There’s a moment at the end of the latest trailer for Tenet where Robert Pattinson and John David Washington discuss crashing a Boeing 747. Exactly why they need to do this, we don’t know… which is our default stance when it comes to director Christopher Nolan’s mysterious upcoming sci-fi thriller (it has… something to do with time “inversion” whatever that is). Pattinson’s unnamed character explains that they won’t crash the plane “from the air”, as the trailer shows the Boeing driving straight through a hangar in a fireball, and concedes that the whole event is a little “dramatic”. And boy, he was not kidding because what you’re seeing on-screen happened for real!
Throughout Nolan’s filmography, the acclaimed director has become famous for his aversion to using CGI. But when you need to crash a plan in a modern movie, it’s just natural that you would turn to some digital wizardry. And initially Nolan was considering doing just that for this stunt until he realized it was cheaper to actually just destroy a plane, as he told Total Film magazine (via GamesRadar).
I planned to do it using miniatures and set-piece builds and a combination of visual effects and all the rest. However, while scouting for locations in Victorville, California, the team discovered a massive array of old planes.
We started to run the numbers … It became apparent that it would actually be more efficient to buy a real plane of the real size, and perform this sequence for real in camera, rather than build miniatures or go the CG route.
It’s a strange thing to talk about – a kind of impulse buying, I suppose. But we kind of did, and it worked very well, with Scott Fisher, our special-effects supervisor, and Nathan Crowley, the production designer, figuring out how to pull off this big sequence in camera. It was a very exciting thing to be a part of.
Adding to Nolan’s comments, Pattinson expressed his own disbelief to the magazine that an effect of this size is done practically.
You wouldn’t have thought there was any reality where you would be doing a scene where they just have an actual 747 to blow up.
It’s so bold to the point of ridiculousness… I remember, as we were shooting it, I was thinking, ‘How many more times is this even going to be happening in a film at all?’
It really is a little insane, but as you can see in the trailer above, it looks phenomenal. As advanced as CGI has become over the years, inevitably it always ends up looking dated. Practical effects truly stand the test of time though (it’s why Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs still look so realistic). And time is clearly very important to Nolan on this film.
Tenet is still tenuously scheduled for release on 17 July, but a delay from Warner Bros. would not be unexpected.
Last Updated: June 4, 2020