After months of talking about and planning this episode, we decided near the very end to invite Paul from Heavy Spoilers to join us for a deep, spoiler filled, discussion on the movie Tenet, which was directed by Christopher Nolan and released September 2020. If you’re a fan of Tenet, you’ll love this episode.
Warning: This episode literally includes heavy spoilers. So come back after you’ve watched the film, or proceed if that doesn’t bother you.
Click here to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧
We’re backstage today, talking about Tenet… Jerod is here, and Brett is back. Welcome back, Brett. Good to see you again.
Our resident movie expert, Brett Cannon.
That’s right, yeah. The John Wick trilogy…
Or the guy who just spends too much time watching movies with his wife.
Well, movies are fun to watch out here.
I’ve been told…
And for the listeners’ sake, there will be heavy spoilers…
…which gives me a chance to introduce our new friend, Paul…
…a.k.a. Definition, and the host of Heavy Spoilers on YouTube. So we thought Paul would be fun, because Jerod, Brett and I - we’ve talked movies quite a bit in the breaks of our podcast, and on Backstage… But we thought it would make sense to invite a legit person who talks about movies. I’m a big fan of Heavy Spoilers, so I’m a big of you, so welcome to Backstage here on the Changelog.
Yeah. We were saying before the show that you kind of wanted to get Christopher Nolan on, but you couldn’t, so you just resorted to getting a British guy who knows a bit about Tenet… [laughter] Which is sort of good, I suppose.
I suppose, yeah. You know, the one thing I t thought I’d open up, real quick, just since you’ve mentioned that - is it true that Tenet was a big push to grow your audience and other YouTubers’ audience? Because I see people who talk about movies, they legit have like a Tenet playlist, but they’ll just have like categorical playlists otherwise. So Tenet was a big deal for most movie reviewers, from what I understand.
Yeah, definitely, because there’s so much to unpack from it… And it’s really difficult to get your head around, unless you sit and just think about it properly. And it’s probably easier to just get someone to explain it to you. But a lot of the time I’ll explain it and people will still be like “I have no idea what you’ve just said, but whilst you were saying it, it did sound like it made sense.”
I also remember when it came out – I don’t know what the stage of the pandemic was for everyone else, but up here in Canada it was the first film to kind of come out after the first wave, and there was still hope; there was no concept of wave, it was just Covid at that point… And so I remember that was the other big deal when it came out. Other reviewers were going “Is this the future of movies? Is this gonna save movie theaters in all this, on top of the complexity and all that, but also just… Is this what movies are gonna be like going forward, in terms of audience attendance, and such? Is this gonna when we start going back?” Obviously, the answer was no, but I remember that was a big of this film as well, in terms of its coverage.
There was even some controversy around that too, with Christopher Nolan, with HBO MAX, and how it could be released, and essentially how HBO MAX has moved to this stream and release in the theater in the same timeframe, and he was totally against that, because he’s probably a purist in terms of being a director… I don’t know the details there, but there’s a lot even in the film, I think, which we’ll probably get into deeply, because we’ll talk about score, and cinematography, and whether or not you can actually hear the dialogue… Because I understand if you went in the theater, if you were one of those people brave enough…
… and Paul, I think you watched it for the first time in the theater, right?
Yeah, I watched it twice in the theater, I watched it once on a normal screen, and I couldn’t hear anything… And I remember setting out, going home in my car, and thinking “How am I gonna write this script? Because I have no idea what’s been said.” [laughter]
It makes your job hard, right?
Yeah. I went into an Imax and it was a lot better. I think they mastered the audio for Imax and just didn’t think about anything else.
Of course, yeah.
The thing with Christopher Nolan is a lot of his movies - he has characters wearing masks and talking… Batman, obviously, Bane was a big issue in 2012… And the movie starts off with everyone wearing a gas mask; they take them off for a bit, and then they have to put them back on to go back into the past, and there’s just so many scenes that are really badly mixed… And people are wearing gas masks as well, they purposely muffle the sound to make it sound like it’s a gas mask… And yeah, it’s really difficult writing the script. [unintelligible 00:04:12.27] just thinking “I have no idea what has just been said.”
Yeah, for sure.
If a director is purposely making it difficult to hear and understand - and maybe that, Jerod, might be the reason why you’re less of a fan boy like I might be with Tenet… And for sure, Paul is, with Tenet.
Well, I have an angle on this, because I did not watch it in the theater, I watched it at my house, with subtitles on…
…which is my new old man move. I just throw them on, because I can’t hear what they’re talking about half the time… And we like to keep it low, because the kids are sleeping, and all that… So I had subtitles on, which kind of makes it feel – it’s less enjoyable, because you’re reading… It’s almost like homework; so maybe that played into why this was not my favorite Christopher Nolan film of all times… But we can get into that later.
I don’t remember if it was with Christopher Nolan or his sound editor, but one of them made the comment that they actually purposely made it untenable, because the point was you couldn’t hear them normally anyway… So it was meant to kind of be more realistic in terms of the [unintelligible 00:05:22.00] as it were on the street, which – it sounds like all of us kind of agree, so it’s kind of “Yeah… No.” I find it really frustrating with Nolan films [unintelligible 00:05:30.22] Batman was like the perfect case with this.
It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
It’s like, I want to know what they’re saying in case it’s something critical, especially in a film like this, where almost every word uttered can play into what something means… So it’s like, don’t let someone mumble that I can’t hear, because–
Try and understand what’s going on…
…as much as I know, that was like the key piece of information for the rest of the film.
Yeah, exactly. And it’s such a complex film. It’s not like transformers, where you can probably sit on your phone and still understand it. You need to be paying attention to this on your first watch.
It might actually be better without the actual words…
So just to be clear, it was not a pun; it was a pun, but also not a pun. We will be putting out heavy spoilers. So if you’re listening to this and you haven’t watched the film, and you’re like “I don’t want it to be ruined”, you should have stopped a while back, I’m sure, to some degree… But definitely stop from this point and just go watch it and come back and listen to this. It’ll be more enjoyable.
But you know, I think that’s probably the case… I didn’t see the film in a theater myself. Now, I do happen to have a theater-like scenario in my house; I literally have a theater room in my house, that has a projector, and stuff like that… So I’ve got the next best thing. I watched it on the 4K BluRay that came out… I didn’t have that audio issue; I haven’t watched it with subtitles, Jerod… But I really feel for people who’ve chosen to watch the film in that kind of scenario, because the score alone is phenomenal. The booming and the blasting - it’s a hallmark for Christopher Nolan to have such an awesome score and just have a lot of action on the scene, and sound, and audio going with that. I couldn’t imagine - as much as I liked the film - watching it not in a scenario where you can really fully hear everything.
But you’re watching in a theater, Imax, you’re watching it home, with subtitles - either way, you’ve gotta enjoy the film. So let’s start with watch count. Let’s start with Jerod. How many times have you watched the film, Jerod?
Almost once… [laughter] No, once. I made it through. But it took me three sittings.
[00:08:04.09] It was very heavy, and dense, and I had to sit down and pay it close attention and read the subtitles. It was a long film. And we always watch movies at the end of the night, and so - I was not gonna make it through in a single sitting. So it was a couple of sittings. I’ve seen it one time; I’ve also since read a little bit more about it since then… But I’m definitely probably the outlier if we’re gonna take a poll here amongst the four of us. Just once.
Brett, how about you? How many times did you watch it?
Two and a half. I watched it once with my wife Andrea and her parents, and then in prep for this, and when our recording got postponed [unintelligible 00:08:50.10] I started to watch it in the mornings, like little 20 minute chunks. And then when I got about halfway through, I went and saw me in-laws again… [unintelligible 00:09:00.23] my father-in-law, who honestly probably would be a better guest on this than me, has now subsequently watched it like five times, and has become like atom-level addicted to all the details about Tenet…
…such that when I visited once and my wife and mother-in-law went out to go do something, I said, “Oh, I’m going to still do this recording on this date… Should we talk about it?” “No, let’s not talk about it. Let’s just go watch it again.” So I just went down and watched the whole thing all over again with him.
