Film Spoilers and
|Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description|
The Game (1997)
The Birthday Gift was a 'Game' - A Unique Life Experience That Was Life-Threatening, Turned Elite Wealthy Investment Banker Nicholas Van Orton's World Upside-Down; It Was a Gift Given By His Younger Brother Conrad, To Make Nicholas' Life More Intriguing and to Prevent Him From Repeating His Father's Suicidal Fate
Director David Fincher's psychological thriller, his third feature film, was an account of the long 'journey' of its main character:
Nickie was a wealthy, cold-hearted, analytical, privileged and soulless, workaholic, "control-freak" San Francisco investment banker executive, divorced from his wife Elizabeth (Anna Katarina) who was living in Sausalito with her new doctor husband.
Nicholas was presented with a 48th year birthday gift - marking the same age that his similar Scrooge-like father had died from suicide, by jumping off the roof of their home onto the driveway (seen in scratchy Super-8 footage, a flashback).
The gift was delivered during lunch with:
It was a gift certificate to Consumer Recreation Services (CRS), a game voucher for a unique, customized 'game' experience of a lifetime. Conrad mused to himself: "What do you get for the man who has everything?" He promised his brother:
Van Orton promised that he would contact CRS, though added: "I hate surprises." He ventured to the 14th floor of the high-rise building on Montgomery Street in SF, to enter CRS' secretive offices, where he was greeted by Jim Feingold (James Rebhorn), VP of Engineering and Data Analysis. He was told he had contracted for an intriguing game -
Van Orton was instructed to endlessly fill out psychological tests (including the MMPI), application forms, and submit to "cursory" physical examinations required at CRS. An ex-participant of the "game" experience told him he should reference John, Chapter 9, Verse 25 to know what it was all about: "Whereas once I was blind, now I can see." He was notified later that his application had been rejected. He didn't know that he had already started to play the increasingly-elaborate "game."
When he drove to his SF home-mansion (actually Filoli in Woodside, CA) that night, Van Orton discovered a life-sized wooden harlequin clown or doll lying in his driveway (in the same position his father had died). At the end of its long cloth tongue was a key marked CRS. Daniel Schorr (Himself), the anchor on the evening news, talked to him through the TV set and called him "a bloated millionaire fat-cat." And little things began to aggravate him - a leaky pen in his shirt pocket, a jammed lock on his briefcase, and a messy collision with a waitress named Christine (Deborah Kara Unger) - who was subsequently fired.
At first, he thought the incidents were only a series of "elaborate pranks." However, the ultimate object and purpose of the game became a life/death threatening proposition. The 'game' was composed of an unpredictable series of increasingly life-changing events, causing him to paranoically ask: "Is it real or not?" He wondered: "I'm being toyed with by a bunch of depraved children."
Along the way, he met up with his brother who exclaimed about CRS: "They just f--k you, and they f--k you, and they f--k you. Then, just when you think it's all over, that's when the real f--king starts."
When he returned to the US, he found his house foreclosed. He took some hidden money and the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" that was concealing a weapon. He confronted Feingold at the SF Zoo, who was revealed to be a TV actor named Lionel Fisher, who then confessed: "They (CRS) own the whole building. They just move from floor to floor." Van Orton, calling himself "extremely dangerous," forced Fisher to take him to CRS, believing it was a covert operation out to destroy him ("I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard").
After he took Christine hostage, guards opened fire on them and they retreated to the roof. She told him that everything was a hoax, but he didn't believe her:
He shot his white tuxedo-wearing brother Conrad dead as he approached with a champagne bottle from behind the other side of a door. Devastated, Van Orton suicidally jumped off the multi-story building to his death (!). He crashed through two sets of skylight glass and onto a giant air-filled bag-mattress with an 'X' target in the middle.
After the fall and the breakaway glass was cleared, he opened his eyes and realized that he was experiencing the start of his own birthday party thrown by his living brother Conrad. A grand ballroom was filled with guests, applauding him and celebrating his special day - on the 20th of October. Conrad was holding up a T-shirt: "I WAS DRUGGED AND LEFT FOR DEAD IN MEXICO - AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS STUPID T-SHIRT." Van Orton spoke briefly with his ex-wife, and greeted others, and then split the expensive bill for the experience with Conrad.
Outside, Christine was getting in a taxi on her way to her next Game (or "gig") assignment in Australia (with a small "walk-on" role). After she revealed her real name was Claire ("You don't know anything about me"), Nicholas invited her to dinner. She counter-invited him to join her for coffee at the airport - the film's final line: "Would you like to have a coffee with me at the airport?"
Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas)
Conrad (or "Connie") (Sean Penn)
Birthday Gift For Brother Nickie
Harlequin Clown Doll in Driveway
Christine (Deborah Kara Unger)
Nicholas Shot His Brother
Suicidal Jump Into Target
Brother Was Alive
The General's Daughter (1999)
Vengeful, Sexually-Traumatized, and Promiscuous General's Daughter Elisabeth Campbell Permitted Herself to be Tied Up So That Her Respected, Retiring Father Would Be Forced to Deal With Her Covered-Up West Point Rape 7 Years Earlier; He Refused; Colonel Kent Was the Murderer (Via Strangulation) of The General's Daughter And Afterwards Committed Suicide
Director Simon West's often-offensive, misogynistic psychological military thriller was based on the 1992 novel by Nelson DeMille. It told about a sexual murderous assault (and its scandalous corrupt and "lunatic" underworld within a military base).
The film began by introducing its two main military characters - family members:
At the Army base outside Savannah, Georgia, Elisabeth was soon found murdered. She was staked down with tent pegs and ropes, spread-eagled, mock-raped (there was no semen found and after tests, no sign of rape), and strangled in the middle of a training compound field for urban warfare training.
The case was investigated by two undercover warrant officers (from the US Army's Criminal Investigation Command or CID) who had a romantic history together:
During the initial investigation, Brenner met with the base's Provost Marshal Colonel William Kent (Timothy Hutton) and the general's overprotective adjutant Colonel George Fowler (Clarence Williams III). Brenner curtly summarized the motives for murder to Sunhill:
The CID officers had 36 hours to investigate before the FBI entered the case with a task force, when the media would make the death "a goddamn circus." Brenner was cautioned by Fowler to do things "the Army way" - not "the right way or the wrong way." Soon, secrets about the daughter's dark sexual past were revealed. A hidden room behind a false wall with a sliding door in her basement was found complete with a bed, condoms on a table, bondage paraphernalia (handcuffs, harnesses, a belt with a dildo on it, etc...) as well as a camera and videotapes. As Brenner left the room, he was attacked by an unidentified masked man who stole the bag of videotapes.
At the murder site, Sarah astutely examined the evidence. Strangely, there were no signs of a struggle, although there were tear marks on Elisabeth's cheek. Panties placed under the rope tied around her neck were there to presumably prevent rope-burn ("What's a little rope burn if you're going to kill somebody?"). Either more than one person was the killer/rapist, or she had been compiant with her killer(s)-rapist(s). Her clothes and dog-tag were found stashed in a plastic bag on a nearby rooftop. Headlights were seen at the scene the night of the murder at 3:00 am, 3:30 am, and again at 4:00 am.
Elisabeth's mentor and commanding officer Colonel Robert Moore (James Woods) was arrested on suspicion of murder (or accessory to murder) - with his fingerprints found on Elisabeth's dog-tag. Shortly later after being released under house arrest, he was found dead in his home - with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It was assumed that his guilt caused him to apparently shoot himself - and the case appeared to be solved.
As the investigation proceeded, it was revealed that Elisabeth had been involved in flagrant S&M sexual activity with her father's officers and staff (many married) to embarrass her father ("The general's daughter banging his entire male staff"). She called it "psychological warfare, and that the enemy was daddy." Elisabeth was dating the Chief of Police's deputy son Wes Yardley (Chris Snyder), but only for outward show.
