Tenet ending explained: What did THAT ending mean?

Tenet is a film where it is very much the case that the least you know, the better. When arriving in the cinema, the mystery of Tenet is very much a useful weapon on your arsenal and will allow fans to be fully immersed in the magic of cinema. However, on leaving the cinema, certain things will start to irk and fans will inevitably be asking the age-old question: what did the ending mean?

WARNING: Tenet spoilers ahead

What did the ending of Tenet mean?

Frankly, as was the case with a great deal of the film, some of the threads did not necessarily join up in a meaningful way.

However, here is an attempt at breaking down the plot to lead to a meaning for the ending, however confusing and convoluted that may be.

John David Washington is the Protagonist, who is the man to tie up the loose ends of inverted time.

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He, at the beginning of the film, is recruited to investigate Tenet, an inversion of time which is being manufactured (sort of) by Sator (played by Kenneth Branagh,) a Russian, given instructions from the future to end the world.

With me so far?

It turns out, however, the Protagonist is at the beginning of his time journey, and starts to meet people along the way who he has in fact recruited in the future, such as Robert Pattinson’s Neil, who in turn brings on a whole host of mates such as Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Cockney sergeant.

First, the Protagonist heads to Mumbai to track down the arms dealer Priya (Dimple Kapadia), who tells him of Sator’s plutonium discoveries as a child and how he is the man to look for with regards inversion.

Soon, it becomes clear Sator is a nasty piece of work, having blackmailed his wife (Elizabeth Debicki) to stay with him after she accidentally sold him a forged painting, and is keeping her child as a kind of emotional hostage.

Sator, it turns out, is trying to bring together elements of an algorithm which, when put together, ends the world.

He himself is dying of cancer, so is happy to take on this mission and wants to use Tenet and the Protagonist to get the final piece of his puzzle – plutonium and the algorithm.

In the end, the Protagonist must do what is known as a time pincer strategy to stop Sator’s algorithm from being put in place and annihilating the entire planet.

So, the Protagonist and Aaron Taylor Johnson’s sergeant go back in time to the Soviet-era city where Sator was made to stop the algorithm from being used to kill all of humanity.

As the troops try to make room for the Protagonist and the sergeant to get to the doomsday switch, Neil decides to switch from being inverted to moving forward, so he can get to the switch and aid the Protagonist, pulling him and the sergeant out from the explosion.

They take the algorithm switch and split it in three, and vow to hid it so no one can find it again and destroy the earth.

At this, the Protagonist realises Neil is the man who saved him in the CIA operation in Kiev, by noticing the string on his backpack.

He then discovers he is the one who hired Neil in the first place, and their paths are to cross in even more timelines.

While all this is taking place, Katherine (Elizabeth Debicki) is ensuring Sator does not kill himself too soon, as this will set off the switch before the team have been able to disarm it.

She does kill him herself in the end, however not before the team have been able to get things back to how they should be.

The Protagonist ends by going further back to stop Priya from murdering Kat, at which point he shoots her and kills her.

He has realised who he truly is and how he has been running things the entire time.

While our heads may be hurting and scratching, the film is certainly a bit of fun for a Friday night.

Tenet is in cinemas now

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