As one might imagine, this story will dive into SPOILERS for Tenet, so bail out now if you haven’t yet seen it.
One of the main questions we have heard from people who’ve been able to see Christopher Nolan’s Tenet – and believe me, the movie raises a LOT of questions – pertains to the relationship between The Protagonist (John David Washington) and Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), the estranged wife of the villain our heroes are trying to stop. There are numerous times when the Protagonist literally reverses time to save Kat, but the movie seems to stop short of fully explaining to us why.
Granted, the answer may be there. Tenet is the kind of movie, and twisty story, that will reward audiences on repeat viewings, when puzzle pieces for the main plot have snapped into place. But we also got the opportunity to sit down with Elizabeth Debicki and discuss Tenet after having seen it. And when we asked for her interpretation as to why John David Washington’s character took such an interest in Kat’s survival, she explained:
I think that she symbolizes something for him. I think that she’s symbolic of a very particular piece of what we have, and the potential of what we can be, as a species. That sounds like a particularly epic thing to say. But I think that she symbolizes something along the lines of a very pure kind of love, and the exchange of that. And the sacrifice of that. And also, her relationship to her child. I think that represents, again, something very heightened and symbolic for him. It’s another layer. It’s potential. And I think that’s what he invests in.
The “romance” angle is one that I picked up. While these two are not painted as love interests, but standard measures, Washington plays the relationship as if he’s deeply in love with Kat, and almost working hard to free her from the clutches of the evil Sator (Kenneth Branagh).
But there are bigger issues at play in the rescue mission, as The Protagonist does need Kat’s help to stop Sator from completing something that could, in fact, lead to the end of our planet. So when Elizabeth Debicki gives an explanation that sounds epic and grand scale, she’s not exaggerating. The Protagonist sees Kat as something – or someone – worth fighting for. And I think that’s a lovely explanation for the root of their relationship.
Here’s Elizabeth Debicki elaborating on the couple’s unusual relationship in Tenet: