Robert Pattinson and John David Washington in Tenet.

Robert Pattinson and John David Washington in Tenet.
Image: Warner Bros.

Tenet is apparently pretty twisty, in more ways than just the whole time travel thing.

Well, not time travel, sorry: “inversion,” which apparently lets characters communicate across time in some mysterious way but is not, strictly speaking, time travel. At any rate it allows for what is, by all accounts, a fairly complicated script, one that has all the major players shrugging their shoulders at even the most basic interview questions. This week: Kenneth Branagh, who seems unsure if the character he’s playing is the bad guy or the good guy.

“Given the nature of it, as Chris to some extent sort of reinvents the wheel here, a lot of people start engaging with John David Washington’s character in both expected ways…so you might expect me to be an antagonist…but then [the story] doesn’t quite follow what you might expect as the story plays out,” Branagh told Total Film, as transcribed by Syfy Wire.  

Shifting allegiances throughout a story isn’t particular new, and neither is moral ambiguity. But what does seem to trip Branagh up, and what seems most intriguing, is how the unique mechanics of the story’s timey-wimey elements seem to fold into that ambiguity.

“In the playing of it, and in the scenes, he keeps upturning, or playing forward and backward, our expectations of what the character should be,” Branagh further explained. “So my conversations with [Nolan] about my character were constant, because the character’s evolution was not set. It was a series of constant surprises.”

Hopefully, the audience will be surprised and turned around as well. But, Kenneth, did the script confuse you the way it did, say, Robert Pattinson?

“I kid you not, I read this screenplay more times than I have ever read any other thing I have ever worked on,” Branagh said. “It was like doing the Times crossword puzzle every day, I would imagine. Except the film and the screenplay didn’t expect you, or need you, to be an expert.”

We’ll talk that as a yes. Thanks for playing!

Tenet is slated for a July 17th theatrical release.


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