Seven years earlier, she had been gang-raped by six men as a West Point cadet (in her sophomore year) during a nighttime training exercise when she became separated from her group. Her rape was in the same manner she was found at the time of her death (held down with stakes in an isolated area) by men dressed in camouflage. [The gang-rape was committed by the 6 man recon squad led by Captain Bransford (Brad Beyer), who was fooled into confessing to the gang-rape.] She was hospitalized, and treated for venereal disease and pregnancy. However, this rape case was covered-up and kept confidential, when Gen. Sonnenberg (John Frankenheimer) convinced her Lt. General father to cooperate and protect his daughter:
In the hospital, the General had coerced and urged his daughter to forget the incident: "It never happened. None of this ever happened." When the General met with Brenner, he still believed that the rapists couldn't be caught, and that he had no other choice but to deny the rape. Brenner presented him with the list of 6 names - the men in Captain Bransford's squad, who had been arrested and faced 20 years in prison. Then Brenner described that sexually-traumatized Elisabeth had deliberately re-enacted or recreated the original rape incident from seven years earlier, just before her murder, to show her father first-hand what had been covered up:
It was revealed, in flashback, what had occurred. She had herself tied up at 3:00 am, aided by Col. Moore -- to force her father to deal with her earlier rape. Her father had given her an ultimatum - either resign her commission, or agree to undergo therapy. When she refused both options, he threatened to draw up charges of misconduct and present her for a general court-martial. Campbell strode onto the site at 3:30 am where Elisabeth was spread-eagled. She provoked him: "Do you see what they did to me?...I want to hear you say it happened." She called him a coward for covering-up and denying her rape. After betraying her and telling her: "I don't give a damn what happened to you 7 years ago," he walked away. As an aside, Colonel Fowler had wrongly thought all along that the General had killed his own daughter.
Afterwards, Kent met with Brenner and Sunhill on a training site, where she hypothesized: "I think this was a woman giving it out all over the post, and the one man who cared about her, the one who's willing to risk it all for her, is the person she doesn't want. And that's because she couldn't want anybody." Kent confessed to what had happened: "She owned my heart. She tormented me. She became my obsession. So I followed her and found her out there on the range, on display." When Kent came up to her after she had been rejected by her father, she threatened him - and was strangled to death by the spurned soldier:
To avoid capture by Brenner, Kent suicidally killed himself by stepping on a "bouncing betty" mine that he had planted in the surrounding mine-field training site.
In the conclusion, Brenner reprimanded General Campbell, who still claimed he had done nothing wrong: "Nothing is gained by my involvement." He was planning on further covering-up his participation in the entire incident. Brenner was steadfast as he confronted the General:
The General was court-martialed and found guilty for failing to report and concealing the West Point gang-rape. He subsequently withdrew from public life. The film's ending title: "Today, nearly 200,000 women serve on active duty in the military services."
Captain Elisabeth "Lizzie" Campbell (Leslie Stefanson)
Lieutenant General Joe Campbell (James Cromwell)
Sexual Assault and Murder of Elisabeth
Investigators: Sarah Sunhill and Paul Brenner
Elisabeth's Kinky Sexual Past
Colonel William Kent (Timothy Hutton)
Suicide of Colonel Robert Moore (James Woods)
Replay of Earlier Rape
Strangled to Death
Guilty Kent's Suicidal Death
Brenner with Court-martialed General Campbell
Get Carter (1971, UK)
After Seeking Revenge For His Brother's Murder, Carter Was Killed by Sniper Fire on a Beach
In the depressing and bleak ending of this thriller, ruthless London-based hitman/protagonist Jack Carter (Michael Caine) sought revenge for the murder of his brother Frank Carter, who was killed by underworld gangsters because he knew that his teenaged daughter Doreen (Petra Markham) was illegally involved in pornography.
Jack brutally dealt with Eric Paice (Ian Hendry), the last of the killers, on the beach. He forced him to drink a bottle of alcohol, butted Eric's skull with a shotgun, and dumped his body in the sea.
As he was walking along the deserted, blackened beach, he was whistling and relieved that his killing days appeared over. He was contemplating ending a life of brutality and violence (by throwing his shotgun into the water and moving abroad). But then he was shockingly and depressingly assassinated by a single shot in the forehead from sniper fire - from a man named "J" (identified from his signet ring near the trigger, in close-up).
The waves lapped around his corpse near the surf line, as the sniper packed up his killing gear and walked off.
Carter's Brutal Murder of Eric Paice
The Ghost Writer (2010, UK/Germ./Fr.)
The New 'Ghostwriter' Was Murdered Like the Previous One; Prime Minister Lang's Wife Ruth (A CIA Operative) Was The Power Behind His Decisions
"Read between the lies" was the intriguing tagline for Roman Polanski's taut and increasingly-claustrophobic film about paranoia and power struggles. It had similarities to real-life political figures, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Claire, US Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice, and the Halliburton corporation.
It opened with the hiring of a new unnamed ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) for retired, semi-disgraced British PM Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) forced into foreign exile. The body of the previous writer of Lang's autobiography and memoirs, Mike McAra, mysteriously washed up on the shore of Martha's Vineyard (supposedly he had drowned and had been drinking), when his vehicle aboard the ferry was found abandoned (it was rumored "it was the book that killed him").
The naive and apolitical Brit replacement writer, hired by publisher Rhinehart, Inc. in London was told that the 624 page manuscript was a "crock of s--t" - and needed complete revamping within a month. The site of the rewrite was Marty Rhinehart's secure, isolated, modernist beach house on Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.
At the time, Lang was front-page news - he was being accused of illegally using British forces five years earlier to seize (secretly kidnap) four suspected Al-Queda terrorists (all British citizens) in Pakistan, and then authorized secret torture flights to hand them over to the CIA for questioning (and torture with waterboarding). He was threatened with extradition by the Hague's International Criminal Court to be charged with war crimes (the "extraordinary rendition" of terror suspects) - accused by his former cabinet minister British Foreign Secretary Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh).
During his research into Lang, the 'ghostwriter' uncovered a tangled web of secrets, conspiracies and lies involving Lang's long-suffering wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) when he began to follow the trail of his predecessor McAra. He discovered hidden files and photos (in an envelope taped under a closet drawer) that demonstrated how the deceased biographer had begun to discover the real truth about Lang and his wily wife (the power behind the throne). There was a discrepancy of two years regarding apolitical Lang's 1975 membership in the Labour Party, and his work with Ruth in the party two years later.
The 'ghost' suspected that McAra was murdered, after a frail and elderly resident (Eli Wallach in a cameo) told him the currents couldn't have carried McAra's body so far west to wash up on the beach where it did, and that a local woman named Annabeth Wurmbrand saw flashlights on the beach the night the body washed up (but had fallen down stairs and gone into a coma a week earlier).
Another secret involved a former acquaintance of Lang's at Cambridge - suspicious and shady Harvard Law Professor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson) who (during a visit in his Belmont, MA home) claimed he didn't really know Lang, although pictures showed he was a graduate student actor at Cambridge with Lang. Also, a current Internet search identified Emmett as a member of a think-tank and connected to an anti-terror defense conglomerate named Hatherton (with strong ties to Lang's regime). Further searches revealed that academia expert Emmett was a nefarious CIA operative in the Foreign Resources Division (who joined the covert organization in 1971) - implying that Lang went into politics soon after and became his puppet, and Emmett was his "handler."
The 'ghostwriter' also met with Rycart, and learned that McAra found the documents that linked Lang to the "torture flights" - and passed them onto Rycart - presumably the reason for the writer's murder. Rycart had been told by McAra that there was a clue in the "beginning" of the manuscript "that explained everything that had gone wrong" when Lang was in power ("the truth was in Lang's memoirs - it's all there in the beginning").
Then, Lang was unexpectedly shot dead at the local airport by an embittered peace protestor (a British military veteran outraged at his son's death during "one of Mr. Lang's illegal wars"). His memoirs were published posthumously and the publisher hosted a book-release party in London, attended by the ghostwriter and both Ruth and Emmett [Emmett had been Ruth's tutor at Harvard]. The 'ghost' finally pieced together clues regarding Lang's hidden 'beginnings' left by McAra - the first words of each chapter revealed the message:
The 'ghostwriter' wrote the sentence on a piece of paper, passed through a number of hands to Ruth, and shortly after, as he stepped outside with the original manuscript, he was run-down (off-screen) in the street (the same thoroughfare in the film's opening). He was murdered like McAra, in order to silence him - or were both deaths just an accident? His manuscript papers blew down the street in the wind as the film faded to white before the credits.
