How Tenet Pulled Off Its Time-Bending Stunts

Christopher Nolan’s latest epic Tenet plays with the idea of time, aiming to be as mind-bending as director Christopher Nolan’s earlier film Inception, but with a different conceit. In Tenet, time can flow backwards or forwards, and sometimes both at the same time. In an interview with Gizmodo Australia, star John David Washington explained how those scenes required far more than just camera trickery.

“We basically had to learn, through George Cottle, who was our stunt director and Jackson Spidell, who was our fight co-ordinator,” Washington told Gizmodo Australia. “Together, we had to learn how to fight backwards–forwards and backwards, sometimes at the same time.”

Just like how one of the film’s pivotal scenes involved crashing a real Boeing 747 into a building, all the backwards time effects also had to be perfectly physicalized by the film’s stars. “I could say every one of those punches thrown and caught–all the ducking and getting thrown into the walls backwards and forwards, that was me,” Washington said.

“So we had to learn how to catch a punch, throw a punch, block a punch, and then whatever the opposite of blocking a punch is. It was very new wave action cinema. It’s never been done before and it was exciting to know that these moves are basically… tailored for this film, specifically.”

As a movie built around its high-action scenes and epic set pieces, Tenet was built for the big-screen experience–which is a bit of a disaster in a year when most theaters have been closed due to the threat of COVID-19.

After multiple delays, Tenet is now set for a September 3 release in US theaters, after a premiere in Australia on August 26. GameSpot’s review of Tenet gave it a 9/10, saying “Tenet is a mind-bender of a movie that has action galore, characters you can for the most part connect with and understand, and a time travel story that doesn’t get bogged down in the details and just lets you enjoy the spectacle.”

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