Christopher Nolan Planted The Seeds For 'Tenet' In The Opening Scenes Of 'Memento'

Christopher Nolan's Tenet is all about going backwards and forwards in time in a manner more complex and visually stimulating than any other time travel movie before. So it only makes sense that the filmmaker's breakout movie Memento, which also played with narrative chronology, planted the seed of what he would bring with his future blockbuster.

While making the publicity rounds for the home video release of Tenet, Christopher Nolan discussed how the opening scene of Memento wasn't just a way to introduce the audience to the film's non-chronological storytelling. The scene also harbored the filmmaker's larger ambition to bring that kind of temporal narrative style into the blockbuster arena for the movie that would become Tenet.

If you somehow haven't seen Memento, you should fix that immediately. But for the uninitiated, here's the opening:

Memento tells its story backwards chronologically to reveal the full scope of the mystery at its center. Tenet utilizes that concept by having the characters navigate our world in a way that allows them to actually move backwards (and forwards) through time. The scene above is the perfect predecessor for how some of the major action sequences in Tenet would unfold, and it turns out Nolan thought about that while he was shooting the movie over 20 years ago. The director explained to Complex:

"I had this notion of just a bullet getting sucked out of the wall and into the barrel of a gun. It's an image that I had in Memento to demonstrate the structure of that movie, but I always harbored this ambition to make a film where the characters had to deal with the physical reality of that. In a way, an idea comes to the fore when the time is right for it, and it's a hard process to quantify, so I was doing all these other things."

The reverse shot of a bullet flying back into a gun is a cornerstone in the action of Tenet. It even helps clear up some of the exposition of how time inversion works, prompting a Matrix-like "whoa" from John David Washington as the film's unnamed protagonist.

Memento isn't the only movie that laid the groundwork for Nolan's ability to finally bring Tenet to life. Though he didn't mention any specific scenes from his filmography that helped prepare him to shoot this elaborate blockbuster, he acknowledged that everything he's done on film in the past informed his work on Tenet. Nolan added:

"There are things that you learn how to make, and everything in Tenet, interestingly, on the surface of it, they're all versions of action or particular ways of filming things that I've tried before in a different form. You're building on what you've done in the past."

That last bit is rather poetic since, in many ways, Tenet is also about building on what has been done in the past, albeit in a much more complicated fashion. We'd expect nothing less from Nolan.

Tenet is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and digital now.