing another Turnstile. In a confusing interrogation, an inverted Sator (who shoots Kat with an inverted round) and a normal one demand the location of the artifact, about which the Protagonist lies. Just then, a team of Tenet operatives led by Ives [played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson] arrives and frees the Protagonist.

The Protagonist takes the mortally wounded Kat through Sator’s Turnstile to invert her whole self, neutralizing the effect of the round. He returns to the ambush site and chases after Sator. His vehicle is overturned and Sator sets it on fire. He is saved by Ives’ team again. Neil reveals that he has secretly been a member of Tenet from the beginning. They travel back to Freeport a week earlier. There, the Protagonist fights his past self before reaching the Turnstile and un-inverts himself. Neil takes Kat through the Turnstile which un-inverts both of them.

Priya explains that the artifacts are parts of an “algorithm” capable of catastrophically inverting the entire world. Future humans had been using Sator to assemble it. Priya plans for Sator to gather all the parts of the algorithm in one place, which he now does. Kat reveals that Sator is dying from pancreatic cancer, and they deduce he will trigger the algorithm with a dead man’s switch, believing that the world should die with him. Kat believes Sator will kill himself during their vacation in Vietnam when they were last happy together. The Protagonist, Neil, Kat, and the Tenet forces invert back to that day so Kat can delay Sator’s death while Tenet secures the algorithm.

Tenet tracks the assembled algorithm to Stalsk-12, located in Northern Siberia. They commence a “temporal pincer movement”; half of their troops move forward in time to the blast zone, while the other half moves inverted. In Vietnam, Kat finds Sator on his yacht and pretends to be her younger self. In Stalsk-12, the Protagonist and Ives are prevented from reaching the algorithm by a locked gate. An inverted masked corpse with a red trinket on its backpack springs to life, saving the Protagonist from a gunshot and unlocks the gate. Kat, unable to let Sator die believing he succeeded, prematurely kills him just as the Protagonist and Ives secure the algorithm. Kat dives from the yacht’s deck, witnessed by her past self.

The Protagonist, Neil, and Ives break up the algorithm’s components and part ways. The Protagonist notices a red trinket on Neil’s rucksack. Neil reveals that he was recruited by the Protagonist years earlier, and this mission is the end of a long friendship.

In London, Priya attempts to have Kat assassinated, but is killed by the Protagonist, who has realized that he is the future mastermind behind Tenet.

Budget and Box Office

The sci-fi thriller has surpassed $200 million in ticket sales. But in the U.S., “Tenet” is still struggling to attract audiences. The movie earned $4.7 million in its third weekend, bringing North American grosses to an underwhelming $36.1 million. Warner Bros., the studio behind the $200 million-budgeted film, again stressed that “Tenet’s” theatrical run will be “a marathon, not a sprint.”

Though movie theaters overseas have seen stronger attendance, Disney’s live-action “Mulan” has also continued to fall short of expectations. In China, box office receipts plummeted 72% in its second weekend, with $6.5 million in ticket sales. After a disappointing $23 million debut last weekend, the fantasy epic has made $36 million in China. “Mulan” has generated $57 million globally, a dismal result for a movie that cost $200 million to produce. The film is not opening in theaters in the U.S. and some European countries, where it is instead launching directly on Disney Plus for a premium fee. Disney has not reported how many subscribers shelled out the extra $30 to watch “Mulan” on Disney Plus, but that could help recoup its massive budget.

“Tenet” and other movies playing on the big screen will likely be devoid of competition shortly. Recently, Warner Bros. delayed “Wonder Woman 1984” to Christmas, and Universal pushed “Candyman” until 2021. There is speculation that Disney may move Marvel’s “Black Widow” and Pixar’s “Soul” off their respective November release dates.

Overall Thoughts

This film was amazing and mind-blowing. I have seen a couple of Nolan’s films, like Interstellar and Inception, but Tenet tops the list, from taking an unreal concept and transforming it into a reality on the big screens. It is always good to see that there will always be these fresh ideas turned into some genius masterpieces.  I also appreciate Nolan’s bold attempt to see if people were willing to come from the comfort of their homes to the theaters, as these businesses are not doing so well. I can honestly say that taking the chance to go and see ‘Tenet’ in theaters was truly worth it, and if you want to see it- remember to take precautions. The way that ‘Tenet’ was filmed is mind-blowing, it is just unreal to believe this kind of film can be created to such perfection. 

Rating: 4/5