Tenet IMAX Prologue Explained

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is everywhere. The film received a trailer last Friday, Dec 19, that was met with widespread appreciation. A couple of stills were also released. But that’s not the only material that came out of the movie’s marketing; an IMAX prologue for Tenet was also released by Nolan and Warner Bros. The prologue played ahead of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and in a certain sense, was met with even more enthusiastic reception by eager fans.

Judging by the track record of these prologues, this one isn’t going to be released online in any form, ever, making those limited IMAX screenings the only way to catch it. That, or perhaps a bootleg copy that’s floating around the internet and one that’s incredibly difficult to get a hold of. Without getting into specifics, I can tell you that I’ve managed to see the Tenet IMAX prologue in its entirety. How? When? Where? Those are questions I cannot address. What I can address though is what happens in that prologue that everyone’s been trying to piece together and the corresponding larger implications it has on the movie’s plot.

The prologue begins at a symphony concert about to begin at the National Opera House, Ukraine when terrorists infiltrate the hall and place everyone hostage. A SWAT team subsequently invades the place and releases sleeping gas, putting the concert attendees asleep. These look like they were among the first sequences to be filmed when principal photography commenced for Tenet back in June in Estonia. They also tie in with early rumors that Tenet will be partly inspired by the 2002 Moscow Hostage crisis; turns out only this sequence is.

Unbeknownst to the SWAT team, another small gang has been watching and waiting for them to invade. This team, led by John David Washington’s character, dresses up as the fake SWAT team and blends in, slapping fake badges over their arms. As the real SWAT team curiously release the sleeping gas that knocks off the audience unconscious, Washington rushes to a certain VIP and talks to him cryptically. His coded message: “We live in a twilight world” is met with a “And there are no friends of dusk”.

Washington then proceeds to reveal that this siege is staged so they (presumably the real SWAT team) can take the VIP down. He offers to bring the VIP in or he’ll have no choice but to kill him. As Washington rescues the man, he crashes into the main arena wherein he has a skirmish with his own fake SWAT team as well as the real SWAT team. Turns out either the fake SWAT or the real SWAT have been tasked with taking out all people attending the concert, which Washington tries to talk them out of doing: “Walk away, you don’t have to kill these people”.

Bombs have been set up across the arena, which Washington tries to sneak out. There’s a brief conversation where Washington discusses diffusing the bombs only to be told they’re centrally synchronized. Returning back to the concert hall, Washington is held at gunpoint by a SWAT member. This is when some form of time reversal happens that results in the SWAT member being killed and one more fake SWAT guy making an appearance. This one apparently is not from Washington’s squad who himself looks surprised, “That wasn’t one of us”. As Washington rushes out with the VIP to a van, an explosion rocks the concert hall. The duo are accosted by someone in the van as the prologue ends with a montage of sequences playing out.

There’s a lot going on in the prologue that’s difficult to process and remember thanks to its theatrical exclusivity. Also, Washington’s character uses an oxygen mask, resulting in some audibility issues similar to Bane’s in The Dark Knight Rises prologue that was released back in 2011. Regardless, the general gist here is that Washington is working with an organization (likely Brannagh’s) to bring someone in amid the real SWAT invasion that is staged to take the guy out. The prologue’s impact is amplified by a pulsating score that I presume is the first bit of music Ludwig Göransson has written for Tenet. If this is how the film will sound, we have a worthy successor to Hans Zimmer already.

The time reversal sequence in the prologue is something of a mystery. What appears to happen is that there’s a spent bullet lying on the ground, upon which the other SWAT guy “fires” the time reversal weapon. This causes temporal reversion around that area resulting in the dislodged bullet firing backwards toward the SWAT guy and supposedly onto the mysterious SWAT person’s gun. It looks like time travel can be controlled by virtue of a special weapon not unlike a handheld gun?

Frankly, the title of this post is somewhat of a misnomer. Because a Christopher Nolan film prologue such as this can never be fully explained until one sees the movie. However, the prologue gives us enough to munch and chew on, raising interesting questions about the very nature of time bending possible and should keep us excited and occupied for the next few months. My attempt here was to open this up for discussion and use this post as an outlet to express how excited I am for Nolan’s next. As for the Tenet IMAX prologue leaking onto the internet in some form, that’s an eventuality Warner Bros. will have to be prepared for.

Tenet releases in theaters next year, on July 17, 2020. It is written and directed by Christopher Nolan and stars John David-Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Clemence Poesy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Dimple Kapadia with Kenneth Branagh and Michael Caine. Nolan will produce with his partner Emma Thomas with the film being distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Follow our Appocalypse Hub for Tenet to stay updated on all the latest news and set photos about the movie or hit the Like button below to get all the news directly in your Facebook Feed.