Just saw it here in Australia, that is not what happens. This is the most Nolan-y film he’s ever made and definitely requires multiple viewings to fully get. WARNING: VERY DETAILED SPOILERS BELOW:
Opening Scene is the Opera. JDW is trying to save a target of an assassination attempt but is caught and then tied up on a railroad. Decides to take his cyanide pill and passes out, but wakes up in hospital to find out that was just a test to see if he could be trusted with the secret of Time Inversion and “Tenet” (from what I gathered, an organisation that has been specifically built to stop the end of the world in this instance). He learns about time inversion (which broadly speaking deals with reversing an objects entropy achieved through a futuristic machine called a turntable) and gets a lead that takes him to an arms dealer in India. The building is extremely well guarded so he hires Pattinson to help him infiltrate it. Once there, they realise it’s actually the arm dealers wife who has the information they need, which is that a Russian Oligarch is the one who has been the source of these inverted bullets that they’ve recently encountered and that he somehow wants to end the world. JDW organises a meeting with the Oligarchs wife (Debicki) and she ends up explaining that she wants to leave her husband but can’t because he has blackmail over her (criminal fraud essentially over a fake painting) and she will never get to see her son again if she leaves him. So JDW decides to steal this painting to help her (but really to get the oligarchs attention, that’s the main reason). They crash a plane into the secure storage facility to get to it, but encounter an inverted “masked man” along with another who’s not inverted (these are both JDW from later on in the movie, you regularly see that you exist as your normal self and your inverted self after going through a turntable). JDW then pretends to be an arms dealer and gets invited to a dinner party where we first properly meet Branagh and after he briefly considers killing JDW, they decide to work together on an arms deal (I believe, honestly a little unsure how this all worked here). We discover that there are these 9 boxes that are each part of an algorithm that when combined, give you the secret to how Time Inversion works. The 9 boxes themselves have been inverted throughout time from when they were created in the far future as a way to hide that secret since it’s considered a weapon that could destroy the world instantaneously (the reason it would is that if someone were to create “a grandfather paradox” the world would most likely just cease to exist. This is quoted a few times along with the idea that inversion is the future’s Manhattan project and it being so dangerous for the world to have this knowledge. The creator in the far future kills herself to protect the secret of inversion). Branagh wants to obtain these 9 pieces so that he can end the world since he’s got terminal cancer and is dying anyways. JDW and Pattinson manage to extract one of these pieces from a moving vehicle but Branagh shows up inverted and has Debecki hostage, which makes JDW pretend to give up the box to save her life. However they are captured straight after anyways. The turning point of the movie happens next, where Branagh (who’s inverted and speaking gibberish to the normal JDW) threatens and then shoots Debecki in the stomach to get JDW to actually reveal where the box is. Pattinson, JDW and a full squad of soldiers (part of Tenet) decide to go through the turntable and chase Branagh, which sets off the movie reversing and the car chase scene happening again but backwards. Branagh finds the box and then stays inverted to go back to his “death” 10 days earlier, at which point the world would end (he’s rigged the locations of the boxes to a heartbeat sensor so that when he dies, the locations are known in the future). Our heroes are also travelling back in time and go to the Storage facility and JDW fights himself and we see that Pattinson knew he was fighting him, but didn’t mention it since that was part of the plan. In the end to stop Branagh, they need to make sure he doesn’t have the 9 pieces at the moment of his death so Debecki goes to that day to try and prevent it from happening, while Pattinson and JDW go to the site of one of the 9 pieces to try and steal it. A complex plan of using inverted and non inverted soldiers occurs (where the non inverted ones “fail”, tell the inverted ones what to expect and then they succeed, basically. But it all happens at the same time). Sets off an insane set piece with two armies fighting this enemy army, half inverted and half not. JDW almost dies but has his life saved by an unknown man who sacrifices his own life. They get the box and Debecki kills Branagh to save the day. In the aftermath, JDW, Pattinson, and Aaron Taylor Johnson (one of the commandos of the tenet army) break the box pieces they have into 3, and decide to split up and head in different directions never to see each other again so that it’s impossible for it to be combined. Pattinson gives his piece to JDW and says he has to head back into the fight and we realise he’s the one who dies to save JDW. Turns out JDW inverts himself and lives the rest of his life going backwards in time and ends up recruiting Pattinson as well as setting up the Tenet organisation so that all of this is possible. For Pattinson it’s the end of a long friendship and his death but for JDW it’s basically the start. Think the Doctor and River Song from Doctor Who. And that’s it.