How Tenet’s Inverted Fight Scenes Were Filmed

tenet fight scenes filming
Image: Warner Bros. / Syncopy

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is a mind-bending action thriller with plenty of visual delights to enthral its audience. From “inverted” fight scenes where time moves backwards to sky-high explosions and battlefield-wide conflict, Tenet is littered with mind-boggling moments to gawk at.

The film is visually spectacular, but its most impressive shots are practical effects. During the film’s marquee vault heist, a real airplane was crashed into a building. Similarly, practical effects were used to pull of some of Tenet‘s most impressive backwards fight scenes.

“I could say every one of those punches thrown and caught — all the ducking and getting thrown into the walls backwards and forwards, that was me. I felt that,” star John David Washington, who plays the Protagonist in the film, told Gizmodo Australia during Tenet‘s press junket. “There was a real set and it was real ground, all that stuff was real.”

Equally real was Tenet‘s unique “inverted” fight sequences, where time appears to flow backwards. To pull off these scenes, Washington underwent vigorous physical training in the art of backwards movement.

“We basically had to learn, through George Cottle [The Dark Knight, Spider-Man: Far From Home] , who was our stunt director and Jackson Spidell [Avengers: Endgame, John Wick], who was our fight co-ordinator … Together, we had to learn how to fight backwards — forwards and backwards, sometimes at the same time,” Washington told Gizmodo Australia.

“So we had to learn how to catch a punch, throw a punch, block a punch and then whatever the opposite of blocking a punch is.  It was very ‘new wave action cinema’. It’s never been done before and it was exciting to know that these moves are basically … tailored for this film, specifically.”

It’s this level of detail that makes Tenet so exciting and unique. It all makes for a spectacular film well worth experience on cinema screens, if it’s safe for you to do so.

You can catch glimpses of all this hard-hitting action in Tenet‘s latest trailer:

And you can check out what Kotaku Australia thought of the film here.


Tenet officially opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, August 27.

If you’re choosing to head to your local cinema, make sure you maintain covid safety, wear a mask where physical distancing isn’t possible and listen to the instructions of your theatre crew.