British PM Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan)
Unnamed ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor)
Previous Ghostwriter's Hidden Photos
Discrepancy of Two Years
Harvard Law Professor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson)
Emmett - a CIA Operative
The Secret Message - First Words of Each Chapter
Lang's Wife Ruth (Olivia Williams)
Ghostwriter Run Down in the Street
The Gift (2000)
Jealous Wayne Collins (not Donnie Barksdale) Killed Jessica King; The Murder was Seen in Annie's Vision; The 'Ghost' of Buddy Saved Psychic Annie From the Same Fate
In this supernatural thriller's twisting plot, spoiled, promiscuous sexpot Jessica King (Katie Holmes) - the sultry daughter of a prominent citizen in Brixton, Georgia, was suddenly and mysteriously missing in a baffling case.
The Southern swamp town's widowed psychic and single mother Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) ultimately had a vision that backwater resident Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves) was innocent, but because of his violent abuse of wife Valerie (Hilary Swank), he was erroneously charged with the crime of Jessica's murder - and imprisoned.
The twist ending was revealed in a flashback of Jessica's demise, when she unexpectedly ripped off her shirt and bared her breasts in front of her fiancee Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear) - an established, nice-guy Georgia school principal. He was jealously angered over her affair with 'redneck' Barksdale:
She replied: "Maybe I wanted to be with a man for a change?" He slapped her, and she responded by slapping back and pushing him: "Watch your mouth! F--k you! We're through. I don't like being spied on. (She removed her ring and tossed it away) The only reason I'm with you is my daddy likes you."
He strangled her as he forcibly held her over the car hood. During the strangulation, there were two views of the victim - one of Jessica being killed, and one of Annie who was envisioning the murder. Afterwards, Collins deposited Jessica's body in the misty swamp water.
Collins was then about to kill Annie by assaulting her with a flashlight, because she knew of his guilt during the vision at the lake with him, but she was saved from a similar fate by the 'ghost' of mentally-deranged Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), who punched Wayne and knocked him out.
Buddy was thought to have been institutionalized at the state hospital at the time, but Annie was stunned to learn that he had suicidally hanged himself earlier that day in the shower room. However, she had proof that his "ghost" had been there to protect her - a washcloth that he had returned to her. Afterwards, Wayne confessed to his guilt.
Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear) with Jessica (Katie Holmes)
"Ghost" of Buddy Cole
(Giovanni Ribisi) Saved Annie
The Gift (2015)
A Childhood Acquaintance from Simon's Past, Gordon Moseley, Was Actually the Victim of Simon's Bullying and Torment - And Simon Was Revealed As the Real Villain of the Film. In High School, Simon Had Spread the Lie that Gordon Was Gay and Had Been Seen Being Molested by an Older Boy in a Car. Afterwards, the Accusation Ruined Gordon's Life. Gordon Set up an Elaborate Scheme to Get Payback Revenge over 20 Years Later, Including Possibly Impregnating Simon's Drugged-Up Wife Robyn During an Alleged Rape
Writer/director Joel Edgerton's twisting vengeance-based thriller (his directorial debut film) had some elements of Fatal Attraction (1987), The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), and Michael Haneke's Cache (2005). A suburban LA couple had just relocated from Chicago due to a change in the husband's work (and after Robyn had lost a pregnancy):
They lived in a mid-century modern in the Hollywood Hills, when they happened to connect with Simon's former HS classmate:
The first impression given was that the Simon and Gordon did not know each other very well, yet Gordon began to show up unexpectedly, and lavish inappropriate gifts on the couple, such as an expensive bottle of wine ("How do you think he got our address?").
Due to unusual findings when Robyn and Simon were invited to Gordo's home for dinner (Gordo mused: "I believe that the bad things in life - they can be a gift"), the couple discovered that Gordo was recently divorced and had a family. Simon abruptly broke off the relationship ("Don't visit us anymore!"). Unusual things then began to occur:
After questioning one of Simon's other best childhood friends, Greg (David Denman), Robyn learned that her husband had been a sociopathic childhood bully and tormentor of Gordo. Simon had completely fabricated the accusation that Gordo was gay, and it had subsequently ruined his life. Gordo still held a grudge, now wanted payback revenge, and threatened Simon:
In further developments, Simon's promotion at his company was the result of his own manipulative fabrication of information about his major competitor for the job, Danny McDonald (P.J. Byrne). When Simon's deception was revealed, he was fired. As a result, Robyn (who had just given birth to their child in the hospital) threatened to separate from Simon, at the same time that Gordo revealed (through a DVD recording) that he may have raped Robyn after drugging her and causing her to black-out, while he was wearing a monkey-mask.
