Tenet (film)

2020 film directed by Christopher Nolan

Tenet is a 2020 action-thriller and science fiction film about a secret agent who manipulates the flow of time to prevent World War III.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan.
Time Runs Out.

The Protagonist

  • I realized I wasn’t working for you, we’ve both been working for me.
  • You may have an inflated idea of my powers of seduction.


  • We’re the people saving the world from what might’ve been. World would never know what could happen. Even if they did, they wouldn’t care. Because no one cares about the bomb that didn’t go off, only the one that did. It’s the bomb that didn’t go off, the danger no one knew was real; that’s the bomb with the real power to change the world.
  • I'll see you at the beginning, friend!
  • You have a future in the past. Years ago for me, years from now for you.
  • “What's happened’s happened.” Which is an expression of faith in the mechanics of the world. It’s not an excuse to do nothing.
  • See? It’s me in there again, weaving another past in the fabric of this mission.
  • Lying is the Standard Operational Procedure.


  • You have to start looking at the world in a new way.
  • The world needs Tenet.
  • Sator's lifelong mission, financed and guided by the future, has been to find and reassemble the algorithm.
  • Hurry up!


Laura: With a high-vis vest and a clipboard, you can get almost anywhere...Almost.
The Protagonist: An obscure Tenet.
Laura: [Barbara leads The Protagonist into a secure room] No small talk. Nothing that might reveal who we are or what we do.
The Protagonist: I thought I was here to find out what we do.
Laura: You're not here for "What", You're here for "How"..."What" is your department and not my business.
The Protagonist: Well, to do what I do, I need some idea of the threat we face.
Laura: As I understand it, we're trying to prevent World War III.
The Protagonist: Nuclear holocaust?
Laura: No. Something worse.

Laura: Aim it and pull the trigger.
The Protagonist: [Checks the clip] It's empty.
Laura: Aim it. [The Protagonist points gun at the wall, bullet comes out of the wall and flies into the gun chamber] Check the magazine.
The Protagonist: [The Protagonist checks the clip which is now no longer empty] How?

Laura: One of these bullets is like us, traveling forwards through time...The other one's going backwards...Can you tell which is which?
The Protagonist: [Shakes his head]
Laura: How about Now? [Barbara holds out her hand out and bullet flies from table into her palm] It's Inverted. It's entropy runs backwards. So, to our eyes, its movement is reversed. We think it's a type of inverse radiation triggered by nuclear fission.
The Protagonist: You didn't make it?
Laura: No, we don't know how yet.
The Protagonist: So, where'd it come from?
Laura: Someone's manufacturing them in the future. They're streaming back at us...Try it.
The Protagonist: [Holds out hand over Bullet that doesn't move]
Laura: You have to have dropped it.
The Protagonist: [Places hand over Bullet as if he just dropped it, Bullet flies up into his palm] How can it move before I touch it?
Laura: From your point of view, you caught it...But from the bullet's point of view, you dropped it.
The Protagonist: But cause comes before effect.
Laura: No, that's just the way we see time.
The Protagonist: Well, What about free will?
Laura: That bullet wouldn't have moved if you hadn't put your hand there. [Plays a recording of the interaction with the bullet both forward and backward] Either way we run the tape, you made it happen. Don't try to understand it. Feel It.
The Protagonist: [Bullet begins to move backwards on table from Barbara's fingertips to The Protagonist hands] Instinct. Got it.

The Protagonist: [Points gun at wall and multiple bullets fly into the gun] Why does it feel so strange?
Laura: You're not shooting the bullet, you're catching it.
The Protagonist: Whoa. [Walks up closer to the wall] I've seen this type of ammunition before.
Laura: In the field?
The Protagonist: I was almost hit.
Laura: Then you were exceedingly lucky. An inverted bullet passing through your body would be devastating. Not Pretty.
The Protagonist: These look like today's.
Laura: They may have been made today and inverted years from now.
The Protagonist: Where did you get them?
Laura: Came with the wall. I was assigned it, like all the material I'm studying here.
The Protagonist: Do you have an analysis on the metals?
Laura: Sure. Why?
The Protagonist: The mixture of the alloys can tell me where they might have been made. Look...I'm not seeing Armageddon here.