So yeah, two and a half for me.
So did he afterwards tell you what to talk about here on the show? Did he give you notes?
No, because it turns out we actually–
Is his name Cliff, by any chance?
No… We’ve talked about it, but he actually has also said he disagrees with some of my interpretations of the film.
So he said “No, I’ll just let you go on and talk about it the way you want. We can just talk about it after.” I was like, “Okay…”
Let’s say that then… Because I’ve got a big continuity issue, and I’m hoping maybe Paul can solve it for me… Because if not, it’s definitely an issue.
Yeah, I have one, too.
And Paul, maybe you’ve already identified several continuity issues, just film-wise; not so much story-wise, but film-wise. Like “This should have been that way, filming, if they’re carrying the storyline.” I’ve got a couple of those… At least one. Okay… Paul, how many times have you watched Tenet?
Oh… Double figures. Close to 20 times, I would say. I’ve watched it quite a lot.
It’s kind of my background film as well. When I’m doing something, I just want something in the background that I can follow quite easily…
…which sounds a bit strange, but… It just goes in one big loop. That’s all it is. Just one big loop.
So background being like you put it on your laptop, or something like that, behind the scenes…
Yeah. Just working away.
Is the sound up? Is it just the movie playing?
Yeah, just the movie playing, just in the background… Because as complex as it is, I think once you get your head around the concepts and the way that the timeline works, it actually all fits together really well, and it’s quite easy to follow. I know a lot of people are gonna disagree with that, but it’s just… Yeah, everything has a knock-on effect that leads to the loop starting over… And that’s all it is, basically.
Okay. Well, you’re definitely keying into the fact that there’s palindromes in here, in Tenet. It ends where it begins, it begins where it ends, basically…
…which is really – it really throws you as a first-watcher. This is my perspective, and this is why I like this film so much, because I really like to dig into certain films… There’s just so many layers to it, if you desire to pursue them. If you’re somebody who isn’t that passionate about films, it makes sense to watch it once, or not fully once, in certain scenarios… Or in the case of Brett, having a father-in-law drag you back through it again and give you some questions to answer or ask on a podcast… It totally makes sense.
[00:12:00.20] I think I’ve maybe watched it – I wanna say double-digits potentially, but I think I’m similar, where it’s like a background movie… And maybe less because – I’m definitely not a movie reviewer; I’m just more of an enjoyer. I’d say at least – fully watched it, like literally sat down and watched it end to end, I’d say maybe five times, for really watching it. But other times it’s been a background movie; so maybe not quite double digits actually watching it.
Let’s call that six, because I did watch it mostly last night as prep, to some degree, just to get reacclimated to a lot of the different things in the movie… Just to make sure “Hey, I watched that movie.” And actually to go one layer deeper, because - Christopher Nolan… I went back and watched Memento, Inception… Not that you need to to grasp tenet, but I think I’ve become for sure a Christopher Nolan fan… And even Interstellar. Interstellar is a phenomenal film. The guy just makes really great movies, that I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve probably watched Interstellar way more than I watched Tenet. It’s just the best… No so much best story-wise, but definitely best if you’re imagining space and all the possibilities and the real science. There’s also a book, The Science of Interstellar… I can’t recall the physicist who wrote that book; I’ll tell you in a second, unless somebody knows and can tell me.
Oh, Kip Thorne?
Yeah, Kip Thorne. So The Science of Interstellar is on my audible, and I listen to that as my sleeper soundtrack for years, essentially. I’ll listen to the theory of black holes, or wormholes, or whether the science is true or not, as like my going to sleep materials… I just can’t help it.
By the way, Adam, if you keep doing these Backstages, you might have to start saying you’re at least a part-time movie reviewer. I’m not comparing ourselves to Paul at all here, but…
Maybe. I’m just a talker with friends, let’s just say.
Well, it’s like all those people who say “Oh, I’m not a programmer, I just write scripts”, and then eventually you’ve just written enough that actually you are, you just never changed the label.
Okay, touché. I admit that then. But my thing would be I would not wanna pull down what Paul has done, because he’s definitely a movie-reviewer.
Oh, yeah, no, no, no… Part-time. Part-time.
Yeah, part-time. I’ll take the PT on there.
Paul, let’s try and get a list, just to kind of give the audience a perspective of how many - and maybe you have some in the wings, but I’m curious just how many in your playlist of reviews you’ve done for Tenet? I think at least eight, from my count.
Oh, I don’t really know, to be honest… Yeah, it’s gotta be at least eight. And I was thinking of doing some more, just for really obscure details in it that I’ve noticed… But yeah, at least eight. Wait, I’m looking now… Yeah, I think there’s about 18…
So I’ve talked about the movie quite a lot, yeah.
Yeah. What has been your favorite subject of the film so far?
Probably “Is Neil really Kat’s son?”
Okay, let’s go there then.
There’s so much evidence for it… Obviously Robert Pattison dyes his hair in the film. He has a different haircut. And that is very similar to Max, who is Kat’s son. And it’s very layered… There’s so many different strands you can pull on. He speaks Estonian, and he also has a British accent, similar to Kat’s… Obviously, if he had a father who was Estonian and a mother who was English, he would be bilingual… The name Maximilien, if you take the last four letters of it and reverse it, they spell Neil… When he first meets the protagonist, he says “Would you take a woman and child hostage?”, which is obviously referring to Kat and Max, to see what kind of guy he is.
[00:16:23.05] The protagonist at the end, he obviously goes off with Max and Kat… And this follows on from Neil saying that this is the start of a wonderful friendship… There’s so many things… I wish I’d brought my notes, to be honest… But those are just the main ones off the top of my head, that he’s kind of the right-hand man to the protagonist, which if the protagonist did start a relationship with Kat, her son would very much grow into that role, with having him as a father figure.
The only challenge to that theory - and I don’t disagree with it, because there’s so much evidence for it - is just that Kat does not act like she knows Neil. I think you would know your son.
Yeah. But she wouldn’t at this point. Well, I don’t know; if he was older…
Well, he took care of her on the gurney, there’s a lot of care there, there’s a lot of interaction there… There’s no mother-son evident relationship, to my opinion. But - I’ve got a but to this… It may play into the other theory, that Kat is the true future protagonist, which you’ve done a video about. Because if she was that future protagonist, then she would not act in such a way, because the protagonist role doesn’t know yet these things; and if he did know – remember, there’s one sort of underlying tenet of the movie, which is the sense of ignorance. So they keep knowledge from each other. It’s their ammunition, they say. “Ignorance is our ammunition.” So if she was the future protagonist, then she would act like she doesn’t know him.
Yeah, but she might not even know she’s the future protagonist, because at the end of the movie she’s just leaving messages for people…
True, yeah. She doesn’t know yet.
…which they go and carry out. And she might not even know.
So if that theory is true then, if he is Max, Max is her son, the whole movie is about her love for him. It’s a mother-son relationship. And the protagonist role - essentially, he steals art to save her, so that she can maintain that relationship. While we’re in the story of Tenet and future/past/present, inversion, all that good stuff, it really blows down to their relationship.
Why do you think then she acts like she doesn’t know him?
No, she doesn’t know that she’s the future protagonist, that’s the thing.
But wouldn’t she know her son though, is my point.
Well, not if he’s older. She wouldn’t put two and two – she’s discovering [unintelligible 00:19:02.15]
I don’t know about that. Do you have kids?
I would know my son, 100%.
And maybe that’s the perspective. I would for sure know my older son. Unless he had cosmetic surgery, or there was some sort of freak accident and somehow Neil today as we know him in the film is the older Neil… Because he’s not Max… If he looks significantly different, that would be the only reason she should not act like he’s her son. So I think as a father I would totally know my kid.
Do they suggest how old Max is, in the film?
