In Tenet, it's revealed at the end that The Protagonist is moving forward in time and Neil is moving backwards. How does he not wear an oxygen mask throughout the film?

If it's time-travel then doesn't it contradict with the movie's tagline? (Not time travel, inversion).

  • 3
    Neil isn't moving inverted the entire time or he simply couldn't interact with everyone else through the rest of the movie. And being inverted is the only time you need a mask. I think you must have misunderstood something. However, it's also not quite clear what you misunderstood. Can you flesh out the question a little more with which part is specifically unclear and what you did understand? – Napoleon Wilson Sep 26 '20 at 21:08
  • If they're like me, that's: none of it in the slightest. – Mazura Jan 10 at 23:56

I read the theory of that Neil is moving backwards throughout the film, but not sure if that is accurate. What I think it really is, that He was not moving backwards throughout the film events as we see him, but he already moved backwards all the way to the point where he saved the protagonist at the opera, then inverted back to the normal timeline, then we see him in the film.

  • How's even possible? If The Protagonist has recruited him in the future then how he can meet him in Mumbai without wearing mask (As its clear that if you want to go in the past, you need to be inverted)? – Ravi Maniyar Sep 27 '20 at 15:32
  • 2
    Neil was going backwords without meeting the protagonist till he saved him in the opera house. Then he inverted back to normal time and then met him in Mumbai. – Mocas Sep 27 '20 at 15:46
  • It also may have been the Protagonist that traveled backwards in time to recruit Neil before we see him in Mumbai or the opera – Alchemist Sep 27 '20 at 17:40
  • Simply if Neil was going backwards then the film is about time travel. That means the movie tag line was misleading? @Mocas – Ravi Maniyar Oct 1 '20 at 9:49
  • 1
    @RaviManiyar - The Protagonist recruited Neil in the past, not the future. – MovieMe Dec 15 '20 at 4:53

The theory that deals with Neil moving backwards the whole time make no sense, it's a complete shot in the dark. Any backward moving person will unable to communicate coordinate with a forward movie person.

When one is inverted, they need inverted oxygen to breathe. For the first time The Protagonist inverts we see him wear the mask. In every scene of the movie if we see people with masks, that's our visual cue that they are inverted.

In the end, The Protagonist saw a dead inverted man who took a bullet for him. On seeing the ring on Neil's bag, The Protagonist realizes that Neil is going to go back, invert himself and go back to the location of the bomb. Over there he will get killed.

Neil is walking away to his death. The Protagonist knows this. Neil has also guessed this. Which is why he says "It's the end of a beautiful friendship for him".

  • How would Neil guessed that he is going to die? – Mocas Dec 15 '20 at 17:47
  • @mocas - I'm going to guess because The Protagonist has tears in his eyes. – MovieMe Dec 16 '20 at 5:31

it's revealed at the end that The Protagonist is moving forward in time and Neil is moving backwards

Not exactly.

Both Neil and the Protagonist (as well as many other characters) invert backwards and forwards several times along the plot.

There are times when a forward moving character meets themselves moving backwards (e.g. the Protagonist fighting his clone in the Freeport vault). There are even times when the "original" forward moving characters see their clones from the future (which have inverted, moved backwards and inverted forwards again) e.g. Kat in the boat seeing herself jump from the yacht (having just killed Sator's clone from the future).

The challenge for the audience is to keep track who is who and from where, and imagine how they see the world from their perspectives.

Neil was hired by the Protagonist in the future, quietly traveled backwards all the time to the Kiev Opera siege time, inverted forwards again and did what shown in the film — inverting backwards/forwards again and again as required. When moving forwards he does not need to wear oxygen mask.


When Neil got inverted, he needed an oxygen mask. As he comes to the turnstile he is then moving forwards, so he doesn't need to wear the mask. I don't see anything wrong with this.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .