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Christopher Nolan has revealed what Tenet means (and teases one of its biggest mysteries)

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Outside of perhaps an MCU mega-event, Tenet has been more closely guarded than perhaps any other movie in recent years. Slowly but surely, though, the curtain is starting to come down.

Christopher Nolan has opened up for the first time on what exactly his movie will be about, including what Tenet actually means, while also offering up another mystery that’s sure to confound and captivate those who are already counting down the days ‘til July 31.

“We’re dealing in a world of espionage, we’re dealing in a world of hidden identities,” Nolan told EW (opens in new tab). “[John David Washington] is playing an operative who is known by the term ‘Protagonist.’” Then, the reveal: “Tenet is the name of the organization into which the Protagonist gets inducted,” Nolan confirmed.

And… that’s it, for the most part. He does mention that Robert Pattinson’s character is called Neil or, more unhelpfully, “we think he may be called Neil.” Nolan also says he’s a “slightly rascally character who operates within what they refer to as this twilight world of operatives in different secret services.”

But there’s one character – among the cast, which includes Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michael Caine – that hasn’t been accounted for.

“Aaron Taylor-Johnson is indeed in the film,” Nolan said. “He’s an important part of the film. Yes, there are no photographs of him, this is true. He is briefly glimpsed in the [second] trailer. He’s also completely unrecognizable.”

Nolan added: “There are all kinds of things that happen in terms of where the story goes as the film develops and where it winds up in the later stages that we don’t want to spoil for people.”

Fair enough. We now know what Tenet is – we think – but the rest is very much left up in the air. Christopher Nolan, you had our curiosity – now you have our attention. 

Earlier this year, the director told our sister publication about how his love of James Bond (opens in new tab) has influenced the movie.

Bradley Russell
Bradley Russell

I'm the Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.