No… I’d say about 25, maybe 30.
But as a kid though, with –
Oh, right. Yeah, he’s about eight, I would say. He’s in a school uniform that makes him look like he’s not in primary school… He’s got a blazer, and–
So probably enough to have some personality quirks that you could theoretically pick up on, unless you’re trying to cover your tracks to not screw things up with your past mom by trying to not act like yourself.
[00:20:10.06] I mean, she’d just been shot, and she was heavily drugged up as well, on the gurney, and he doesn’t say goodbye to her before he sets off to the mission.
He can also just be rude…
Yeah. That’s the one – so that’s where the plot hole is for me on that theory; if that’s true, my question is understanding why there isn’t some sort of relationship there, despite him being older… That to me is just a challenge. But Kat being the future protagonist - you did a whole film on this, which… Is that maybe your second best video? Will it be your second?
Yeah, that was just something I noticed, just her calling and leaving messages… And then when you really start to think about it, the Tenet Organization requires a massive bankroll, which she would have just inherited from her dead husband… So that would [unintelligible 00:21:09.19] she obviously knows how inversion works first-hand… And the protagonist doesn’t really have much agency. I don’t see him as someone who would be making the decisions. I’d say Kat more is kind of the – because the protagonist, in many ways, is very much working for Kat in Tenet; he’s not doing it for himself. She’s instructing him what to do and why killing Sator is so important… And that kind of just makes me think that the way the ending is, where she’s calling the shots on the phone by leaving him messages in the future, so he can go back to the past and kill Priya - that just makes me think that she’s the one in the future who’s doing everything.
Which is an interesting concept itself too, because this whole idea that if you put a record into - you know, the fact that we’re doing this show, it’s recorded on logs on Riverside.fm, for example… We’ve put a message into the future, because we now have evidence of an action happening, an event happening… And because of that evidence today, the evidence is proclaimed in the future, so future knows immediately, the moment – think about 20 years from now being written, to some degree. What happens today they know about 20 years from now, because of the record today.
It’s very challenging, this whole concept of how Christopher Nolan used this concept of just time, I suppose, in general, the entropy of the world, to the advantage of the plot… Because like you had said, maybe at the very end of the film, when Kat calls the protagonist, she’s leaving a record in the future; he is actually in the future, coming back inverted to kill Priya, which is a lot of things to unpack there… But I think it’s interesting.
One thing that you’d mentioned in terms of the Neil plotline in terms of being Max, that first meeting of Neil and the protagonist - what I find really interesting for people who haven’t gone as deep as I have, and definitely as deep as you’ve gone, Paul, is just how the inversion time works, in terms of like… They had a relationship, but that was their first meeting. Despite Neil going far in his future and then inverting and going back into the protagonist’s past, all that good stuff - that was the moment in the timeline of the world that those two actually met, despite there actually being a future and a past, as he says at the end. Can you unpack some ideas there? Brett, have you got some thoughts?
No, I just wanna know how do you know that it’s officially the first meeting?
[00:23:53.22] Well, I guess you don’t know officially - and Paul, you can probably speak to this - but the reason why the theory exists that Neil is Max is because he asked the protagonist then “Would you hold a woman or a child hostage?” And so story-wise, that’s when they first met. But they have a deeper relationship that goes into other factors of the timeline of their lives, because that’s the first time they actually met – that’s been really challenging…
From the protagonist point of view, that’s the first time they met. But Neil is basically moving backwards through that.
Okay, that’s the clarification I wanna make sure, for the protagonist, too – John David Washington, for anyone who always forgets, we never know his actual name in the movie.
Yeah, that is definitely his first – I wanna make sure that my understanding was the same. It’s not Neil’s first time meeting the protagonist, because they’re probably way in the past, and this just happens in the timeline for the protagonist to be his first time.
Right, okay. So Paul’s correct. Perspective-wise, the protagonist, from his perspective - that’s the first time he meets Neil.
Yeah. And Neil’s already had a long-standing relationship with a version of him in the future.
That’s why he knows what he drinks, how he acts… He’s like, “No, you don’t.”
He’s very sure.
And that’s another kind of hint towards it being Max, because all the other Tenet agents that we meet don’t have a friendship, don’t have a relationship, don’t really know each other’s names… Whereas those two do, which shows how close they actually are. Because the guy that you meet on the boat at the start - no idea what he’s called - the scientist, I’ve seen get called Barbara, but then get called other things… Ives - he pretty much doesn’t wanna know anything about them… And by those two characters, pretty much everyone is very stand-off(ish), because the more that they know about each other, the more that they get compromised. Any record that they leave can get picked up by the future, so it’s best to just not write anything down, not make a note of anything, and just kind of keep as distant as possible.
Mm-hm. What other are your favorite videos you’ve created? What other plotlines are your favorite to sort of key on? [unintelligible 00:26:17.08] explain the film through the lens of what your interests might be, because I’m sure they’ll help us tease out the details of the movie.
Yeah, I quite like the theory that Sator is actually working for the future protagonist. So the entire movie is basically a heist, when you think about it. Whoever the future protagonist is, he’s trying to get Sator to collect all the pieces of the algorithm, so that at the end of the film they can steal it and make it look like it’s been buried.
And Sator is getting messages from the future, and he’s believing them because they’re coming with money, and he thinks that there’s an opposing side in all of this… But potentially, that could just be the future protagonist sending back those things. And he obviously knows all of the spots where the containers are buried, because he witnessed a lot of them, or he was told by Sator. Sator told him at Stalsk 12 that he got this container of gold, which Sator shouldn’t be telling people, because that’s leaving a message for the future which the protagonist could take and then use things to manipulate him with.
Yeah. It’s interesting… So the future – this all began because a scientist essentially discovered inversion by creating an algorithm… And it’s in this physical form; I don’t understand why it’s in a physical form…
Yeah, I don’t either…
…and why these things have to be all together…
It just is a movie thing.
[00:27:49.26] Right, exactly. Christopher likes to use real science, to some degree… I don’t think inversion is possible. I think if it was, it’d probably be like this, except for there’s certain actions a human would do I just would not wanna see inverted… But that’s a different show.
You know, when you think about this - a scientist created this algorithm sometime in the distant future, and this entire plotline begins because they send a message back, essentially, to destroy this algorithm, because this algorithm is responsible for the end of the world… And they’re saying it back essentially to dismiss it from the future. To erase it, essentially, by putting it in the past… Which sets off all this inversion, all this - for a lack of better words - time travel, which it’s not really a time travel movie, it’s more of a time movement movie. You move through time. You zig-zag through it, rather than actually travel… What do you think about that?
So you just change direction… But yeah, it’s pretty much just a heist movie to me. Just a very, very complicated one, where they have to get all the pieces put together and then steal it, and make it look to a version of Sator that his plan worked, and that the algorithm was buried… Which is why they let the explosion go off at the end.
So this whole film – have you got something to say, Jerod?
Well, it just doesn’t make sense to me that it’s not a time travel movie…
I would say it’s a time travel movie…
We all travel through time at one second per second…
Let me clarify that…
So if you invert and go backwards, is it that not time travel?
I would say it is.
What I mean by that is it’s not your traditional version of time travel, where –
It’s kind of copied through different times.
So let me explain why it’s not necessarily, in my opinion, that way. You do travel through time, but it’s not your traditional your time travel movie because you have to invert and in real time you can’t – what’s that one to one when you write a CD, way back in the day? Your write time is exactly the same as your travel time. So you invert at the same amount of time. You can’t just jump through a portal and suddenly be back ten years. You have to invert for ten years to go back ten years.
There’s no skipping.
So that’s why it’s a zig-zag through time.
There’s no hopping, exactly.
Yeah. Traditional sense of time travel tends to say that you hop through time, you jump into a new time zone, where as here you have to invert for the same amount of time you wanna go back, based upon the constraints of inversion.
Well, that’s a fair point.
