Tenet Movie Ending Explained (In Detail)

The combination of elements of science fiction, thriller and action movie, with exciting special effects and philosophical ideas combined in the film “Tenet” directed by Christopher Nolan.


The film begins with an attack on a Ukrainian opera house and an accidental discovery by a CIA operative nicknamed the Protagonist of Unknown Technologies.

A chain of events leads him to a Russian arms baron. Andrey Sator, played by British-Irish actor Kenneth Branagh, is terminally ill with cancer. And along with his death, he intends to arrange the Third World War. In the meantime, they use the opportunities available to him to turn back time – invert it using modified bullets.

The protagonist, together with his partner Neil (played by British actor Robert Pattinson), develop a plan to stop the world’s villain and save people from impending doom. Not everything goes smoothly in such a serious and dangerous job.

The meaning of the film

Worlds within worlds is a feature of most of Nolan’s paintings. The audience could see something similar in his other films “Interstellar”, “Remember”, “Beginning“.

“Argument” is also no exception. Nolan planned some details of the picture long before filming, and writing the script took him as long as 6 years.

With the main character, we make a fascinating journey from beginning to end and vice versa. We are watching games with time, where the past and the future are intertwined. There are no careless travels in Argument – everything here has a price and inverted time, where life flows differently than in the familiar world.

The heroes wonder, “If I go back in time and kill my grandfather, will I be born?” and find no answer.

Guided by the principle “even a flood after me”, Andrei Sator did not realize that he had already launched the very mechanism that he himself wanted to destroy.

Characteristics of heroes

American actor John David Washington in the role of the Protagonist from the very beginning shows his inner invincibility. After surviving the torture, he tries to commit suicide. This event gives reason to believe that only he can cope with the serious task. He has the will and courage.

Sator cannot accept the fact that he is dying. Overwhelmed by a sense of his own importance, he wants to captivate everyone, even his own son. He threatens his wife with a belt and beats the workers with bars of gold, because this is the only way he can show his strength and power over them.

His bodyguard and part-time assistant in dirty deeds is played by Russian actor Yuri Kolokolnikov, whom viewers could see in the Game of Thrones series. He will fight to the last to fulfill the order of his boss.

Andrei’s wife, Kat (English actress Elizabeth Debicki), also plays a significant role in the plot. Through her, the hero begins his story. An unhappy in marriage, but a strong-willed woman who is able to resist her cruel husband and always thinks first of all about her son.

The Protagonist’s assistant and partner, Neil, a physicist, is full of mysteries and sometimes makes one doubt the honesty of his motives. At the very end, he opens up to the main character, completely turning his mind around.


The characters face each other throughout the story. For the first time, viewers cannot understand how this can be connected. By the end of the film, everything falls into place and is logically explained. Their actions show a willingness to go to any lengths to achieve their goals. Later they see confirmation of this.

The protagonist fights with himself in the Vault. Kat sees herself jumping off her husband’s yacht. Sator purposefully directs his actions in order to get what he wants.

“Argument” is also saturated with allusions. The very name “Tenet” (from the Latin “keep, save”) is a palindrome. As well as other names that sound in the film:

  • OPERA – the opera house where history begins;
  • APERO – a fake artist who created paintings by Goya;
  • ROTAS is a security organization hired by Sator;
  • SATOR – an atypical surname for a Russian person, is also part of a palindrome.


The film lasts two and a half hours – during this time, viewers can get bored several times. The first hour can be completely disappointing with references to political background and stereotypical images of Russian gangsters who dream of taking over the world.

But already from the middle of the film, what is happening is riveting to the screen, where the blown-up cars freeze, people move forward with their backs, and the bullets, having broken the glass a minute ago, return back to the gun. The film received a well-deserved Oscar for the visual component.

In the end, the Protagonist and I realize the whole path we have traveled, which turns out to be only the beginning to something more – to the beginning of the whole story.

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