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You fight for a cause you barely understand. With people you trust so little you've told them nothing about what you’re doing. When I die, the world dies with me. And your knowledge dies with you. Buried in the tomb like an anonymous Egyptian builder sealed in the pyramid to keep his secret.
~ Andrei Sator to the protagonist.
Look at me! And understand, you don't negotiate with a tiger. You admire a tiger until he turns on you and you feel its true f*cking nature!
~ Andrei Sator to Kat.
Andrei Sator (Russian: Андрей Сатор) is the main antagonist of Christopher Nolan's 2020 science fiction action film Tenet.
He was a Russian oligarch used by future generations to help reassemble the Algorithm, a weapon created in the future to reverse the entropy of the entire world, in the hopes of reversing the effects of climate change.
Andrei Sator is a man with ambition and vision, having little not going his way and never not getting what he wants. This behavior is most evident with how he treats his wife Katherine "Kat" Barton, who he mentally and physically abuses and won't let her leave, saying that "If [he] can't have [her], no one else can". This attitude extends to the world at large, with Sator eventually deciding to destroy the world with him when he found out that he was dying.
Sator was born in Stalsk-12, a Soviet-era secret city. He started his work in radiation and got his first contract digging for the remaining remnants of a bomb that exploded underground. No one else bid, as they saw it as a death sentence.
While digging for the remnants, Sator found a capsule with numerous gold bars and a message addressed to him. The message told him that someone in the future wanted to work with him to accomplish their own goals with Sator in exchange for money. Seeing an opportunity, Sator killed his partner and started to work as a broker with the future in exchange for gold bars. At some point he became owner of Rotas Industries and became a wealthy Russian oligarch by making billions in plutonium. He later married Katherine Barton and had a child with her. He later had a falling-out with Moscow, started to live in London, and developed connections with various governments and intelligence agencies.
Sator and Barton did not have a happy relationship. When asked about it by the protagonist, the informant Sir Micheal Crosby described them as "practically estranged". At some point, Barton became close with a man named Tomas Arepo, who made a fake copy of a Francisco Goya painting, which Barton verified as real. This was a mistake made by Barton, who was blinded by how close she had grown to Arepo, however Sator did not see it that way. He saw it as Barton defrauding and betraying him, and he kept the fake painting as blackmail, threatening to have her prosecuted and put in jail in order to keep her close with no hope for her to leave or escape him.
Sator was eventually diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. With this news, Sator decided to finally bring together the Algorithm, a device which would invert the flow of time, to be activated in the future, which would completely destroy the past.
A week before the main storyline of the movie took place, Barton and Sator went on a holiday in Vietnam. While there, Barton tried to love Sator again, thinking that if there was any love there, then he would let her go. Sator, having felt that love from Barton, offered her a deal. If she agreed to never see her son again, then he would let her go. She denied it and expressed her anger over the offer, but Sator saw that she considered it. Sator would remember this vacation fondly, as he did truly feel loved by Barton.
At an opera house in Kiev, Sator laid siege to the complex in order to find and steal the final piece of the Algorithm from a CIA operative who had retrieved it from a Russian missile base in 2008. However, the CIA sent a team to prevent their operative from being killed and to get the piece of the Algorithm safely out of the complex. Sator's men found the team, including the protagonist, and tortured them for information, but were not able to acquire the piece of the Algorithm.
The protagonist later made contact with Barton, who Sator had had tracked by his men. The protagonist and Barton talked in a restaurant, and Sator did not "like the look of him", so he sent his men to assault the protagonist and scare him away from Barton. However, the protagonist bested Sator's men and later acquired information about a freeport — a holding facility for rich people's art for them to inspect it but not have it taxed— in Oslo that Rotas had assets in. The protagonist set up a heist to break into the Oslo freeport, destroy the painting that trapped Barton, and find out what secrets Sator had to hide, but Sator, having been told about the event by the future, protected his assets and the painting.
After Sator threatened to kill the protagonist for what Sator thought was having an affair with his wife, the protagonist revealed that he knew about the opera siege and Sator negotiated with him while sailing on an F50 racing boat. While they negotiated, Barton, who had recently learned that the painting that trapped her had not been destroyed, tried to kill Sator by throwing him off the boat and letting him drown. The protagonist saved him, and Sator declared himself in the protagonist's debt for saving his life. The protagonist offered for Sator to repay this debt by helping him steal what the protagonist thought was a piece of Plutonium-241, but what was actually the last piece of the Algorithm that Sator hadn't collected. Sator agreed.
While the protagonist planned on not giving Sator the piece of the Algorithm, Sator used Barton's life as a bargaining chip to get the piece of the Algorithm back from the protagonist. However, it soon became clear to the protagonist that Sator was inverted, going through time backwards from his perspective. The uninverted Sator finally revealed himself to The Protagonist before entering his turnstile to go backwards in time to threaten The protagonist with Barton's life and attain the location of where the protagonist actually put the piece of the Algorithm, as he lied and had not actually given Sator the piece. This was a temporal pincer movement in which Sator watched the exchange between him and the protagonist in order to figure out the outcome of his scheme then inverting himself so he could perform the exchange. With this, he had the final piece of the Algorithm and was able to put it together.
Now having all the pieces of the Algorithm, Sator was able to put them all together and bury them to be left for the future to find. All he had to do was bury them and send a message to the future telling them where it would be, which would be achieved by automatically sending a message to the future (speculated to be a simple mass email chain) when his watch detected that his heartbeat had stopped. With that, the future would receive the Algorithm and be able to invert the world and destroy the past. To end his life, he inverted himself for a week and went back to the vacation in Vietnam where he felt loved by Barton, in order to end his life in a moment of happiness.
There, he found who he thought was Barton from a week ago, but was in fact the version of Barton from a week in the future, who he had shot and was tasked with delaying Sator from ending his life in order to delay the sending of the location. At the same time, the protagonist was trying to stop the Algorithm from being buried underground at Sator's home of Stalsk-12, and while with Barton, Sator talked to the protagonist by calling his henchman's radio. While talking to the protagonist, Sator called him a fanatic, fighting for a cause that he didn't understand, and when asked why the future was trying to destroy them, Sator told him that their oceans had risen and their rivers had run dry. Sator referred to himself as a god with the power that he held and told his henchman to shoot the protagonist in the head before hanging up.
While Sator waited for a sunset for the perfect moment to take a pill to end his life, Barton could not live with the idea that Sator would be able to die thinking that he had won. She pulled her gun on him and revealed her scar where he had shot her to him before firing her gun and killing him and throwing his body off of his boat.
Sator's plan to bury the Algorithm for the future to find failed, and he died knowing that he lost and wasn't able to take the world with him.
This is the third Russian character in a Christopher Nolan movie, after the Chechen and Dr. Leonid Pavel.
His family name "Sator" and his construction company "Rotas" are both explicit references to the Sator Square. The Sator Sqauare was found in Pompeii in 1936, and it is a palindromic construction with a quadruple entry. This graffiti is none other than a palindrome, which, arranged in the form of a square, becomes a "perfect palindrome": it can be read right to left as well as from left to right, but also from top to bottom, or from bottom to top.