Laura: The bullet may not seem like much, but it's a simple machine...Lead bullet, brass casing, gunpowder. If they can invert that, I see no reason they couldn't invert pretty much anything. Even a nuclear weapon can only affect our future...An inverted weapon might be able to affect our past as well. [Opens a drawer of random items that have been inverted] Now that we know what to look for, we're finding more and more inverted material. Remnants of complex objects.
The Protagonist: [Holds hand over one of the items that flies into his palm] What do you think we're seeing?
Laura: The detritus of a coming war.

Steward at Restaurant: May I help you, Sir?
The Protagonist: I'm Mr. Crosby's lunch.
Steward at Restaurant: I presume you mean Sir Michael Crosby's Lunch.
The Protagonist: Presume away.
Steward at Restaurant: If you'll follow me. [Leads The Protagonist to Sir Michael's Table]
Sir Michael Crosby: Started without you. Hope you don't mind.
The Protagonist: I'll catch up...[Points to Sir Michaels Plate and gestures to The Stewart]...Same for me, Please.
Steward at Restaurant: I'll send the waiter.
The Protagonist: No, Just Pass on the Order.
Sir Michael Crosby: I gather you have an interest in a certain Russian national.
The Protagonist: Anglo-Russian. So I have to watch my step.
Sir Michael Crosby: Indeed. He's tapped into the intelligence services. I've warned them he's feeding them rubbish...but they don't seem to care.
The Protagonist: Tell me about him.
Sir Michael Crosby: I assume you're familiar with the Soviet-era secret cities.
The Protagonist: Closed cities, not shown on maps. Built around sensitive industries. Most of them have been opened up and renamed as regular towns.
Sir Michael Crosby: Not the one Sator grew up in. Stalsk-12. In the '70's, it had a population of about 200,000. Thought to be abandoned.
The Protagonist: Abandoned?
Sir Michael Crosby: Some kind of accident. After which it was used for underground tests. Two weeks ago, same day as the Kiev Opera Siege, We Spotted a Detonation in Northern Siberia, Just where Stalsk-12 was. Sator Emerged from this blank spot on the map with ambition and enough money to buy his way into the British establishment.
The Protagonist: Through his Wife?
Sir Michael Crosby: Katherine Barton. Oldest niece of Sir Frederick Barton. She works at Shipley's. Met Sator at an Auction.
The Protagonist: A Happy Marriage?
Sir Michael Crosby: Practically Estranged.
The Protagonist: Well, How do I get to Sator?
Sir Michael Crosby: Well, Through Her, Of Course.
The Protagonist: You may have an inflated idea of my powers of seduction.
Sir Michael Crosby: [Shakes his Hand] Hardly. [Gestures to a Bag near the table] We have an Ace in the Hole.
The Protagonist: [Picks up Bag placed on side of Table] You're carrying a Goya in a Harrods Bag.
Sir Michael Crosby: It's a Fake by a Spaniard named Arepo. One of the two we've confiscated from an embezzler in Bern.
The Protagonist: What happened to the other one?
Sir Michael Crosby: It turned up at Shipley's. Authenticated by Katherine Barton. Put on Auction. And who do you think bought it?
The Protagonist: Her Husband?
Sir Michael Crosby: Mmm-hmm.
The Protagonist: Does she know it's a forgery?
Sir Michael Crosby: Oh, It's Hard to Say. Rumor has it that she and Arepo were close.
The Protagonist: Uh-Huh.
Sir Michael Crosby: Look, No Offense, But in this world, when someone is claiming to be a Billionaire...[Points at the Protagonist's Suit]...Brooks Brothers won't cut it.
The Protagonist: I'm assuming I'm on a budget.
Sir Michael Crosby: Save the World, Then we'll balance the books. [Hands Protagonist his Credit Card to buy better clothes] Can I recommend a Tailor?
The Protagonist: I'll manage. You British don't have a monopoly on snobbery, you know.
Sir Michael Crosby: Well, Not a Monopoly. More of a Controlling Interest. [The Protagonist Stands up to leave]
Steward at Restaurant: [Walks up with Waiter who has the Protagonist's Food in Hand]
The Protagonist: Could you box that up for me?
Steward at Restaurant: Certainly Not.
Sir Michael Crosby: [Mouths Goodbye to the Protagonist]
The Protagonist: Goodbye, Sir Michael.

