I am not going to cover the story line by line as there are many articles out there. I will just focus on the concepts and details that will help us understand the movie TENET.
The concept of perceiving time
We as humans currently do not completely understand time but eagerly want to (I hope so 🙂). It is theorized that time moves in one direction —-> FORWARD —> Can it be wrong? I mean yeah, which means we don’t know because right now we are unable to figure it out. But, WAIT! Christopher Nolan and some others are trying to convince us that we are perceiving time as moving forward whereas it can move forward (Yes forward!) even if we are moving backwards relative to first case, Totally confusing! Right?. Let me explain, FORWARD or BACKWARD is a relative term and depends on where in time you come from. Lets take a example in which we think of time as a road with two deadends namely A & B imagine two people named Pranav and Vanarp walking in the opposite direction, Pranav is going from A to B and Vanarp is going from B to A. Here Pranav sees himself walking forward on the road of time and same goes for Vanarp as he sees himself walking forward on the road of time, whereas they see each other walking in the opposite direction (BACKWARD!). Do you get the subjective nature of time?
As a human, imagining myself moving backwards in time makes me feel confused as the world around me is reversed and my intuition will no longer be valid. OR WILL IT? By the way I am planning to write more on the topic of time.
The movie seems a chaos until we decipher the details
In the far future a scientist develops an Algorithm that can reverse an object’s entropy and thus the object can the move backwards in time from our perspective but from the object’s perspective it is still moving forward because there are two ways to visualize the flow of time. The scientist then realizes that the algorithm is too dangerous and if misused can destroy our existence. So, she decides to split it and bury the pieces in the safest places of the past (Nuclear facilities).
On the yacht near the end of the movie we get to know from Sator that in the future the Oceans have risen and the rivers have dried up and if I guess because of human actions. The future humans want Sator to asseble all the pieces of the algorithm and bury is at a safe place where the future humans can then dig it up and reverse everything to erase the past. Now here comes the Grandfather paradox which is explained by Neil when he was traveling to Oslo. He also says that the future humans believe that killing all the past won’t affect the future regardless of the what will really happen (Their belief is driving their actions). Now the whole plan to make Sator believe that the algorithm is buried safely and the future humans can use it.
The Protagonist is the main character and when he tries to find out the supplier of the inverted objects he meets Priya and she tells him that Sator is getting those objects inverted from future humans. Now the Protagonist and Neil are trying to find everything about Sator. Sator has control over his wife Kat using a art piece and now the Protagonist is trying to use this situation to get closer to Sator. In the movie Sator is not just an arms dealer but he is the one who has contacts with the future humans and he is the one that will help them achieve the reversal of everything by reversing the entropy. When the Protagonist met Priya we get to know that the Plutonium 241 was actually one of the pieces of the Algorithm that Sator is trying to collect. Sator wants to assemble all the pieces of the Algorithm and bury them safely for the future humans to find it. Priya explains that they will let Sator assemble the algorithm and then steal it from him. When the Protagonist asks why Sator is chosen by the future humans, she replies “Because he was at the right place at the right time”
Temporal Pincer Movement and the Turnstile
Before we understand what a temporal pincer is, let’s understand what a pincer is! In the armed forces a pincer movement is used to confuse the enemy by coordinating an attack from different directions. In a temporal pincer movement the temporal stands for time and there are only two possible directions in time (one forward and one backward as we can imagine) and the turnstile is just a tool that helps us reverse our direction in time.
Throughout the movie we get to see two prominent pincer movements and the whole movie is also a third temporal pincer. The first one temporal movement we see is during the exchange of so called Plutonium 241 between Sator and the Protagonist. Half of Sator’s team is moving forward in time and the other half are moving opposite to them. Sator was standing near the Turnstile and the team which is moving forward in time is reporting each and every detail of the exchange to Sator. Once the exchange is complete Sator can use the turnstile and move back in time and use the knowledge that he gained from his first team to take part in the exchange. It is important to note that reverse Sator can take part in the exchange but can’t manipulate it because the events will happen as it was and is supposed to happen because reverse Sator was going to participate in the exchange anyway (I know this one is a little counter intuitive). You get a clearer view if you watch the movie Predestination. Anyways, the Protagonist was in reversed state after the exchange and Sator lights the Protagonist’s car on fire. The Protagonist freezes instead of warming up. The Protagonist is saved because the rest of the world’s entropy dominated his reverse entropy. If the entropy of everything is reversed then our universe will collapse back in time instead of expanding which is the goal of future humans.
In the end we also see a temporal pincer movement carried out by the red and blue teams. The blue team gains knowledge of the events and then the red team plans accordingly.
Throughout the movie the Protagonist and Neil are in a temporal pincer movement because when the Protagonist asks who recruited Neil and he replies “You recruited me and this is the end of a beautiful friendship”. That means Neil was recruited by the future version of the Protagonist and the Protagonist is just half way in the Temporal Pincer movement of his whole life. Al last the Protagonist stops Priya from killing Kat and now we know for sure that the whole TENET was planned by the future Protagonist and he sent Neil to help his past self… wow!
No one can say for sure but Neil could be Kat’s son! (Yes this is how a Nolan’s movie ends 😂)