So that’s why I say it’s not your time travel movie… To clarify - typical time travel movie. Typical.
It’s not what you said though; you said it’s not time travel. That’s why –
Yeah. When you drag your position on the timeline as a slider, you can’t suddenly pick up where you are and put it back down.
You have to still drag yourself back and forth on the timeline. Go over that two hours - you’re still two hours older, only you went forward and back invertedly. You can’t lift yourself and suddenly pop into existence somewhere.
Right. Which for the Neil character has gotta be the most interesting zig-zag…
Yeah. There’s a part where the theory falls down, because you would have to be inverting…
For so long.
… to either doing a week normally, and then inverting a week, or doing ten years, or something…
Right. In the notes I have a visual explanation of inversion for the folks listening to this. You’ll see this in your show notes. But I saw this on – what is his name…? His name is, I think, [unintelligible 00:31:27.24] Probably one of the best explanations visually of inversion. And while you can’t hear the audio to this because it’s just simply a still picture, it depicts two people’s timeline, and if you watched this, you would see when they first meet, which is kind of like Neil and the protagonist, that their timelines sort of zig-zag through time. And vertically, you’re at the same point. Left is past, right is future, so you can kind of see visually that the person on top - they actually die in the person’s past, despite them zig-zagging and actually meeting a couple times. So they actually have a lot of history, despite him dying so early in the one person’s point of view timeline.
[00:32:19.03] It’s really challenging to sort of like – that’s why I think this film is so interesting layers-wise, because of the way you can zig-zag through time; so much can happen. To explain one more visual point here - the bottom person’s timeline. As you can see, they go all the way to the right, and you can see that one person on top, his timeline goes away - well, that’s the point when he realizes his good friend passed away, and he searches and searches and searches for him; then one day he finds this Turnstile and zig-zags back through his own past, potentially to find this person, which he might eventually see them again… So it’s just so interesting how you can zig-zag through time and use this as a story plot.
But that person would have already had to have met you in the past. Everything in Tenet is set in stone. So everything that’s happened, will happen.
What’s happened, happens.
What’s happened, happens…? I forget – how do you say it?
It’s very deterministic. You can’t go back and change the past. If you try to, it’ll just play out the way that it was supposed to, because you tried to stop it. So there’s not really any free will in it. But there is a question over whether there is, and people are kind of trying to fight against that, which other people in the future who wanna destroy the past.
Who do you think those people are? Because they seem to control a lot. They seem to control – if your theory is true, that Sator was actually working for the protagonist, then you believe the protagonist is actually the one sending Sator the messages, so that they can trick him essentially, into assembling all the parts, and then doing the big heist, as you mentioned, and the explosion happens at Stalsk 12, and everyone believes it was buried. So perception is belief, and if you believe that had happened, then you believe the algorithm is buried at the bottom of that explosion, essentially.
Yeah. Exactly. So Sator will always carry out those actions, because he knows that the explosion happened at Stalsk 12, so he thinks that he’s on the right path - his past version anyway - when really he gets killed by Kat.
But there’s also other contingencies in place, such as the cyanide pill that he was gonna take… The protagonist obviously took that at the start of the movie, and we know that it doesn’t work… So I think that was how Kat was able to kill him and get away with it, because no matter what, the pill never would have worked anyway…
Mm-hm. Because it didn’t work for the protagonist, so…
Yeah. He’s like, “I got these from the CIA”, right? Something like that. It’s so interesting too, that you would believe when you watch this that Sator is the most powerful person in the movie, because he’s got all this money, all this information flying at him from the future, so he seems to be in the know, essentially, far more than anybody else. But if your theory is true, then he’s actually just simply a puppet and a pawn in somebody else’s bigger plan and scheme.
Yeah. Either way, he’s being controlled by the future protagonist or the people from the future, or he gets his list of things to do, and what to do, and that’s it. So he doesn’t really have any actual knowledge or agency on how to control things; he just gets told what to do.
[00:35:57.18] Yeah. He only knows what has been sent back to him, versus [unintelligible 00:35:58.26] understand the whole situation, and then travel back to try to deal with it. Sator never really does that back and forth beyond, it seems, this small snippet of time we see in the film, versus characters like Neil, who have done potentially vast amounts of time travel – not time travel, but inversion to replay through these events to really have a full understanding of what occurred and what will occur and what has occurred… A much broader worldview of things that are occurring.
While we’re on the subject of Sator, I wanna mention this – I guess Christopher Nolan’s throwback to The Joker whenever they’re about to go into the car chasing… That scene is actually one of the most interesting scenes; I’ve actually taken the film, put it into Adobe Premiere and inverted the film with sound too, so that I can have an inverted version of the film. I don’t know if you’ve done this, Paul, or not… Let me know if you have. I had to, because that scene alone made me wanna watch it from different directions… And it’s just super-challenging to watch the film that’s going forward, backwards. So I actually made a backwards version of the film to kind of get that. That’s the weirdo in me.
But what I wanna mention is his throwback to the Joker when Sator says “Look at me.” I don’t know if this is actually true or not, when he screams at Kat, “Look at me!” I think it’s an homage to his other characters, the Joker in his case…
Yeah, could be.
Have you seen that part?
Yeah, just before he kicks her. Yeah, it could well be. I’ve never thought about it, to be honest… But yeah.
He screams it almost the exact same way. It could be a borrowed line, who knows…? Maybe Sator saw the Batman Trilogy and was like, “You know what - I like the Joker character. I’m gonna scream at Kat in this way.”
I wouldn’t put it past Kenneth Branagh to do something like that.
Yeah. We haven’t even gotten into the actual people behind the characters… Phenomenal cast, by the way, of course. They’re just amazing. Let’s key in that a bit later, but let’s talk about the car chasing. I’ve watched it from multiple angles actually; a lot of things happening there. That’s the most complex scene, in my opinion. There’s a lot of complexity elsewhere, with the plane and the crash and stuff, but that scene is the one where you have the temporal pincer, which we haven’t mentioned yet. This idea of using time forwards and backwards with essentially knowledge that you have, knowledge in the future to send back, so you do things a certain way.
I don’t know if you can do that – if you don’t have inversion, you can’t do temporal pincers, right? You could do a pincer, but just not with time, right?
Right. And I actually have a continuity question when we’re ready to start talking about that…
Right, yeah. I don’t know where to open that up, but just by saying - did anybody else enjoy that scene?
Yeah, I love it. Really, really good.
Alright, hands are all up, for sure.
Especially with the way the pieces all fall together. Because you’ve basically got one team moving forward and relaying what happens to the team moving backwards, so they know what’s gonna happen in the next couple of minutes.
And they still screw it up.
We’re trying to understand how they communicate that. I guess if you communicate it, I guess the concierge is paying attention to call logs… Are they hackers? Have they hacked into Verizon or something like that to get these messages?
They go through the whole thing. The team moving forward goes through the whole thing and gets to the – so let’s say it’s a ten-minute block; they go through the whole thing, get to the end of the ten minutes, pass the information to the people moving backwards, and then just say “This is what happens.” So those people are now moving from 10 to 0 knowing what happens. And then when they get to the start, when they get to zero, they then tell the people moving forward what happens.
If you view it as one timeline, it makes sense. If you view it as one person, basically, moving forward ten minutes, getting to ten minutes, stopping, and then just moving backwards, back to zero, it all makes sense.
[00:40:17.09] It’s like you reverse-post. You usually go forward, write yourself a note, give it in the inversion post office, they go back and then deliver the note to you at the beginning. It’s like, “Hey, by the way, this is what’s about to happen to you. Watch out.”
So Paul, how many viewings did it take you to simplify it that much? Did you get that right away, or was it like two, or six?
Because that does make it sound more simple than what I was watching.
Yeah, like I said earlier, it is just very simple, but people overcomplicate it in their minds to try and think of it beyond what it is.
Well, because you’re also trying to figure it out as it goes…
…when you’re first watching it, so you don’t understand that that’s what’s happening. You’re trying to figure out what is happening.