The Protagonist: [Calls a Mumbai Contact on Cell Phone]
Contact: Yep?
The Protagonist: We Live in a Twilight World.
Contact: No Friends at Dusk...I was told you left the building.
The Protagonist: Even the Dead Need Allies.
Contact: Specifically?
The Protagonist: I need an assist in Mumbai, I need to get to Sanjay Singh.
Contact: Singh? He never leaves his house. And his house is ummm...his house is...
The Protagonist: [Standing in front of a high rise building where Sanjay Singh lives on the top floor] Yes, It Is...I'm looking right at it.
Contact: I'll see who's on deck. Bombay Yacht Club in two hours.

Neil: It seems you need an introduction to a prominent Mumbai local on short notice...I'm Neil.
The Protagonist: I need an audience with Sanjay Singh.
Neil: That's not possible.
The Protagonist: Ten minutes tops.
Neil: Time isn't the problem. It's getting out alive that's the problem...Would you take a child hostage? [Protagonist shakes his head]...A woman?
The Protagonist: If I had to. I'm not looking to make much noise here.
Neil: [Waiter walks up] Vodka tonic. And a Diet Coke. [Protagonist looks at Neil]...What? You never drink on the job.
The Protagonist: You're well-informed.
Neil: Well, pays to be in our profession.
The Protagonist: Well, I prefer soda water.
Neil: [Chuckles softly] No, you don't... How's your parachuting?
The Protagonist: I broke an ankle during basic training...Singh's house isn't tall enough to parachute off of.
Neil: It's bungee-jumpable.
The Protagonist: I don't think "bungee-jumpable" is a word.
Neil: It may not be a word, but it may be our only way out of that place. Or into it, for that matter.

Neil: All doors are fireproof. Hydraulic closers, simple key and electronic triggers. Surprisingly easy once there's a lockdown.
The Protagonist: Why a lockdown?
Neil: Power switches to fail-safes, sealing the outer doors, but inner doors revert to factory settings...and pickable locks. It's child's play, really.
The Protagonist: Child's play? They're inside airport security. They have to worry about climate control, not armed raids.
Neil: So, how do we get enough firepower through the perimeter to trigger the lockdown procedure?...Back wall of the Freeport?...
The Protagonist: You've got something?
Neil: Not gonna like it.
The Protagonist: [After Neil explains his plan off camera to The Protagonist] You wanna crash a plane?
Neil: Well, not from the air. Don't be so dramatic. I want to run a jet off the taxiway and breach the rear wall and start a fire.
The Protagonist: Well, how big a plane?
Neil: Well, that part is a little dramatic. [Walking up to Mahir sitting on a bench] This is Mahir. His team will work the plane.
The Protagonist: There can't be passengers.
Mahir: Norsk Freight...They use the hangar on the west side of the Freeport.
The Protagonist: You want to crash a transport plane? What about the crew?
Mahir: We pop the slides, chuck 'em off.
The Protagonist: On the move?
Mahir: What's the problem? They'll be fine.
The Protagonist: It seems bold.
Mahir: Bold I'm fine with. I thought you were gonna say nuts.
The Protagonist: And if you get caught?
Mahir: We won’t.
The Protagonist: And if you do?
Mahir: Everyone assumes terrorism, but no one's died so swift extradition then lost in the system. It'll barely make the news.
Neil: Oh...Depends on the size of the explosion.
Mahir: Well...Actually, The gold bars might get some play.
The Protagonist: Gold bars?
Neil: Norsk Freight ships Treasury gold once a month
Mahir: Blow the back. Drop it out on the runway.
Neil: No one will be looking at the building. I can guarantee you.

Neil: What the hell happened here?
The Protagonist: Hasn't happened yet.

