No one could ever accuse Christopher Nolan of being a small-scale filmmaker. The director is quite famous for his devotion to grand spectacle cinema that is meant to be viewed on the big screen. For Tenet, he took that philosophy to dizzying new heights by incorporating as many IMAX cameras into the movie’s numerous action set pieces as humanly possible. Some were even set to run backwards, so as to practically achieve the visual effect of time running in reverse.
“This isn’t a traditional spy thriller/action film,” says Tenet‘s main star John David Washington (“The Protagonist”) in SYFY WIRE’s exclusive video below. “I think it falls in line with what [Chris] does, what his brand is, which is innovation.”
“The thing IMAX is, it’s the highest quality imaging format that’s ever been devised,” explains Nolan. “IMAX film has a resolution that’s got better color representation; it’s the sharpest possible format that’s ever been invented.”
The cinematography for the big budget project was handled by Hoyte van Hoytema, who previously worked with Nolan on Interstellar (2014) and Dunkirk (2017). In a recent featurette, Hoytema states that every subsequent effort with the director “has more and more sequences in it that we chose to shoot on IMAX.” From a heart-pounding opera house raid, to a thrilling car chase, to the crashing of an actual airplane, there was an abundance of grandiose set pieces to choose from.
Nolan himself goes on to say that “Hoyte and his team were able to get the camera absolutely everywhere that I could conceive of. We had such fun with them, we were just using them as if they were any old camera.” According to IMAX camera technician Scott Smith, Tenet has more IMAX footage than any other film in history.
Inspired by Nolan’s love for James Bond, the film begins in the world of global espionage before careening into the mind-bending genre of time travel. Staying true to form, the writer-director refuses to tread in familiar territory, reshaping the established temporal platitudes into a concept known as “inversion.” Washington plays a secret agent, who must prevent a future cataclysm from destroying the present. To go any further would invite spoilers to the party, but rest assured that like 2010’s Inception, Tenet is crazily complex and probably warrants multiple viewings to be fully comprehended.
Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Himesh Patel, Michael Caine, and Martin Donovan co-star in Tenet, which is now playing in theaters across the world. Certain IMAX locations are offering 70mm film projection screenings. To date, the two-and-a-half-hour epic has brought in nearly $150 million at the global box office.