Yeah. It’s like a race track, basically. Say we put loads of obstacles on a race track, you run through it normally, you jump over those things, and then when you get to the end of the race track, if someone just said “Turn around and run back through that”, you’d already know which obstacles were coming and how to tackle them. And that’s basically it. Time is the race track in this scenario. The runner - their perception doesn’t change. They just see things moving backwards.
And it can’t change.
It can’t change, no. It’s already happened… Because it’s just happened that way.
I think this is why Neil throughout the film multiple times really emphasizes when people ask him these kinds of questions, and he’s just kind of like “Stop asking.”
What’s happened, happened.
“I don’t agree that you can change the past for the future. it is what it is. Don’t make your head hurt, just let it go.”
Yeah. Well, it’s basically reverse entropy - in physics an action happens, and then a reaction spirals out from it, and it’s basically just that reversed, where the reaction goes back to the action. So molecules exploding, or firing confetti; it’s basically just the confetti going back into the party popper. It’s basically just that.
You can’t change what has happened, essentially. It’s gonna go back to where it came from.
Apparently you can put the genie back in the bottle.
Right… Which really is a bender whenever you think about the – and I suppose the characters in real time of the movie are not aware that they can’t change it… They’re constantly trying to fight against this inability to change what happened… So they will use temporal pincers and they will still give themselves this information, but what they don’t understand is that it really happened that way, no matter how many times they tried to temporal pincer themselves out of a situation to give themselves more information to change… It’s gonna happen that way no matter what anyways, so…
It’s almost like resistance is futile to the events of life, I suppose…
Yeah, but the funky thing to think about here is from their perspective it’s resistance, but from the perspective of the universe and time it’s not. Just because you happen to think that you are trying to make a decision here doesn’t mean it actually happens. This is the whole thing behind determinism, and this is where the philosophy degree in me is coming out…
Please do it.
You think there’s free will, and you think you’re making a decision, and you fight so hard against it, and the thought that you’re having about free will right now really isn’t ocurring in terms of a choice of having that thought. It actually already was decided, and that’s the head trip. The point that you’re having a head trip is not because you chose to have that head trip; it was already pre-determined. It just happens to be the way the universe was pre-determined up front, based on physics, that you’re gonna have this thought, and it’s gonna happen to lead into you having this revelation and having your head hurt, and all that.
[00:44:10.07] Same thing here - you might think you’re trying to make these decisions to fight against it, but it was all pre-determined anyway that you were going to have this fight, and that’s the way it was going to be, and it just happens to be that it was pre-determined you were gonna have these thoughts about trying to fight it, whether you could or not, and all that… It really was all just completely laid out, just stamped right on the ground. That’s the timeline, that’s all the events that are gonna occur, right?
If you’ve watched Loki - another spoiler alert - the whole timeline thing…
I haven’t seen Loki, so don’t spoil too much.
Okay. It comes up in episode one, it’s all about time, and timelines… But you have to think about - it’s not a continuation going backward and forward; that’s for our simple brains to comprehend. But from the perspective of the way that this movie tells it, time and all the events have just basically been stamped down all at once, and it’s locked in, and it’s gonna happen that way no matter what.
And we go through a done thing, essentially.
Time is simply travel through –
Yeah. Just because we view it linearly –
I actually physics and that kind of stuff and entropy - that is kind of how it is. It’s gonna be this way, and we are just burdened with actually traveling through time.
If you could zoom all the way out and look at the entire timeline of the universe [unintelligible 00:45:22.01] and look at it all at once - that’s it. It’s done, it’s predetermined, there’s no moving forwards and backwards in terms of inversion; it’s all occurred, all the thoughts, all that stuff, there’s no question. It just is done. We just happen to be living it in a very linear - or in the fact of this movie, inverted - way on the timeline. But just because that’s our perspective.
Even as we change in that living, it actually isn’t changing the timeline. We’re just simply doing what the timeline already says we’re gonna do.
Right. Because Adam, as you point out with the video you saw, the vertical line - once again, the experience of the time passing forward from our perspective, all that stuff is still just happening exactly when it was supposed to happen, as it was predetermined to happen. Once again, our perspective is only at that line.
Yeah. Understanding different scenarios in the film is about understanding whose perspective is in place currently, and from what perspective it is.
Well, you can boil it even down to a psychological level of determinism, where something from your past has created the personality that you have, and therefore if you were a master analyst, you could probably take someone and study them and say “This is all the choices that they’re gonna make in their life”, and they’re just gonna go on a path because of this one action back when they were a child. It’s just like rolling a log down a hill. It’s gonna hit the bottom because of the action at the start that pushed it. And if you kind of take that on a more complex level, every single person has personality traits that have been developed from when they were younger… And if you could take that person’s life and map out exactly how every single thing is gonna happen because of the way that they act and the choices that they’ll make, and then do that on a grand scale to where every single person is kind of interacting with that map, you could map out everything and just see how it’s all just one big plan.
By the way, if this thought of the world being pre-ordained or not bothers anyone, go read up on soft determinism. It’ll make you feel a little better.
I’m just trying to figure out what I was predetermined to say next. [laughter]
You’re an imperfect being, Jerod. You don’t get to know that.
You just do it because it happened already.
Thanks for nothing, Brett.
Yeah… Sorry, I didn’t write the laws of physics.
[00:48:00.08] It’s just the domino effect. You knocked down a domino, and with all the other pieces set up in place, it’s just gonna carry on going. And if you had dominos that criss-cross and interact with each other on different lines, that’s basically humans interacting.
So while we’re talking humans, I’m gonna soften this conversation a little bit… Why do we never learn the protagonist’s name? And as a follow-up to that, why is his character not super fleshed out? He seems to me to be maybe the least interesting person in the movie.
I would agree with that. I don’t know if that’s to do with… There is the argument that the grandfather paradox doesn’t exist, and that you can’t travel back in time, and I’m guessing that it’s sort of the Terminator scenario, where if you did know the protagonist’s name, you could just travel back in time and kill him… And the only way that they actually realize that the protagonist is the protagonist is because of the suicide test with the pill. That’s the only way that they know.
So you know, if there are people from the future working in the past, and they know that he is important to the future, they might try and change things. It might be like “Oh, I know this guy is a good guy, so I’m gonna try and get in early and get a promotion in Tenet.” So the only time that people from the future start interacting with him is after the suicide pill situation, and it’s not long after that he meets Neil. Now, Neil even does sort of in a way protect him at the Opera, because he shoots that guy…
I’ve got a question about that, too…
Yeah, that has quite a big knock-on effect for the protagonist… Yeah, so I think it’s just keeping things as ignorant as possible; if things aren’t set in stone, then it will just stop people trying to interact with the past and change things.
Yeah. I was thinking even too how no one calls him a name, even Neil.
When he calls him from far away, he never says “Hey, Jerod” or “Hey, Paul” or “Hey, Brett.” He just talks to him. He doesn’t really ever reference a name.
Yeah, I got called a racist on one of my videos by someone who said they hadn’t seen the film, and they were just like “Why do you keep calling the black character “The protagonist” and then everyone else has a name?” And I was like, “I think that’s how it is in the movie. Just watch the movie.”
I think that’s literally his name in the credits.
It is, yeah. There is no name.
Yeah. But does he need one? No.
By the way, the scientist is named Barbara on Imdb.
Is that right?
Yeah. Does he need a name though? I think Tenet is not like Inception. It’s more about the physics and the mechanics of the movie, rather than the characters. There’s not really any character growth. The protagonist feels very much the same as how he was at the start of the movie, as do most of the characters… And I think Nolan – it’s basically just a live action puzzle that you have to figure out, rather than being a film with emotional heart and complex character development and stuff like that.