Neil: Well, I've seen too much. I'm still alive, which must mean you've decided to trust me.
The Protagonist: Or maybe I lost my edge.
Neil: Edge is still intact.
The Protagonist: [chuckles] There's a cold war.
Neil: Nuclear?
The Protagonist: Temporal.
Neil: [Laughs] Time travel?
The Protagonist: No. Technology that can invert an object's entropy.
Neil: You mean reverse chronology. Like Feynman and Wheeler's notion that a positron is an electron moving backwards in time?
The Protagonist: Sure, that's exactly what I meant.
Neil: I have a master's in physics.
The Protagonist: Well, try and keep up.
Neil: The implications of this are...
The Protagonist: ...Beyond secret.
Neil: Then why'd you bring me in?
The Protagonist: I thought we'd find a drawing and a couple boxes of bullets.
Neil: Not as surprised as I was.
The Protagonist: I'm going back to Mumbai to get some answers. I'll set you up as a go-between. But remember, to you...it's all about plutonium. Or when we're done, they'll kill you.
Neil: Won't you have to do that anyway?
The Protagonist: I'd rather it be my decision.
Neil: So would I... I think.
The Protagonist: [chuckles]

The Protagonist: What did you find on the gold?
Neil: No franks, no mold marks. Nothing. How?
The Protagonist: Dead drops. He buries his time capsule, transmits the location, then digs it up to collect the inverted materials they sent.
Neil: Seemingly instantaneous. Where's he bury it?
The Protagonist: Some place that won't be discovered for centuries. What did the soil samples show?
Neil: Northern Europe, Asia. Radioactive.

The Protagonist: Via convoy through downtown, what's the thinking?
Neil: Crowded. Unpredictable traffic patterns. It's almost impossible to plan an ambush.
The Protagonist: They have a point. Is the convoy monitored from the air?
Neil: Tracked by GPS. One wrong turn, in come the cavalry.
The Protagonist: We need big guns. Guns that make the point without being fired. We need a fast car that doesn't look fast. Four heavy vehicles. All different. Bus, coach, 18-wheeler. One of them has to be a fire truck. Most of all, we have to set this up with nothing in the record. Nothing electronic, nothing paper. I don't want Sator ambushing us once we spring the material. His ignorance is our only protection.

The Protagonist: [Speaking to Neil after stealing the materials] Check the radio chatter. [Opens the case to find an unknown object] I've seen samples of encapsulation in every weapons class. This is not one of them.
Neil: That's what he's after. [Sator speaking indistinctly on radio]...I can't understand this.
The Protagonist: You said you spoke Estonian.
Neil: It's not Estonian...It's backwards.

The Protagonist: What's happened, happened. I get it now. But it's harder to take things on trust from people speaking half-truths.
Neil: That's not fair.
The Protagonist: You were a part of this before we met. Were you working for Priya?
Neil: No.
The Protagonist: Who recruited you, Neil?
Neil: Can't possibly do you any good to know that right now. When this is over, we're still standing, and you still care, then you can hear my life story, okay?

Andrei Sator: How would you like to die?
The Protagonist: Old.
Andrei Sator: You chose the wrong profession.

The Protagonist: Thought you were inverted.
Neil: Changed gears halfway. Looked like you needed help here.
Ives: Here? We needed help down there. [to The Protagonist] How’d you get that lock open?
The Protagonist: Wasn’t me. [to Neil] Didn’t your team need you?
Neil: I’ll get them on the next pass. [to Ives] All right, Ives?
Ives: Once I’ve caught my breath.
[The Protagonist reaches for the Algorithm, but Ives swiftly grabs it first, gets up, and points his gun at The Protagonist. They both stand and don’t move for a few seconds.]
The Protagonist: No one who’s seen this leaves the field.
[Ives looks at The Protagonist hard, seemingly considers what he said]
Ives: All right. [divides the Algorithm into three sections and throws each of two to The Protagonist and Neil] We hide it. We end our lives. It’s the only to be sure. As to when, [lowers his gun] maybe that’s every man’s decision to make for himself.
Neil: [chuckles] You’re not gonna kill us?
Ives: If I ever find you, I will.
Neil: You won’t look too hard?
Ives: Yes, I will. [gives The Protagonist one last look and chuckles mirthlessly before walking away]

Neil: [to The Protagonist] You’re not going back to London to check on Kat, are you?
The Protagonist: No, it’s far too dangerous.
Neil: Even from afar?
The Protagonist: Even from afar.

