What is the mystery at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s Covid-defying blockbuster? The most obvious answer – though, as we’ve found to our cost, it isn’t straightforward – is that Tenet is about time travel, and is based on complicated theories about the manipulation of entropy. Among the most impressive sequences are those in which our heroes, played by John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, are pursued by a car speeding “backwards” through time. But, as this is a Nolan blockbuster, the riddle runs deeper. And we’re not simply referring to the imponderable puzzle of how Pattinson keeps his hair so magnificently floppy throughout. “All I have for you is a word,” says Martin Donovan’s mentor to Washington’s character, the Protagonist. “Tenet… it will open the right doors, and some of the wrong ones too.” The first clue is the movie’s title. “Tenet” is, of course, a palindrome. Moreover, the name has been stylised by Nolan in early posters so that the second “T” and “E” at the end are flipped over. Thus the word runs forwards and backwards spatially and graphically. Nolan has dropped another breadcrumb in naming Kenneth Branagh’s villain Andrei Sator. A “Sator square” is a word square containing a five-word Latin palindrome. The best known examples, discovered in the territories controlled by ancient Rome, spell out “S A T O R” left to right and top to bottom, and “R O T A S” in reverse. Guess what they spell down the middle, left to right, right to left, top to bottom and bottom to top? That’s right: “T E N E T”. The first Sator square was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii – which feature late in the film. It was unearthed in 1925 on the bathroom wall of a house identified as belonging to one “Paquius Proculu” (about whom we know nothing else). A second was uncovered in the same town in 1936, on a black sandstone plaque near the amphitheatre. Both discoveries were part of a series of excavations by Italian architect Amedeo Maiuri, and are still preserved there today.
It’s almost Valentine’s Day 2020, when love makes the world go round (and gets box-office tills ringing).
All-American films Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood, Joker and The Irishman have triumphed in this year's Bafta nominations, amid criticism that the 2020 British film awards have ignored diversity.
Just when you thought you had the measure of Dracula (BBC One), they turned it into an Agatha Christie story: And Then There Were None (of the Original Bits of the Book Left In It).
By a quirk of scheduling, the same actor appears in both The War of the Worlds and His Dark Materials on BBC One tonight. In the latter, Harry Melling played an official running the port of Trollesund. In the former he was a soldier who wore the haunted expression both of a man who had just seen his comrades eviscerated by Martians, and one who had realised he was stuck in this BBC stinker.
A s someone who shops at discount supermarkets and never buys anything unless its in the sales, I have very mixed feelings about documentaries on the extravagant spending habits of the super-rich, so I watched Million Dollar Wedding Planner (BBC Two) prepared to roll my eyes at people spending £10,000 each on four dresses for the big day, and £300,000 worth of flowers for their event.
Gillian Anderson, star of The X Files and The Fall, will play Margaret Thatcher in the forthcoming third series of The Crown.
Jeff Pope has written so many engrossing true-crime dramas it was all but inevitable that A Confession (ITV) would make for riveting viewing. It didn’t hurt that the ever-sympathetic Martin Freeman was playing the lead role of Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, the Wiltshire murder investigator who took his duty so seriously that he broke the rules to get at the truth. And paid for it by being effectively drummed out of the force instead of being celebrated for taking a predatory serial killer off the streets.
Wonky sausages and crazy gravy replaced the standard reality TV fare of tears and tantrums as Celebrity MasterChef (BBC One) returned with a fresh line-up of kitchen confident A-listers.
News reports last week that a generation of viewers has taken refuge in watching endless reruns of Friends and the US version of The Office (according to data on Netflix’s most-watched shows) have mostly ignored one salient fact: the generation before has been doing that for years in Britain. They just endlessly watch repeats of Dad’s Army.
Reading and Leeds Festivals have long been a rite-of-passage for British teenagers. Taking hold over the Bank Holiday weekend, beginning the day after GCSE results are released, the pair – Reading for the South, Leeds for the North – have offered the opportunity for adolescents to celebrate with music and alcohol stolen from their parents.