Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet' Blew Up a Real Plane For a Very Practical Reason

One of the noteworthy sequences in Christopher Nolan's most recent film Tenet is one where a plane crashes and explodes. Even though many viewers may watch and think it's all movie magic created with props or CGI effects, Nolan has revealed that the crew did indeed blow up an actual airplane for the scene.

Even for those who haven't seen the film and have only watched the trailer, the plane crash is still a familiar sight. At the end of one of the trailers, the protagonist (played by John David Washington) tells Neil (Robert Pattinson), "You wanna crash a plane?"

To which, Pattinson responds, "Not from the air, don't be so dramatic." When Washington asks what size plane he has in mind, Pattinson concedes, "Well, that part's a little dramatic." Their conversation is interspersed with clips of the plane crashing into an airport.

People on Twitter still discuss the plane crash and make jokes about it even weeks after Tenet hit theaters.

Nickys Twitter movie review of: tenet
(Havent done one of these in a while)

Audio design Was incredible
There was no CGI, they blew up a mf plane for this shit

9/10 only thing holding it back was that the audio was loud af in the cinema.

— NickyNicklas (@NickyNicklass) September 11, 2020

I havent seen tenet yet but I did see an episode of family guy from 2012 where stewie and brian reverse time and they do a reverse plane crash like in tenet

— Keeghan vanderWater (@K_vanderWater) September 14, 2020

Just realized what the plane scene in Tenet reminded me of.

— Sarah Caldwell (@sarahccaldwell) September 16, 2020

In a May interview with Total Film, Nolan explained that using a real plane was more cost effective than other methods that directors use for similar scenes. After looking into how much it would take to do the same scene with CGI or miniature models, Nolan said the alternative was more practical. "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," he said.

In a behind the scenes look at Tenet, members of the crew spoke about Nolan's fondness for practical effects. "Our method of visual effects is: try to do everything without them," production designer Nathan Crowley said.

Nolan said that audiences can tap into what's really there and what isn't. ""I think the audience is always aware on some level of the difference between things that are animated and something that's been photographed," he said.

Executive producer Thomas Hayslip said that when he asked Nolan about the size of the plane he had in mind, he told the director that a real plane was probably in the cards.

Washington said that upon reading the script he had doubts that they could pull it off. Pattinson said he was shocked to see the real plane when he arrived on set. "You read it in the script, and you think, 'Yeah it would be cool in a movie,'" Pattinson said. "It feels very very real. It's actually, because it is real."

Nolan's agent did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan attends the screening of "Sink Or Swim (Le Grand Bain)" during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 13, 2018 in Cannes, France. Nolan's fondness for practical effects led to a real plane being blown up in "Tenet," and it was more cost effective too. Getty/Tony Barson/FilmMagic