30+ questions I have about Tenet the movie, even after 3 viewings
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
Would be great if you could answer at least one of these
When I learned that my favourite director Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster Tenet was streaming on Amazon Prime Video, I had to be the happiest person on Earth.
I’d been waiting for that moment since months ago. It was a cinephile’s best dream come true.
Brimming with curiosity, interest, and excitement, I tuned into the film.
I generally avoid switching on the subtitles for English- and Hindi- language content. I prefer to let the actors, their expressions, and their body language do the talking.
Also, it was easy to understand Nolan’s previous works such as Inception and The Dark Knight without any subtitles when I watched them recently after years and had completely forgotten the details of the plot.
I never thought in my wildest dreams that Tenet would leave me so thoroughly confused. I had hardly any idea of what was going on in the film.
I got the broad gist, though—a mission meant to thwart the attempts of an evil power, who’s using a special technology called “inversion” to attack the past and present from the future. But the details were lost on me.
I could understand the film a little bit on my second viewing, with the subtitles switched on. But I still had too many questions by the end of it.
I tried the third time. Instead of any substantial improvement in my understanding, I was only left with more queries than before.
In order to reduce their mindfuck effect by trying to source their answers, I’ve created a list of all these doubts and questions.
Don’t get me wrong, Tenet’s an amazing film. I salute Nolan and his larger-than-life vision. Never before have we seen the present and future versions of the same person fight it out on the screen.
John David Washington as the protagonist (who’s actually called the Protagonist) was brilliant, and Robert Pattinson as his ally Neil was the best thing about the movie. It was great to see him do his bit to save the world in a far cry from his Twilight days. He should opt for more such roles now.
The only issue with the film is that the maturity level expected of audiences for the story’s details is way too high, and we’ve just started to get there.
Or if we look at it this way, it’s so confusing that it feels real. What if it is?
So, that was my review of Tenet. It’s now time for the list of Qs that need clarity on priority. Do hit the comments section with your answers and theories. Yes, the questions contain spoilers, so read through them only if you’ve watched the film at least once here. Meanwhile, here’s Tenet’s official trailer:
Does the Protagonist disguise himself as a member of the Kyiv police/armed force or a part of Andrei Sator’s terrorist team during the opera siege at the beginning of the film?
How does the Protagonist find out which clothing at the opera theatre’s coat-check room has “the package”?
What is the meaning of “knowledge divided”? Does it refer to information split among different people so they don’t know everything?
Why is the Protagonist made to wait and stay in what looks like a windmill after his discharge and conversation with Fay? Is it all part of Fay’s briefing? Still, why?
Barbara, the scientist, shows the Protagonist the inverted remnants of a war from the future. What war is it? Is it the same one from the climax? If it is another war, then who starts it? Should we expect another story here?
It comes to light that these inverted remnants belong to India. How come they are traced specifically to Sanjay Singh in Mumbai?
Is “entropy” the same as “direction”? If it is, why don’t the characters use the word “direction” instead?
If the British Intelligence gets hold of the second fake Goya painting by Tomas Arepo, how is it that Kat doesn’t know about it or try to find it, given her closeness with Arepo? Didn’t Arepo tell Kat he made two fakes? And how is Arepo related to the Kyiv opera, given “Arepo” is the reverse spelling of “opera”?
How is Freeport, a warehouse for storing objects to save them from taxation, perfectly legal?
How is it that there are two versions of the Protagonist—one inverted, the other regular—that fight off with him in the Freeport facility during the plane-crash scene?
How come the halide gas disappears from the artwork chamber soon after during the plane-crash fight scene?
Does the Protagonist actually agree to get Sator the plutonium, for which he receives the bloodied gold bar on Sator’s yacht? What is Kat’s role supposed to be here?
How does the material end up with the inverted Sator during the past-version of the car-chase scene?
How does an injured Kat heal by going into the past?
Why do the Protagonist and Neil have to pass Kat, who’s recovering on a stretcher, through the Oslo Freeport? Is it to pass her through the turnstile in there so the three can start the forward movement from the past into the future?
How do the three then resume their reverse journey a scene later—to the rally point offshore at Trondheim?
Why does Ives instruct the red team—the army unit in forward movement, including the Protagonist—to not defuse the bomb at Stalsk-12?
Kat jumps the gun in killing Sator, and the bomb explodes in Stalsk-12. Why doesn’t the world come to an end?
Does Kat destroy Sator’s suicide pill in the climax by emptying the capsule on the floor and pouring sunscreen over its contents?
What exact rationale does Kat provide for jumping the gun to kill Sator?
How is it that Kat and Mahir don’t need the breathing apparatus for their supposedly inverted lungs when they go back to the past during the climax to kill Sator?
How is the red team able to breathe and act like normal beings in the past, while the blue team needs the apparatus?
How is Neil able to switch from inversion to normalcy of his own accord in the climax?
Did Priya know all the algorithms? Was she the one to give them to Sator? Or does Sator find them out by himself? If he does, how?
If the bomb is deactivated in the end, does it mean the incident at the Kyiv opera, where the plutonium was located, never happened?
Does Priya think it’s a good thing if Sator has all 9 algorithms? Why?
Why does Priya try to kill Kat in the end? What does she mean by “tying up the loose ends”? Who does she work for?
How exactly does the Protagonist find out Priya is trying to kill Kat?
WTF does “We live in a twilight world... and there are no friends at dusk” mean? Is it a code language? Or is it meant to tease Robert Pattinson?
If Neil claims the Protagonist recruited him in the future, how come the Protagonist has no idea about “Tenet” or inversion in the present? Is it because Neil has travelled from the future? Where does he end up then?
Let’s see how much of a Tenet expert you are. Do share your answers in the comments.
Remaining cast key:
Andrei Sator: Kenneth Branagh
Fay: Martin Donovan
Barbara: Clémence Poésy
Sanjay Singh: Denzel Smith
Tomas Arepo: uncast
Kat, or Katherine Barton: Elizabeth Debicki
Priya Singh: Dimple Kapadia
Mahir: Himesh Patel
Ives: Aaron-Taylor Johnson