There are no spoilers in this article but it does describe a half-second of glorious action — if you would like to see Tenet without being prepared for Elizabeth Debicki’s majestic dexterity you may read any other Vulture story about Tenet here.
On Tuesday evening, I dutifully applied my clown makeup and traveled across state lines to settle into a privately booked theater to watch the movie of the summer. Tenet, delayed once, twice, three times, has arrived just in time for the summer’s death knell, but it’s kept the internet in a state of rapture for months. What is it about? How will it surprise us? Wait — there’s a Travis Scott song too? I had a list of theories, but I was only prepared for two things: It would be confusing, and Elizabeth Debicki would be tall. I was basically correct: This movie did confuse me, and Debicki, tall icon, delivered.
So, just how tall is Elizabeth Debicki in Tenet? Let me tell you: tall! All six feet and three inches of her are in this movie, and by that I mean, in several wide shots, she towers above every single other person in the room. (Actually, more than those six feet and three inches — closer to six feet and six inches — because in a handful of scenes, she is wearing heels.) When a person is this tall, this often, you start to notice the details of their tallness, how exactly they move through the world differently than you or me, small-to-regular-sized people. The inseam of her pencil skirts are longer than my full-size bed. Her neck is positively prehistoric, and by that I mean Land Before Time long. Elizabeth Debicki is tall standing outside of her child’s prep school. (As one of my Vulture colleagues observed, Debicki “leans down, Slenderman-style, to kiss her son.”) She is tall sitting down at dinner. She is tall, again seated, steering a catamaran. She is tall laying down in bed reading a book. She is tall hiding a gun under a couch cushion. She is tall hiding another gun in a jewelry box. She is tall, gliding through the kitchen of a fancy restaurant, pleasantly eye level with the henchmen sent to deliver her home.
I could go on.
But there is one specific instance of tallness, a moment where Debicki’s height is deployed so majestically, that I must pay my respects to Christopher Nolan for making this movie. None of Tenet is worth risking your life to see — not even the suggestion that maybe there are, at a given moment, two John David Washingtons and two Roberts Pattinsons loose in the world — but this scene comes pretty close. After a series of events that are too complicated to explain, Debicki is tied up in the backseat of a driverless midsize SUV, speeding down a highway. She has narrowly escaped an attempt on her tall, precious life, but oh no! The car is minutes away from colliding into stalled traffic if no one can take the wheel or push the brakes. This is when Debicki, seated in the back seat of the car, like, behind the passenger seat, raises her leg above the arm rest, reaches across the front seat, and clicks the door unlocked, so she can open the rear passenger door. I’m being deadass: Elizabeth Debicki is tall enough to unlock a car’s backdoor by dismantling the driver-side child look control from the backseat. With her feet. This isn’t The Prestige, there is no magic trick. She is just that tall.
Debicki’s utter tallness is talked about in the way we talk about Paul Rudd’s agelessness, Rihanna’s inability to wink, or Jennifer Lopez’s nude lip — these are oral histories, supernatural folklore, passed down from internet cycle to internet cycle. A lot of movies work around Debicki’s height (like in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), or make it something otherworldly (like in Guardians of the Galaxy 2). “I think my height is something … I mean, you’re probably the first journalist who’s not asked me directly about it in question three: How do you feel about being tall? How has it affected your work? And I always find it an odd question,” Debicki told Vulture in 2018. In one scene, her Widows director Steve McQueen gently reminded her not to slouch. “He’s got this incredible radar for what’s actually going on, and you can tell him one thing but he knows it’s the other. But I remember one day he pulled me up [when I was] slouching on set, compensating for somebody else’s height, which was a really seminal moment actually. I remember being really struck by it, because I hadn’t realized I was doing it.”
Tenet does not give Debicki’s character a lot to work with, but it does let her stand up straight. I applaud all 74 inches of Elizabeth Debicki for their bravery and strength. Tall, she is; icon, she also is. Rest assured I will never ride in the backseat of a car the same, without looking at my puny [redacted — you don’t need to know how tall I’m not, only that I carry myself like a tall person]-inch legs, and thinking about the way they could not, if they needed to, reach past the armrest into the front seat of a car to unlock its doors. This is the body insecurity I am proudest of, and I thank Tenet for revealing this short — wait for it — coming.