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Robert Pattinson and Christopher Nolan try to explain Tenet, but we're still pretty confused

By Jacob Oller
Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan is an old hat at making movies that are hard to explain. However, his movies usually don't confuse his stars so much that they can't even begin to describe them after they've already shot them. But that seems to be the case with the Inception and The Dark Knight director's upcoming Tenet. The mysterious film, which stars Robert Pattinson and John David Washington among many others, seemed to show off some sort of time-manipulating force in its first freaky trailer. Now Pattinson and Nolan have explained a little bit more about it — even if it might leave fans more confused than before.

Speaking to GQ, Pattinson explained that he hadn't even seen the finished product and would have a hard time explaining the plot. "Even if I had seen it, I genuinely don’t know if I’d be able to… I was just thinking, I just called up my assistant 20 minutes ago: 'What the f*** do I say? I have no idea,'" the actor said. 

"This thing, it’s so insane," Pattinson said before noting that a crew of 250 people would jet between countries during production. “And in each country there’s, like, an enormous set-piece scene, which is like the climax of a normal movie. In every single country.” At the end of these set-pieces, members of this massive crew would come in on their days off to check out the VFX Nolan was putting in the film. But what's it about? What're all those FX in service of? Who is Pattinson even PLAYING?

"I forgot a lot of things at the beginning of the movie. I was so obsessed with watching Christopher Hitchens debates. You know Christopher Hitchens? A lot of my character stuff, I was trying to do a Chris Hitchens impersonation, and I completely forgot that I was doing that until I saw my notes. I’m so curious. I mean, I literally haven’t seen a frame of this movie." Ok, so Pattinson is doing an impression of the antagonistic atheist author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Check. But the trailer showed some kind of reversed time madness.

"He’s not a time traveler. There’s actually no time traveling," Pattinson declares. "That’s, like, the one thing I’m approved to say." And Nolan is backing him up — even if his star can't quite talk about what the story involves. "The interesting thing with Rob is, he’s slightly f***ing with you,” Nolan said. “But he’s also being disarmingly honest. It’s sort of both things at once. When you see the film, you’ll understand. Rob’s read on the script was extremely acute. But he also understood the ambiguities of the film and the possibilities that spin off in the mind around the story. And so both things are true. Yes, he’s f***ing with you, because he had a complete grasp of the script. But a complete grasp of the script, in the case of Tenet, is one that understands and acknowledges the need for this film to live on in the audience’s mind, and suggest possibilities in the audience’s mind. And he was very much a partner in crime with that.”

Great, well, that explains... absolutely nothing. In fact, it takes away the one thing that genre fans were relatively certain of. Now everyone's back to square one — right where Nolan wants them to be. Pattinson and Washington join a stacked cast including Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, Himesh Patel, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Denzil Smith, Dimple Kapadia, and Martin Donovan in this movie about...well Not Time Travel.

Tenet is tentatively planned to hit theaters on July 17, which would make it one of the first films (and easily one of the most high-profile) to open after theaters closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.