Yeah, and I think this is why the film feels like it almost kind of skips the first act partially. [unintelligible 00:51:41.28] in act one, and it feels kind of almost –
I think this is when you start to hear about the reviews where it feels kind of like rushed, or not quite as fleshed out of a film as other Nolan films especially… As Paul just said, you just don’t develop the main character [unintelligible 00:51:58.22] most of the time. So it feels really odd as you’re kind of just suddenly thrown into the whole thing of “Oh, I’m now in a wind turbine, and now I’m suddenly doing this thing”, and there’s not a lot of discussion of who this person is, and all this… You’re just following along, because – once again, as Paul said, it’s really a heist film with weird time, and that’s really the focus of this whole thing. Not the people.
[00:52:23.01] Yeah. Even the initial scenario at the – I believe they call them freeports, at the airport. Even that initial scenario, all the planning for – which we haven’t even mentioned this gigantic plane from an orchestration standpoint of the film… Instead of doing CGI, they actually bought the plane. They bought a plane. It was cheaper to buy the plane and crash a real plane into a building than it was to do CGI… So software has to get better, I guess… Because that’s what it is, essentially - CGI is very costly. Maybe it’s the people, maybe it’s the software… I don’t know what it is. But either way.
Yeah. But they’re going about in the movie how the environment is destroyed in the future, and then the destroying of a big plane, instead of just doing it on a computer.
Right. Yeah, exactly.
I can only imagine what the carbon footprint of that would have looked like.
Yeah, exactly. [laughs]
Well, that whole scenario though, if you play it back and you think about why it even exists, it’s because he’s trying to (the protagonist is my version of “he”) protect Kat from the scenario she’s in… And to do so, he has agreed to steal the drawing, which is what Sator holds over her and essentially has her enslaved in this relationship. I’m not sure if that’s exactly real slavery, but she’s compelled to stay there because of her relationship with her son, and the stronghold he has over their lives… And so the protagonist is trying to save her by stealing this thing back. It’s such an elaborate way to steal back a drawing…
They crash a plane into a building to go in and steal this drawing back… And what they actually find is turnstiles that invert time. They meet old versions of themselves, essentially, and because they’re going back to where they began, the entropy is essentially reversing at that point… But I think that’s interesting from a plotline - the whole reason why all that happened… All the orchestration, they’re sort of planning this – like, he meets with Priya, they walk around… They’re doing all this dialogue that jumps around from scene to scene - because that’s one thing too, where they’ll be talking about one part of the plan in one scene, and then jump to a whole new scene and now they’re continuing the conversation. That was a joke I believe on my second-favorite YouTube channel, Screen Rant, with… What is that show called again? Why am I blanking on it?
Because it’s only your second-favorite…
Pitch Meeting is my – I told Jerod this a thousand times… Pitch Meeting is my second-favorite – because Paul’s stuff is my favorite, of course…
He’s here, I have to say that… But he’s definitely good.
You have to, yeah.
But I watch Pitch Meeting – especially if I’ve seen the movie, I watch [unintelligible 00:55:11.06] But it’s all just to simply steal this drawing.
But it’s also to learn that there is a turnstile there as well.
Sure. The undercurrent is. But the real thrust, the reason they’re doing it is the drawing. And it’s elaborate.
But that’s because the security at the freeport is that elaborate. If it was just a shop with a safe in the back, they wouldn’t be crashing a plane.
[00:55:43.27] He’d just met this person though. He’d just met Kat, and he feels compelled enough to do that kind of elaborate of a scheme, despite what he does or doesn’t know yet about Tenet. From a watcher’s point of view - and I think this is, one, love of film, sure, but then as an empathizer of those who probably would love the movie if they could just get past a certain few things before even watching it, which is why I think my perspective is that you should watch this movie… Your probably need to watch it several times; at least twice…
…maybe three times to really enjoy it, if you’re gonna enjoy it. One time is gonna be a real challenge to enjoy it. So he just meets Kat and agrees to save her somehow by stealing this drawing, this elaborate heist… It’s quite elaborate for somebody – if I’ve just met you, Paul, and I’m like, “Dude, I’m gonna go and I’m gonna crash a plane into a building to help you…”
But I’ve just met you. Right? “Do it.” [laughs]
But I don’t think it’s necessarily done just to save Kat, just to be a nice person. I think he’s doing it to save Kat to then have her on site to then help with Sator.
Yeah, exactly, because he needs to get the plutonium. He needs to do that exchange with him. So this is definitely the next move. You’re right, that’s a good point.
[unintelligible 00:56:54.14] He’s at the point when he meets with Kat at the restaurant and agrees to do this for her is just “I need an in with this person.”
True. Okay, that’s true.
“So I’m going to do what I can, and this is the only thing I can think of that can save you, because your life is so controlled by your husband, there’s nothing you can do. You’re screwed anyway. But if I do this, I win you over so much you will probably do anything for me, and you can help make this happen.”
“And so I’m going to go steal this piece of art at the freeport and…”
“And you’ll be free. Free to help me.”
That’s a good point. Okay, so there’s a bigger plot. I’m minimizing the plot. I will take that one, for sure. A lot of calls to even the James Bond aspect, 007… Paul, I know you mentioned it being a heist… There’s a lot of – and I’m not sure, is there a lot of stealing in James Bond? Is it a lot of the plotline? What’s the plotline usually of James Bond?
Is it theft?
Steal money, blow up the world…
It’s a villain–
Sometimes. Super-villain –
Probably there’s more stealing in Mission Impossible.
Yeah, Mission Impossible is more theft.
Yeah, that’s always some sort of get in there, get into the vault…
Steal the bomb, yeah.
You have Sir Michael Caine in this, who’s obviously British… There’s even some – I don’t know if it’s been you, Paul, or someone else mentioned that Ives’ character could potentially be Sir Michael…
There’s some things there… But this throwback to 007… In terms of Christopher being inspired, he wanted to do sort of a 007 espionage type film, despite it being also very heist-like.
Yeah. It is very much a Bond film. It’s spies, it’s secret agents… Just even some of the scenes, like the sailing scene; that’s very James Bondian…
That’s true, yeah.
…where the villain kind of takes him into his house and treats him like a guest.
Yes. “I insist” he says. “You must stay for dinner.”
Yeah. The big base at the end, you’ve got a car chase in it… It is very James Bondian. It’s all kind of sophisticated spies as well, like him getting a suit and dealing with things in a gentlemanly manner…
Brooks Brothers won’t work around here.
You’ve gotta get some better threads, basically.
And even the femme fatale in Kat… It is very James Bondian.
So reimagine this movie with James Bond in the lead role. Pick your favorite Bond - Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery… Whoever you like. Better movie or worse movie? Actually throw James Bond right in there, replace him with the protagonist…
I think probably a better movie, to be honest. But I just really like James Bond movies.
I’m with you on that one.
But it’s interesting though –
[00:59:57.11] Because of the charisma. That’s the thing that’s lacking from the protagonist, is Bond charisma and interest. There’s none of that.
The other thing though is it does solve the problem of that feeling of like you’re missing half of an opening act… Because if it’s Bond, you already have the back-story. You don’t need it.
Yeah, because there’s so much context…
You have been filled in so many times that you’d be able to [unintelligible 01:00:14.07] willing to just leap into it and just go with it running, versus “Who is this person? What’s their back-story? Why are they doing this?”
Yeah, James Bond movies you get away with doing zero character development. I don’t think Bond’s even had that much character development over the space of 60 years or whatever it’s been. He’s just a spy. Just go send him out on an mission…
He’s like an archetype.
Yeah. There’s just enough to over time just kind of through osmosis learn what the personality is. We just kind of know what to expect.
It sells cars.
Jewelry. Expensive trips. Yachts. A lifestyle… You know?
Hitting on secretaries.
Yeah. That is interesting.
