One of my friends asked me if I had seen Tenet yet. I hadn’t. He suggested we go together. He had already seen the film twice, but was confused. I figured that might be because English is his third language.
We didn’t make it, because theatres closed again shortly after he suggested the excursion. But I did get to watch the movie on the flight home to Germany earlier this month. I can’t say I was confused, but I think I would benefit from another viewing to straighten a few things out in my mind. It is always tough to watch movies that make you think when it is an overnight flight and you should be asleep.
With theatres closed for much of 2020 there’s weren’t many blockbuster movies on the big screen, which made Tenet a standout. There weren’t many entertainment items on offer with so many film releases postponed until 2021 or beyond.
Tenet has a complex storyline. Though if you are a science fiction fan you will probably find it easier to follow. Essentially it is a time-travel story. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
Which means understanding paradox is a central part of understanding this film. Can someone travel back through time from the future and influence events? If he or she does so, do they create a new future, or was their action pre-ordained?
I suspect director Christopher Nolan and I have had some of the same influences. As I watched this film I had the nagging feeling I had read the story, which of course I hadn’t. But much of the plot is owed to Robert Heinlein’s story By His Boostraps. Which is one of my least favorite Heinlein tales. I also found it reminiscent of Heinlein’s All You Zombies.
Consciously or unconsciously, Nolan has borrowed Heinlein’s ideas on paradox to create an entertaining tale. That is if you like action/adventure films – there is nothing resembling romance here.
I think Nolan was hoping to give his audience something different to think about, to ponder the nature of time and to ask “what if…?” To some extent I think Tenet does that.
My question though is less “what if” and more “why?” What makes this planet worth saving? It is the only one we have and most of us see preserving it as a good thing. That is why we have laws protecting the environment. That is why we have nuclear arms limitation treaties. We want the planet, and our race to survive.
But should it?
From a physical perspective I don’t think you can make a very strong argument. If humanity wants to destroy its planet and become extinct, why not let that happen? Isn’t that the logical consequence of evolution?
From a metaphysical perspective things look different. What if, instead of being a product of random chance that has evolved into sentience, mankind was created by God for a purpose? Then it would logically follow that the planet would be part of that purpose and we should be working to preserve it.
Christopher Nolan did indeed get me thinking with Tenet. Probably not the way he expected.