Christopher Nolan’s Tenet already has fans frothing at the mouth trying to work out its mysteries. Last week, the “not time travel” movie unleashed a new trailer that did nothing to dampen the theories. And in one of the film’s official stills, we noticed something strange that’s got us thinking.
The still shows Robert Pattinson and John David Washington on a rooftop. Like much of what we’ve seen from Tenet, the still is stylish but relatively simple… until you notice the strange blurry outline around Washington.
Though Pattinson recently denied the movie was a time travel story, the trailer introduces the concept of “inversion,” which appears to be the key to unlocking the secrets of Tenet. The new clip also revealed that at least one character—it’s left pretty ambiguous who—”can communicate with the future.” We also get to see Washington catching bullets, and we see cars, water, and people being reversed, showcasing that there’s some serious shenanigans going on with time and the flow of it. All of that is to say that we have a couple of ideas about what “inversion” might be and how it may be affecting Washington in the official image that inspired all of this theorizing.
If the film does center around the idea of communicating with the future and reversing the flow of time, then what we could be seeing here is a side effect of that. From what we’ve seen, Washington’s character may well have these powers or be able to access them. After all, we see him witnessing multiple reverse time moments and, of course, catching that bullet. So how does he access them and what does it mean?
Well, the blur seems to imply movement that could possibly be caused by Washington transporting between the past and the present. Or he could even be flitting between different dimensions in a string theory-style situation. There’s also the potential that someone else is in charge of time and its flow, and Washington is trying to save the world from its effects. The trailer talks about trying to prevent something worse than an apocalypse, and a terrorist who can control time and space sounds pretty cataclysmic to us.
The effect on the image itself seems like a bit of a cinematic in-joke on the part of Nolan. When film would get transferred to video, the difference between frame rates would often create what was called ghosting. That’s pretty much exactly what you can see on the Tenet still, especially as when you look closer you can even see Washington looking at the camera, making it seem like this is two images imposed on top of each other. It also looks a little like artifact video from compressing a file too much, but maybe now we’re just being nerds…
It’s all theorizing at the moment but it’s exciting to see Warner Bros. potentially sowing some secrets in their press materials. We’ll definitely be poring over each and everything they release from now on just in case we spot something else exciting like this. Until then, we’ll just be watching every time travel anime in existence—Nolan is a huge fan of Japanese animation and it’s influenced a lot of his work (*cough* Paprika *cough*)—to try and spot where the creative team might be drawing influence from.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.