Gordon's plan to sow doubt and discord between the couple had apparently succeeded (Robyn feared: "I have no idea who you really are"), although Robyn was 'collateral damage' and an unwitting victim of their conflict. There was the possibility that Gordo was the father of her newborn child (both had brown eyes!).
The plot twist actually seemed to reset the dynamic between the two male protagonists -- Gordo was indeed a monstrous character, and Simon was now a victim.
Robyn and Simon Callum
(Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman)
Gordon "Gordo" Moseley
Gordo's Monkey-Mask During Rape?
DVD Recording of Alleged Rape Incident
Robyn in Hospital After Birth
Ginger Snaps (2000, Canada)
Ginger Fully Transformed Into a Werewolf, Killed Sam, and Then Was Killed by Sister Brigitte
The tagline of director John Fawcett's werewolf horror cult film was:
The film's theme tied together puberty with blood, sexual desire and metamorphic body changes (including possession and infection).
The main protagonists were morbid, late-developing teenaged sisters:
They were rebellious, death-obsessed, world-hating Goths and disdainful school outcasts in a suburban Ontario high school (in the town of Bailey Downs, a "safe and caring community").
When Ginger was attacked/bitten by a beastly lycanthrope ("The Beast of Bailey Downs") while walking through the woods, linked to the time of her first menstrual period ("the curse") and a full moon, she developed spiky tufts of body hair and a phallic-tail, feral teeth, cramps, a craving for flesh, and a foul temper. The changes caused a major rift between Ginger and her sister, who had made a pact to never be "average" and to suicidally "go together" when puberty arrived.
Ginger also became more sexually interested in previously-taboo males, and drew male wolf-whistles when she strutted (and bounced) down the school hallway. Sexually adventurous and hormonal, Ginger was lustily aggressive during her loss of virginity to football player Jason McCarty (Jesse Moss) in the back seat of his car, and during sex, she "infected" him.
Unsatisfied by the blood-inducing date in which she delivered bite wounds to Jason, Ginger expressed her predatory teenaged blood-lust by killing the neighbor's dog. She also killed a school janitor (Pat Kwong-Ho), disemboweled him with her hand, and then told her sister that she loved the blood - linking the violence to solitary masturbation. Threatened, Brigitte argued back:
The film concluded with Ginger transformed into a monstrous Ginger-Wolf engaging in a killing spree, including a threatening showdown with her sister, who up until this point had attempted to rescue Ginger from her animalistic urges. Brigitte felt she no longer had a bond with her sister - she had a choice to either cure her sister with a syringe of "werewolf antidote" or to kill her with a knife, and chose the latter ("I'm not dying in this room with you"). She was intimately close to Ginger-Wolf, hugging her when she exhaled her last breath.
Ginger's Murderous Transformation into Ginger-Wolf
Brigitte's Mercy-Killing of Sister Ginger
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009, Swe.) (aka Man som hatar kvinnor, or Men Who Hate Women)
Martin Vanger Was The Serial-Killer; Harriet Was Found Alive in Australia; Mikael Blomkvist Was Acquitted of the Charge of Libel, While Guilty Wennerstrom Committed Suicide; A Disguised Lisbeth Had Swindled Wennerstrom
Danish director Niels Arden Oplev's slick and haunting thriller-who-dun-it became a Hollywood remake in 2011, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the lead roles.
It was both a complex serial-killer procedural and a neo-noir, with themes of generational sexual abuse, sadistic violence against women, revenge, family secrets, corporate corruption, and Nazi racism. It was the first adaptation of the Millennium Trilogy, a series of books by Stieg Larsson. There were a number of questions to be answered in the film as it told its story.
In the opening scenes, discredited, middle-aged Millennium magazine investigative journalist and publisher Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) was sentenced to serve a three-month sentence after being convicted of libeling a corrupt but successful Swedish businessman named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. He firmly (and rightly as it turned out) believed that he had been framed, for uncovering incriminating information about how the businessman was gun-running and conducting other serious felonies.
