I am trying to figure out the scene near the finale of Tenet where Neil unlocks the door and gets shot in the face.

I can't really see the flow where he opens and holds the door and the protagonist walks in and fights the bad guy. Can you tell the series of events as Neil sees them happen till he gets shot?


If I am not wrong, I see it like this:

Neil was running down towards the door, both the protagonist and his mate are inside with the door locked fighting the bad guy, then, he unlocks the door and walks in and stands behind the door. The protagonist's mate comes out of the room, then the protagonist, then he closes the room, then he look back to get shot in the face.

But this doesn't make sense, if he wanted to unlock the door when he was running down, they were already in fighting the bad guy!!!!!

  • 1
    Yes, that's probably the only sequence of events that I can't get a full understanding of. – RusI Oct 15 '20 at 16:46
  • 2
    Actually, I've been having trouble sleeping because of this. Perhaps Neil didn't have to pick the lock. He died in vain. – John Dec 7 '20 at 17:41

Short Answer - I believe Ives unlocked the gate.

In that scene Ives was trying to pick the lock. The Protagonist was standing up. Just as Inverted-Neil un-dies and stands up, Ives and The Protagonist enter the holding area. Inverted-Neil doesn't even touch the lock. Neil had nothing to do with the lock-picking in this scene.

However, Neil does come in the path of the bullet that was meant for The Protagonist.

From Inverted-Neil's perspective this is what might have happened:

  1. Inverted-Neil enters the tunnel. Runs up to the end to see that The Protagonist and Ives are already in.
  2. He realizes he wasn't needed for the lock-picking, so he stands by to observe.
  3. Inverted-Neil notices Sator's man is being un-shot and tries to go for his gun.
  4. Inverted-Neil gets in the way and takes the bullet.

In the end, Ives doesn't state that he successfully picked the lock because he too knows that Neil was the one who took a bullet for The Protagonist. "What has happened, has happened".

  • The issues with this answer is that Ives asked the protagonist at the final scene "How did you get that lock open", protagonist replied "It wasn't me". – Mocas Jan 2 at 16:37
  • @mocas Which Ives says because he knows Neil needs a reason to be inverting himself to head back to the bunker. He knows Neil's being there saves The Protagonist, not to unlock the gate. If not for that, Tenet can't exist. If Ives says the truth about the gate, Neil will have no reason to invert himself. – MovieMe Jan 3 at 11:52
  • I think Neil was unlucky on being shot, as per the answer here movies.stackexchange.com/questions/112214/… – Mocas Jan 3 at 18:30
  • If Neil reached the bunker and saw that the gate was already opened, he would simply bail thinking "I'm not needed here", but he still goes to the gate and on to the other side realizing that unlocking the gate is not why he's there, but something more. Perhaps he intercepted the bullet by mistake in the confusion, but Neil had nothing to do with the gate as he goes nowhere near the lock. Let me edit the answer a little. – MovieMe Jan 4 at 5:03
  • @mocas yes, Neil doesn't intercept the bullet as a plan. I believe he goes for the goons gun and in the struggle ends up being shot. I think I can sleep again! – John Jan 4 at 5:57

But this doesn't make sense, if he wanted to unlock the door when he was running down, they were already in fighting the bad guy!!!!!

At that point, Neil has already been to the final sequence where the end of the world has been just prevented and Ives was about to shoot Neil and the Protagonist to make sure no one knows the algorithm. After Ives then changes his mind, Neil says that he is "the only one who could've got that door open in time" and so that he has to go back to do it.

So he does. Being inverted and going backwards in time, Neil understands that the order of events has to be the opposite. Yes he sees the Protagonist and Ives already fighting Volkov behind the door, but a few moments ahead for him (or a few moments before for them) he will need to keep the door open to let them "out" ("in" for them). So he does exactly that — finally locking the two of them outside and, unfortunately, catching the Volkov's bullet which was purported for the Protagonist.

Snapshots in normal order (time going forwards, as shown in the film):

Neil has just stood up and been (un)shot by Volkov:

enter image description here

Neil grabs the gate:

enter image description here

Neil has opened the gate and let the Protagonist in:

enter image description here

Neil keeps the gate open while Ives gets up and walks in too:

enter image description here

Neil walks out of the gate closing it behind him while Ives picks up the pistol:

enter image description here

Ives turns back and sees Neil shutting the gate:

enter image description here

Ives sees Neil running backwards:

enter image description here

Note that Ives was lying knocked down by the first Volkov's bullet that had hit his helmet before the Protagonist started talking to Sator over the phone — up until Neil lets them in, so Ives could not pick the lock at all.

  • Neil never faces the gate in this scene. He doesn't lock (or un-lock) the gate. – John Jan 4 at 5:43
  • @John See the added screenshots and perhaps re-watch the scene. We can't see how he locks/unlocks the gate but we definitely see that he opens/closes it. So guess he manages to pick/unlock it instantly somehow. – Greendrake Jan 4 at 6:19
  • Actually, there is a very short part of this scene where you see the lock on the door moves. – Mocas Jan 4 at 13:44
  • @Greendrake - that instant lock-picking appears to be a gaping hole in this scene. Neil's not even looking at the lock 😂 . It's under a second that the gate opens soon as Neil is un-shot. Ives might be on the ground right after the bullet... but he was trying for a while to pick that lock .. perhaps he managed to unlock the gate just before the bullet. Seems more palatable than Neil's magic lock opening. But there seems to be some execution flaw in this sequence for sure. – John Jan 5 at 7:06
  • @John Neil is a super-duper professional, he does not even need to look at locks to unlock them 😂 – Greendrake Jan 5 at 7:12

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