Hm. I think that’s my main thing - I had a hard time tracking, because it was just the first watch… I love Christopher Nolan movies, and the thing that I felt like this was lacking - and Paul, I think you explained it very well, where it’s more plot-driven, it’s more this inversion, and the idea and the layers, which I’m now getting a better grasp on and enjoying, than it is the characters and the people and the motivations…
Even my favorite Nolan movie, Memento, which I haven’t seen for years, but I just – I love that movie. I don’t mind not knowing much about the character at the beginning, which we don’t in Tenet at all… But you learn about that character as his histories reveal to him throughout the movie. Whereas here I just never feel like I learn anything about the protagonist, really…
Yeah. But that is kind of the theme of the film as well, where you’re not meant to know – everything’s quite deliberate in Nolan, the way that he’s handled the story…
Yeah. It wasn’t an accident.
Ignorance is their ammunition.
It plays out. That’s really why I like this film so much… It’s obviously less about the character development, because there’s not really much… It’s really the infinite layers that the director has done such a great job of orchestrating… Because even that alone, the fact that we don’t know much about the protagonist, is played out in the core tenet of the movie. Ignorance is their ammunition, that [unintelligible 01:02:24.02] You don’t know much about the protagonist. And I would even wonder, you know – because I’ve seen John David Washington in other films, like BlacKkKlansman and other films he’s done… And there’s one on Netflix that I haven’t watched; Paul, you may know this one, it’s brand new… You probably got an early release of it, or something like that… Or you’ve probably already watched it twice… I plan to watch it, so let’s just say I’m a fan… So John David Washington is the son of Denzel Washington; he’s probably one of my favorite actors ever, as a human being and as an actor. I think Denzel is just phenomenal.
So if his son follows in his footsteps… Even if he has half the talent, which I imagine he has a lot more; I’m not trying to minimize John David Washington by any means. But just saying, Denzel is just so good as an actor, that I wonder if that’s the point, like you had said before, if that’s the point of the movie… We don’t know much about him, and there is so much charisma, maybe because he was directed to act in that way, not because the actor himself is incapable of giving us those layers. Because I’ve seen other films, he’s great. I don’t think it’s for a lack of ability in acting. I think it’s just simply the storyline that we get limited in what we can know about the character.
Yeah, I don’t think he did a bad job, and I don’t think he’s uncharismatic. There just isn’t much meat on the bones. So it wasn’t like he’s dislikable in the movie at all.
I think he’s got a lot of phenomenal lines.
[01:03:52.05] I think another way to potentially also view this is he is – I don’t remember if they actually specifically say a CIA agent, but such as an agent of some secretive organization, [unintelligible 01:04:01.20] of not giving away who you are, and not really exposing anything about yourself… Which is why those moments with Neil where they joke and the protagonist actually smiles is very much a telling moment when that happens a couple times that “Okay, Neil is a very important person. He’s not a just kind of fluff-off character”, and that actually he has some meaning to the protagonist. And that’s when it comes in and kind of very much is shown to be an important person.
I think part of it might also, as you said, have been on purpose, not because John David Washington can’t act, but very much an in-character of a secretive agent who has to conceal who they are and not leak anything, and very much be very stoic constantly to not give anything away all the time, except in private moments with Neil, where he starts to feel relaxed and slowly befriend this person, which makes that end scene with Neil, where he says “From your perspective this is the end of our friendship, but for you this is the beginning of a beautiful one”, just that much more kind of heart-wrenching, where it’s like, he starts off his relationship seriously with this person going off to die, basically…
So there’s a potential layer of that.
Mm-hm. I was gonna share a couple lines that I like, that John David Washington’s character got to say in this film. I think they’re pretty awesome moments as well. So the protagonist, early on at the restaurant, prior to the initial heist to get the art back, is encountered by several thugs essentially in a kitchen… He says “I ordered my hot sauce an hour ago.” I think that’s the best line ever.
I was gonna say, the cheese grater in that fight scene really hurt when I watched that.
Oh, gosh… Yeah, I really felt that cheese grater. Paul, did I hear you or somebody else say that that was ad-libbed? That John David’s character was just going –
Oh, I’ve got no idea. He might have, yeah.
I’ve watched a lot of - not just Heavy Spoilers, but others as well, so sorry about that… But a lot of people have done some stuff. But I thought I heard that he ad-libbed that, essentially.
That he’s in the kitchen, “I’m just gonna grab something. I’m in a fight scene, I’m gonna act out.” That would be a challenging one. Maybe he initially grabbed it, and then was like “Let’s do this safely. Let’s use a rubber cheese grater.” Maybe that could be it. But I heard that was ad-libbed, essentially. I don’t know if you can ad-lib an action or not, but…
Well, maybe while they were rehearsing, as you said, someone saw that and like “You know what would really add to this scene…?”
Yes, if you use that cheese grater to scrape his face off, essentially, as part of the fight scene. The other one I liked a lot from him was when he first sits down at that dinner, and he sits down and he talks to Sator and he talks about the opera house… And Sator skips it all, he’s like “I’m gonna kill you”, essentially. I’m gonna paraphrase what Sator says, but he says – Sator describes how he’s gonna kill him and what he’s gonna do; he’s gonna something to his throat, and put something in there, essentially… I’m not gonna be crass about it, but… He says “How long would you wanna live?”
Or “How would you like to die?”
“How do you wanna die?” What does he say back? I didn’t write it down, I don’t have notes one; what did he say?
He said “Old.”
What a great response. “How do you wanna die?” “Old.” And then he’s describing this action to his throat and he’s like “Complex.” Just one word, “Complex.” That was awesome. Those are the two. Anybody else got any fun lines they enjoyed from that character, or others?
I just appreciate you think my memory is that good to remember those individual lines…
Yeah. I can’t even remember and I watched it yesterday…
Your 20th viewing. You’ve got no lines?
[01:08:01.28] So I like when Ives says – John David’s character, the protagonist, says “Where did he go?”, in terms of the first turnstile situation when they go into the car chase… This is actually post-car chase, which is technically going in if you’re going inverted… He says “Where did he go?” and he goes “The past.”
“The past”, yeah.
That’s his response. Like, “Where did he go?” “The past.” Which is kind of interesting to think about… Like, you just saw them, and then they went through this door, and they’re not anymore, because they’re actually back in the past.
They’re in the moment behind you, yeah.
Yeah. Which is a pretty interesting thing. Okay. I [unintelligible 01:08:31.08] I’ve got a couple favorite lines, of course…
[laughs] Any more, Adam?
I know we’re short(ish) on time… I wanna go into some continuity. So I have mine teed up – Brett, unless you’ve got yours teed up; you can go with yours first, but I’ve got a good break in the film’s continuity. If you’re in the notes, you can see it…
So maybe it’s just lack of understanding in inversion and such, but for me, the one thing that caught me a little bit the first time I watched it, and it really caught me the second time, is in the car chase scene. So they start in their car, that is not flashy, but fast; I believe it’s a BMW in the end, because I’m sure BMW paid some money…
I can’t remember what side of the road they were driving on in the film. I think they drive on the left side of the road. So the passenger’s side, the protagonist gets in it–
The passenger is on the right, yeah…
That side-view mirror starts broken, right? And only after he gets hit by an inverted car does it suddenly not act broken. Now, from my perspective, I think they’re not driving an inverted car. But because of the action of the inverted car hitting it, it’s broken pre-hit from that car. So are you telling me they manufactured that car with a busted side-view mirror, and BMW let that through quality control?
Yeah, it’s not a very good – it doesn’t make sense. There’s a bit as well - his arm starts bleeding just before they go to the airport… He doesn’t get shot in it, and that doesn’t line up.
Yeah, that doesn’t line up at all.
Right. So that continuity thing always threw me, because it’s like – okay, I get the fact that inverted things haven’t occurred yet from their perspective, and thus haven’t had the reaction that they’re gonna have… But from that perspective, an inverted thing hacked in on a non-inverted thing - that doesn’t make sense to me, because how the heck does no one notice that from the manufacture of that car? You can’t reassemble it. So that part of the continuity story just doesn’t make sense to me.