Neil: [to Ives] Ives! Wait.
[Ives stops walking and looks from a distance. Neil walks towards The Protagonist and gives him the sections of the Algorithm Ives gave Neil.]
The Protagonist: [to Neil] Are you really going back in?
Neil: [to Ives] I’m the only one who could get that door open in time, right, Ives?
Ives: Well, I don’t know any locksmith as good as you.
Neil: [to The Protagonist, smiling] See? It’s me in there again, weaving another past in the fabric of this mission.
[Neil walks away. The Protagonist catches a glimpse of the same trinket that he earlier saw on the rucksack of a blue team corpse on Neil’s rucksack. He realizes Neil is going to die after he inverts, or, chronologically, has died, and that Neil was the one who saved his life during the Kiev Opera siege by shooting a Ukrainian policeman with an inverted round]
The Protagonist: Neil, wait!
Neil: [stops and turns] Just saved the world. Can’t leave anything to chance.
The Protagonist: But can we change things if we do it differently?
Neil: “What’s happened’s happened.” Which is an expression of faith in the mechanics of the world. It’s not an excuse to do nothing.
The Protagonist: Fate?
Neil: Call it what you want.
The Protagonist: What do you call it?
Neil: [thinks for a moment] Reality. Now let me go. [proceeds to walk away towards the helicopter and Ives]
The Protagonist: Hey, you never did tell me who recruited you, Neil!
Neil: [turns towards The Protagonist] Haven’t you guessed by now? You did! Only not when you thought. You have a future in the past. Years ago for me, years from now for you.
The Protagonist: [eyes reddened] You’ve known me for years?
Neil: For me, I think this is the end of a beautiful friendship.
The Protagonist: But for me it’s just the beginning!
Neil: [turns away and starts walking] We get up to some stuff. You’re gonna love it, you’ll see. This whole operation is a temporal pincer!
The Protagonist: [voice coarse] Whose?
Neil: [turns to face The Protagonist again] Yours! You’re only halfway there. I’ll see you at the beginning, friend! [runs towards the helicopter while The Protagonist looks on]

Neil: (voiceover) We’re the people saving the world from what might’ve been. World would never know what could happen. Even if they did, they wouldn’t care.
[Kat walks along the pavement on her way to Max’s school, and notices an ominous black car facing her.]
Because no one cares about the bomb that didn’t go off. Only the one that did.
[In the car, a man is holding a pistol. Priya sits on the passenger’s seat beside him]
Priya: Do it before the boy comes out—
[The man turns suddenly as if he noticed something before being shot. Priya gasps and turns the back mirror only to find The Protagonist sitting behind her.]
The Protagonist: That’s your idea of mercy? You gave me your word.
Priya: And I told you then, what it would be worth. Here. Today. How did you know?
[The Protagonist takes out a phone and plays a voice message.]
Kat: [voiceover] Cannon Place, 3 o’clock. Probably nothing, I’m—
The Protagonist: Posterity.
[Outside on the pavement, Kat is holding the phone The Protagonist gave her earlier.]
Kat: [to the phone] Cannon Place, 3 o’clock. Probably nothing, I’m—
[Cut to inside the car]
The Protagonist: I told you you’d have to start looking differently at the world.
Priya: I, have to tie up the loose ends.
The Protagonist: That was never your job.
Priya: Then whose was it?
The Protagonist: Mine. I realized I wasn’t working for you, we’ve both been working for me. I’m the Protagonist.
Priya: [shocked] Then you’d better tie up those loose ends.
[Priya turns the back window away, and The Protagonist shoots her.]
The Protagonist: Mission accomplished. [looks at Kat, who is now turning off her phone]
Neil: (voiceover) It’s the bomb that didn’t go off. The danger no one knew was real.
[The Protagonist looks as Kat waits for Max.]
Neil: (voiceover) That’s the bomb with the real power to change the world.
[Kat walks away with Max, who holds her hand.]


Wikipedia has an article about: