The ending of Christopher Nolan’s movie Tenet explains the title of the film. It provides more clarity to the protagonist’s goal and motivations.
It is a science fiction spy movie that follows a CIA secret agent as he manipulates the flow of time to avoid World War III. Writer-director Nolan spent five years writing the screenplay of the movie. However, he conceived the idea around twenty years ago. He took the help of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne on the subjects of quantum physics and time. The title of the film, Tenet, is a palindrome and an allusion to the Sator Square. The film got a huge appreciation for its production, visuals, and performance. However, critics criticized the plot’s complex storyline. Tenet is the fourth highest-grossing movie of 2020, but it could breakeven the production cost.
Due to the film’s complex concept of time travel and complicated physics laws, the audience has a hard time understanding the screenplay. Viewers remain unclear for the most part about the movie’s specifics and how the battle of Stalsk-12 has affected the in-universe timeline. The movie’s titleis derived from the missions in which the CIA squad executes a “temporal pincer movement.”
Before the film’s release in September 2020, the palindrome nature of the title sparked numerous theories behind it. According to the definition of the word “Tenet,” it is a principle or belief, especially one of philosophy or religion’s main principles. However, Nolan’s movie is based on the 2000 years old double palindrome, a Sator Square. It is a five by five square, with a five-letter word that reads the same with every angle. These words from top to bottom are SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA, and ROTAS. If one uses the five words in a sentence as “Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas,” it means “The Farmer(named) Arpeo Uses Plough For Work.” However, the sentence does not signify anything.
In Nolan’s film, the Sator Square is used as the structural foundation for the story. The director explains that the word “Tenet” has many meanings according to the specific characters. Nolan has used all the words in his film. The protagonist of the film(played by John David Washington) survives the unsuccessful mission at the Kiev Opera house. He then later joins the organization named Tenet. During his time in the secret organization, he learns that someone has produced the bullet inwards. The secret agent tracks the Russian businessman named Andrei Sator, who is having difficulty with his wife, Kat. The wife is involved in an affair with the art forger, Arepo. The protagonist finds out that turnstiles are the device used for the inversion of the entropy, and Sator decides to extract the device from Rotas free port.
Initially, the protagonist thinks Tenet is just the name of the organization. After meeting Neil (played by Robert Pattinson), he understands the meaning of the words, as it is a larger part of the time-sensitive inversion plan.
However, the Christian association repositioned the 25 letters and got a Greek word, “Pater Noster,” which means “Our Father.” The word arrangements left four letters, two A’s and two O’s. In Christianity, the letters represent Alpha and Omega to the omnipresence of God. Few believe that Sator Square is Jewish in origin, as Pompeii did not have a large Christian population in 79 AD. James H. Charlesworth suggests that Sator Square is sacred. And shares one possible prayer out of the word arrangements, Sator-Rotas, whichmeans “O Creator you who cause to rotate.”
Rearranging the letters also gives “Saturn,” the Roman God of time, and one of the themes of the movie is control over time.
The team Tenet later divides into two groups, “temporal pincer movement.” It is an idea of the battle between the past and future, possible by the entropy inversion device. Sator plans to use the same algorithm and reverse the flow of time permanently so that people would be able to overwrite the past. The CIA agents need to stop Sator to save humanity. And also so that the future generation can inverse and leave the uninhabitable planet.
The last 10-minute of the film creates the overall structure of the film. The protagonist moves forward in time to build the Tenet organization in the future. Neil then moves backward to save his mentor. Neil also tells the Protagonist that he will see him “at the beginning,” which makes the plot even more complicated, leaving the audience to think that the younger Neil might be Kat’s son.
The movie received a 71% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It got a remark that reads; Tenet is a visually dazzling puzzle for film lovers to unlock; it serves all the cerebral audience what they expect from Nolan’s movie.