Christopher Nolan Reaffirms Tenet Is Not a “Time Travel Film”

Inception and Interstellar director Christopher Nolan reaffirms his twisty new thriller Tenet is "not a time-travel film," describing his latest as a mind-bender that "deals with time" through the concept of "inversion." The key term, revealed in the film's most recent trailer, is about "reversing the flow of time" and is used by the Protagonist (John David Washington) when he corrects an operative (Robert Pattinson) who questions the rewinding process of "time travel." Like the film's tight-lipped official synopsis — which describes Tenet as an international espionage adventure unfolding "in something beyond real time" — the Protagonist says it's "not time travel." Instead, it's "inversion."

"This film is not a time travel film," Nolan told Entertainment Weekly. "It deals with time and the different ways in which time can function. Not to get into a physics lesson, but inversion is this idea of material that has had its entropy inverted, so it's running backwards through time, relative to us."

Washington earlier admitted he was surprised the film's latest trailer revealed plot hints about Nolan's top-secret twister, described by co-star Kenneth Branagh as a "mind-boggling treatment of time."

"It's an espionage piece that's dealing with a global threat to the world," Branagh said. "A nuclear holocaust is not the greatest disaster that could befall the human race. Tenet discusses an even worse possibility, and it is wrapped up in this mind-boggling treatment of time that continues Chris Nolan's preoccupations in films way back to Memento, through Interstellar and Inception."

Like his character, Washington was left with many questions as he unraveled the secrets of Tenet — also a key codeword in the film's plot. During a recent promotional event hosted by Fortnite, Washington said he repeatedly questioned Nolan about the film's story and its timeline.

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"Every day I had questions for him. But he was very gracious, and he answered them very calmly and patiently," Washington said. "It was important that the actors could track the story correctly so we could tell it the best way we could, and he was very patient with us. I say that very politely [laughs]."

John David Washington is the new Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi action spectacle “Tenet.” Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion. The international cast of “Tenet” also includes Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, with Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh.

Tenet is scheduled to open only in theaters July 31.

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