Director Christopher Nolan is famous for his aversion to CGI. He's a filmmaker who's always championed practical effects that can be completed in-camera – little wonder that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt was put through hell during the filming of Inception's revolving hallway sequence.
Even so, his new movie Tenet may have taken things to the next level. While we continue to speculate about the film's mysterious time-inversion storyline, the trailer has teased some suitably jaw-dropping action sequences. One of these involves crashing a grounded jumbo jet into a hangar – a plan wryly established by Robert Pattinson's character as "a little dramatic".
It turns out that want Nolan wants, Nolan gets: he really did get hold of a massive airliner and crash it into a building, reasoning that the sequence would lose its impact if reliant on computer-generated wizardry.
"I planned to do it using miniatures and set-piece builds and a combination of visual effects and all the rest," Nolan tells Total Film. "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."
Blimey – and we thought that latching an IMAX camera to a Spitfire aircraft for Dunkirk was ambitious enough. The crash sequence typifies Nolan's approach: popcorn thrills that aim to have a grounded, muscular and relatively plausible air, something that flies in the face of the digital era. And you'll love Nolan's understated, ironic description of said stunt.
"It’s a strange thing to talk about – a kind of impulse buying, I suppose," laughs Nolan. “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."
Tenet stars John David Washington as a globe-trotting operative caught in a battle to prevent Armageddon. He teams with Pattinson's character to tackle a mysterious Russian national, played by Kenneth Branagh, who can "communicate with the future". Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Himesh Patel, Dimple Kapadia and Aaron Taylor-Johnson co-star.
Washington says of Nolan: "It seems like this is where he’s about to take us for the next 10, 15 years of filmmaking." At the same time, he recalls pestering the director about the confusing script.
"Every day I had questions for [Nolan]," said Washington to Geoff Keighley, host of the Fortnite trailer reveal. "But he was very gracious, and he answered them very calmly and patiently.
"It was important that the actors could track the story correctly so we could tell it the best way we could, and he was very patient with us. I say that very politely."