Amidst this pandemic, I wanted to watch a movie that would reconnect me with my favorite genre of science fiction — but rarely does it come with this level of thrill and action, and that too in a gripping way as it did in Tenet. I felt it was worth ending my three month long self-imposed lockdown here in Abu Dhabi and watch it at the nearby shopping mall.

I never attended the opening show as it would have been dangerous with all the people milling around (yes, even in this pandemic, that’s how crazy people are). I waited painstakingly for a month to go by and I was the only person in the theater along with another family when I finally visited. The theater followed strict COVID precautions — some seats were not sold in order to maintain social distancing.

It’s genuinely interesting to see how this family drama colludes with an action hero adventure in the backdrop of unforgiving physics can make a really interesting and heart warming movie

Tenet released on the 26th of August and I have been waiting to watch this since then. However, the possibility of catching COVID was still high at that time especially when there would be a level of congregation at the theater. One reason why people will enjoy this is because of the level of scientific jargon and physics going about in the movie.

The movie utilizes a concept called “inversion” to save the world from a holocaust, as opposed to “time travel”. The second reason people enjoy this is because the director is Christopher Nolan. Nolan has been behind some of the most visually and innovative movies with plot themes that have that emotional punch to it since the early 2000s. Memento released in 2001, had been praised for its peculiar type of storytelling — with flashbacks and reality being intermixed to give a sense of drama. He was behind Inception, which is one of my favorite movies as it explores a person who navigates and conducts robbery in a “dream” world.

Tenet does not seem to have been influenced by any previously exhausted idea whatsoever

More recent and memorable ones include the Batman themed Dark Knight trilogy, space drama Interstellar and the war story of Dunkirk. Dunkirk has won numerous accolades in Hollywood garnering praise for its direction, story-telling, sound design and music (for both of which they won the Oscar).

Tenet does not seem to have been influenced by any previously exhausted idea whatsoever. It seemed to be a class apart in terms of creativity and the art of telling complicated concepts. As I had earlier said, the movie’s premise is to prevent World War 3, although there is barely any military bashing or political jargon going on here. It takes more of a fictional approach — trying to commune the present and the future. As Nolan himself later said in interviews, his obsession with the concept of time motivated him to make this film — in which time is flexible itself — capable of going backwards and forwards (barring traveling ahead of time).

Unlike the usual time travel stories where the character uses a time machine by setting a date before or in the future, inversion works by merely reversing the direction in which time flows from that present without any conditions that we can negotiate with nature. In many ways, it’s like playing a video backwards. We cannot choose how far in the past we can go. This concept would mean its not possible to go to the future. In fact, this is representative of how modern scientists view time itself.

In physics, nature always behaves peculiarly and much of the laws of physics is based on this. However, if we were to reverse the order of time, we would find strange things like — birds flapping their wings in reverse and flying in reverse. Or a car driving in reverse, or a rocket coming towards the platform instead of seeing any rocket fly ahead. In fact, in the view of a person who has come uninverted as a stranger in an inverted world, he/she would see the past being preceded by the present. This is known in physics circles as the reversal of entropy. Entropy is basically the measure of “randomness” in a thermodynamical system.

The fact that gases expand at room temperature in a room to occupy space is a sign of “positive change in entropy”. However, if it were to go in reverse, to expect gases to come together — then it’s a sign of “negative change” in entropy. What if any change in entropy in our present “real” world was reversed? We get inversion.

The creative work in this movie, with its sublime cinematography and even interpersonal relations between the characters — including the main character known only as the “Protagonist” played by John David Washington and his mysterious and intelligent friend “Neil” played by Robert Pattinson represents the two lead actors who’s tasked to save the world from an arms dealer who has access to inverted technology that can annihilate the world. Kat, played by Elizabeth Debickie plays the role of the estranged wife of that arms dealer and main antagonist Andre Sator, with whom she was trapped in this relationship, holding their son Max as a bargaining tool for her alleged fake paintings that she sold as an artist.

As Nolan said, “don’t watch it to understand it, watch it to feel it”

It’s genuinely interesting to see how this family drama colludes with an action hero adventure in the backdrop of unforgiving physics can make a really interesting and heart warming movie.

The background music by Ludwig Goransson plays up to the expectations of the movie, with upbeat electronic music that promise to kick in the adrenaline when the action begins. Additionally, the emotions, action and the sight of the Mumbai, London and Tallinn cities can be an eye grabber.

The concept can be rather impossible to understand completely at first viewing. As Nolan said, “don’t watch it to understand it, watch it to feel it”. If you are a fan of Christopher Nolan, this is a must see, and if you don’t know who he is, you will recognize his amazing skills put to use in this! Enjoy!

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