Well, let’s play this out then, since, Paul, you referenced the bleeding of the arm. I don’t know when it begins, but I’m sure the protagonist character didn’t always have a bleeding arm.
So it began to bleed essentially just before that scene took place.
Yes, as they got closer to him being shot.
But to him, that wouldn’t matter.
So in that case, there’s healing, so it’s a body, unlike a car, that can’t heal. So maybe that’s the difference there. But… I don’t know. That’s a really challenging one to kind of explain.
Yeah. I can’t get my head around it.
Unless it’s the bullet just flying through the air and ended up in his arm…
I don’t know if it’s one of those –
Could it just be an oversight?
…and then when he goes back, the bullet goes back into the gun.
Yeah, I think this might be one of those cases where Nolan tried so hard to add little things to kind of help people’s mental model while they watched the film, potentially only once. We all might love it - other than Jerod - enough to watch it more than once.
He’s gonna watch it again, for sure. After this, he’s watching it, at least one more time.
I probably will.
[01:11:44.23] But the point is, as a filmmaker, did he make it purposely such that it might not be fully congruent to someone who only watches it once, and that’s just on them, and it has to be watched twice? Or did he try to add little things to try to make at least a single view enough so that thinking about it afterwards you could potentially get what you needed out of it to have a general comprehension of the film? …which would mean potentially the side-view mirror thing is more of a just “Oh, if you catch it, it kind of explains the influence of inverted things on non-inverted things.” But once again, at least to a nasty continuity thing for those of us who over-analyzed this film to death such that we start to notice these little things and go “How the heck does that explain it?” Because it’s either, as Jerod pointed out, a mistake, and wasn’t fully thought through, or it was on purpose and they just didn’t worry about the continuity [unintelligible 01:12:40.27] because they felt it was necessary to just add an extra hint to one-time viewers as to how [unintelligible 01:12:44.29]
I would say in this case then, since we’ve talked about it, what’s happened, happened. Because that mirror is gonna be broken, QA is gonna let it pass… Somehow, someway it’s gonna happen, because it happened.
They’re gonna be able to install it broken, too? Like, how do you install a broken side-view mirror?
Maybe it broke – I don’t know. It came broken?
Yeah, exactly. It was broken from manufacture?
It is a challenge, for sure.
Maybe that car has a sorted history. It has a past.
Oh, that’s true.
Well, that’s why I’m wondering… The only way to start arguing about this is like “Is that car actually inverted and Neil’s driving it inverted?” But that’s never brought up either. This is that thing where you start to conspiracy-theory-contort your view of the world so much to try to make sense of it all… But we have to remember here, this is still a screenplay by a human being who is not perfect, and honestly could have just messed up.
He could have, yeah. Possibly. So since we have limited time, I have this bigger – what I think is a big break in the film’s continuity… What I mean by that is when you are a filmmaker and you’re directing a film, especially with this many layers, you wanna pay attention to how a scene may flow to the next, so that the person is wearing the same wrinkled shirt, has the same hairdo etc. Now, this one might require a visual in terms of going later, and that may be difficult to follow in real time… But I’ll do my best to explain it.
So an hour and forty minutes into the movie, inverted protagonist and Neil - they come out of the [unintelligible 01:14:23.16] and this is them coming with Kat, on the gurney, so they’re running… They’re inverted, essentially. They’re running towards the airport.
Oh, okay. So this is when they get out of the container, to go into the freeport, to invert Kat back around, because she’s been healing for a week.
Exactly. So when they’re inverted and they’re running towards the airport, at an hour and forty minutes in, their path is crossed by this ambulance with the license plate. And this is what makes it possible to go back and confirm the break in continuity. The license plate on the ambulance is ZX 04712. And they pass it on their left as they head into the airport. Now, the conflict is what actually happens at an hour and forty-five minutes, when they’re moving forward again, and they are running back - the ambulance with the same license plate passes in front of their previously inverted selves.
So in one scene, going through, so if what’s happened, happened… In one version of that same scene, the forward version, or the backward version, the inverted version, they don’t pass the ambulance, but on the other version they do pass the ambulance… So the ambulance passes in front of them. Something happened there… I’m wondering if that’s just simply continuity, or that’s literally part of the story. Paul, did you catch that, by any chance?
Yeah, I think they just messed up, probably.
I still view it as very much “Everything that’s meant to happen, happened…” So yeah, I think they just messed up… Which will happen in movies [unintelligible 01:16:01.04]
[01:16:04.09] I think you have a very good attention to detail, Adam… Better than potentially the person who had to try to keep all the continuity going.
I just caught it. I just happened to catch it; I’m like “What is this? For real? Okay…” Because on one scene the ambulance passes in front of them – actually, the forward version; they pass in front of the ambulance, which would have been them driving away. Because they drove away in the ambulance. And when they drove away in the ambulance, they didn’t – when they drove away, they didn’t cross in front of their old selves. They didn’t see their old selves as they drove away in the ambulance. Go back and watch that, Paul. I’m curious if you caught that, or if you see what I see…
Yeah, I’ll try to check it, okay…
…because that’s quite interesting, personally. Alright, we’ve got probably two minutes or so… Any other major take-aways? Paul, yourself? Brett, Jerod? I’ve shared a lot, so…
Watch it as many times as you can. You’ll get your head around it, eventually… And it gets better on repeat viewings, I think.
Is there a recommended watch count? 5, 10, 15, 20?
Yeah, I’d say third viewing it gets really good. It requires repeat viewings, I think…
Yeah, I can see that. First viewing is just realizing what’s going on, and what you have to pay attention to. Second go through - you start to pick up on a little more subtleties, because you don’t have to pay attention to every single word… And then at the third point i can see you going like “Oh, well, I know what to expect, I’ve picked up on a lot of the subtleties, and now I can really just stare at the scenery and really not listen to what the heck they’re saying, because I know basically what they’re saying and what is and is not critical… And I’m sure at that point it’s very much just a “Look at the license plates of the ambulances.”
Right. And pay attention to who’s inverted and who’s not, as you’re seeing things. Just paying attention to some of the details is enough.
Yeah, because that’s the interesting thing… When you watch that opening scene, you see Neil save the protagonist while inverted, and you start to realize “Okay, he at some point in the future realizes who the protagonist is, goes all the way back to save him…” But the other interesting thing is he also then has to go back forward, and somehow almost catch up… This is where you really start to wanna map out the timeline in terms of people moving back and forth, because you realize that if Neil goes all the way that far back, he’s still gotta move all the way forward and catch up potentially to where things are happening in the future, such that [unintelligible 01:18:24.19] ends up there… And it’s like, you really start to wanna map out just how the sliders are all moving.
He has to be a master time-weaver to be in different places at the same time, so… We’ll end on this - Neil has to be a master time-weaver, because he has to be at Stalsk 12 to die.
He has to be at Stalsk 12 for all the reasons he has to be there, he has to drag them out of that whole… Meanwhile, Stalsk 12 explosions happening during the opera scene, so Neil has to be a master time-weaver to make the entire movie happen really, essentially, because he’s such a key character in all the things that happened… So that’s interesting to me, and a good reason, if you like that kind of film, to watch it three times or more, to use Paul’s recommendation. Paul, thank you for joining us to make this episode of Backstage slightly more interesting… Because I think we would have done well without you, but it would have been less fun, let’s just say. We wouldn’t have been able to go as deep as you have, so thank you for sharing your time.
Yeah, thank you.
And what’s – is it youtube.com/heavyspoilers? What is the URL to your channel?
Just search for “Heavy Spoilers” on YouTube, and I should come straight up.
Easiest way to do it. Search for “Heavy Spoilers”, watch everything he does… I’m watching Kingdom thanks to you, Paul, so I appreciate your recommendation on that.
Yeah, it’s great. No problem.
Anything else you wanna say, Paul, before we go?
No, thanks for having me on. I always love talking about Tenet, so thank you.
It was awesome having you. Thank you.
Yeah, take care.
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