SPOILERS inbound for TENET movie:

By the end of the movie, it is revealed that Neil and the Protagonist were friends for a long time in the "future" and Neil was on his way to his death to help the Protagonist in the "present".

Since Neil's death doesn't apparently affect his activities in the future (Grandfather Paradox maybe?), does it also mean that earlier in the movie, when the Protagonist dies by eating the cyanide, did he actually die at that point itself?

Point to consider: At the end, Ives asks the other two to die at their own will and not reveal the source of the separated algorithm, so since the Protagonist was interrogated at the time, did he die at his own free will?

TLDR: Did the Protagonist dying by cyanide in the initial stage of the movie his actual death?

  • Neil's activities in the future never existed. He would have always died on the 14th underground. There is no grandfather paradox here. What ever Neil has done for Tenet is from the time he was recruited till the events of Stalsk-12
    – MovieMe
    Dec 13, 2020 at 8:28
  • The cyanide pill was a fake. The Protagonist never died, he just entered a medically induced coma.
    – Möoz
    Aug 16, 2021 at 5:27

2 Answers 2


This seems unlikely.

The explanation for the cyanide scene is given right after, when it is explained as an elaborate test, orchestrated by whatever organization the protagonist is working under for the rest of the movie.

The movie gives us little reason to doubt that explanation. Throughout the movie, we follow the timeline as it is experienced by the protagonist, first moving forward, then backwards through time as he does. This is in contrast to Neil's perspective, who at certain points interacts with a version of the protagonist from a different timeline (like the encounter at the opera or the chase in the freeport).

For your theory to work, the cyanide sequence would have to be the only scene in the movie that is told out-of-order relative to the other events: After the protagonist learned about the algorithm at the end of the movie. Which would then beg the question how the surrounding scenes, the attack on the opera and the awakening on the boat, fit in to this. Why would the protagonist be able to talk about the cyanide scene on the boat when it was not happening in the order in which it is shown?

In summary, there seems to be no clear indication in the movie that your theory is true and if it were true, it would open up a bunch of holes in the story that could lead to contradictions.

  • Neil should not have been inverted at the Opera, please see my question.
    – Mocas
    Dec 14, 2020 at 20:28

The Protagonist never died, the pills were a fake. It was all a test that he passed.

When the Protagonist wakes up after taking the pill, he sees 'Fay'. At which point, the following interaction takes place:

Fay: You've been in a medically induced coma while we got you out of Ukraine and rebuilt your mouth.
Protagonist: The pills are fake?
Fay: We swapped yours for a sedative
Protagonist: Why?
Fay: A test.
Protagonist: A test? They pulled my teeth out.

You must log in to answer this question.

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