Tenet probably could have made things easier on itself if some of the visually stunning bits which called for some characters to be moving forward through time while others moved backward had been done with computerized effects. Christophere Nolan wasn't having that, though. Instead, Nolan and the cast and crew of Tenet figured out ways to really have people and objects appear as though they were moving backward through time by comparison to other objects around them. The only effect used was playing footage in reverse. As a result, the actors in the film had to learn quite a few physical moves in reverse.
For Tenet's Protagonist, John David Washington, one of the most difficult actions to execute in reverse is "blinking" the actor tells ComicBook.com. "I mean, believe it or not the blinking, I got a couple of notes on my blinking when we were in inverted world," Washington says. "And then obviously just the throws and the knowing how to catch a punch and evade a punch backwards. The defensive moves became the attack moves, the attack moves become defensive moves. So that concept as a whole just took a while to get a hold of and grasp."
Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Kat in the film, got involved with an intense car chase sequence. This scene called for cars moving forward, backwards, flipping, and all sorts of wild maneuvers which were being carried out on the seet.
"I don't want to give anything away, but what I will say which is the kind of Nolan golden rule, what you see is what happened," Debicki explains. "Which is kind of nuts. I was involved in [stunt sequences]... So yes, I'll just do it with my hands... I would say I did. I had an amazing stunt double, Imogen [Leaver], who's a goddess and amazing. I did a lot of that car sequence. I was really in that car. All the time."
Imagining learning to run, blink, and talk backwards is a headache in itself. Especially while many moviegoers are still trying to unpack Tenet as a whole.
"I just it was very important that's why communication was essential," Washington said of understanding Tenet's story fully while making the film. "It was so necessary, daily, to track where [the Protagonist] was emotionally, where his mental state was at every scene as we traveled through the journey of the protagonist. What I saw, a genre like this, a film like this is so ambitious, 'cause we're dealing with the spy element, we're dealing with action thriller, some drama in there, but sci-fi elements. So a lot of times, it's like you gotta choose one otherwise you just lose them all. But Christopher Nolan executed it only he could do it the way he knows how. And so what was exciting for me was playing a human being because of what you're talking about, the discovery of all that. So that sort of empirical moment at the end, I think I was able to find that because I was playing a human being the entire time that I wasn't just falling into rules of what a spy is supposed to be. Or what a human being would be? Like it would have been what kind of spy was he? What kind of person was he? And Chris allowed that, he encouraged that. That's one of the things we talked about early on."
What do you think of Tenet choosing to do nearly everything practically rather than use visual effects? Does it enhance the experience? Share your thoughts in the comment section or send them my way on Instagram!
Tenet is now playing in theaters where theaters are open.