In the six months before serving his prison term, he resigned from the magazine when he was hired by aging, reclusive, brooding and obsessed 82 year-old industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube). He was commissioned to find the truth about the disappearance (was she dead or not?) of Henrik's favorite 16 year-old niece Harriet Vanger in the fall of 1966, 40 years earlier, from a family reunion/board meeting at their retreat on Hedeby Island. Harriet was the daughter of Henrik's brother Gottfried. Mikael was chosen to find out about her, because he was often baby-sat by Harriet. It was known that a crash of a fuel tanker truck on the only bridge from the island had blocked access for 24 hours, causing Henrik to believe one of the detestable Vanger family members was responsible.
During the beginning of his search (conducted like the film Blow-Up (1966)), Mikael became suspicious that he was being tracked and someone had hacked into his computer.
The smart hacker was a bisexual, black-leather clad, punk-goth, 24 year-old, nose-ring wearing biker named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), who had a history of sexual abuse and man-hating in her own life (flashbacks revealed she had murdered her father by setting him afire with gasoline after repeated abuse) and was raised by the state from a young age. She also suffered brutal sexual abuse from her new guardian - a perverted, manipulative probation officer (Peter Andersson), who first demanded blow-jobs in exchange for money and favorable reports, and then forced rape after handcuffing her to a bed - until she found retributive revenge. She secretly videotaped her rape, threatened blackmail, beat him and tied him up, subjected him to dildo-anal rape, and tattooed his abdomen with the statement: "I'M A SADIST PIG AND A RAPIST."
Lisbeth (the "girl with the dragon tattoo" on her back) was curious about Mikael's quest into the Vanger family, and provided him with an essential clue (regarding some strange numbers). She soon after joined him on Vangers' remote island, exemplifying her advanced computer research skills and photographic memory. Together, they pursued leads from photographs, news articles, Harriet's belongings, unsolved police cases, and the Vanger's own business records.
One of the major breaks in the case of Harriet's disappearance was a set of intriguing multiple photographs taken during a Children's Day Parade in 1966 in the town of Hedestat, shot in rapid sequence and viewed as a film. The most important of the photos was the one seen from Harriet's point-of-view - she was fearful of the startling sight of her teen brother Martin Vanger (in a tell-tale blue striped sweater) stalking her from across the street during the parade - after which she fled and disappeared.
The major step forward in their investigation came from a set of puzzling strange names and numbers (not phone numbers) in the back of Harriet's diary. As Lisbeth suspected, they referred to verses in the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, with descriptions of rationales for the racist murders of five female victims, all with Jewish names ("It fits with the pseudo religious rituals"). Harriet undoubtedly knew the killers and had "discovered a pattern" of murder (from 1949 to 1965) - that's why she disappeared.
Mikael and Lisbeth pursued the business accounts of the Vanger Group family, finding evidence that Martin had traveled to the five murder locales with his father Gottfried. Along with other victims, Harriet was being raped by her father Gottfried Vanger (a member of Hitler's youth group in the 30s and later a Nazi, along with two other Vanger brothers, Richard and Harald) and her own brother Martin.
At the family dock (witnessed by Martin), in an act of self-defense in 1965, Harriet clobbered drunken Gottfried with a rowboat oar and drowned him, and then fled in a car (hiding under a blanket) with the help of look-alike cousin Anita (who later died of breast cancer in England at the age of 37), her closest friend. Anita had covered up the fact that she had aided Harriet in escaping the island. (Mikael realized he was mistaken. Both Anita and Harriet were his baby-sitters.) Gottfried's death was blamed on his drinking and a fall into the lake.
Ultimately the two uncovered evidence to incriminate Martin, who was the current head of the Vanger group and befriending the quest of Mikael. (Martin's father Gottfried was a racist Nazi sympathizer who had passed on the love of killing "whores, immigrants" to his son, although Gottfried "mixed his hobby with race and religion"). Martin was still active as a serial sex-killer and had lost count since the mid-60s regarding how many he had killed (Mari was his first kill in 1964 - Gottfried had showed Martin how to strangle her.)
Martin admitted he left behind no bodies like his father had, by dumping his corpses in the sea. When he was found out, Martin almost killed Mikael by hanging him in his underground torture cellar, but was saved by Lisbeth at the last minute. She watched as his fleeing vehicle crashed, overturned down an embankment, and caught fire, and his immobilized body was incinerated in the blaze. She had no sympathy for him, unlike Mikael: "He was a killer and a rapist and he enjoyed it...He wasn't a victim. He was an evil motherf--ker who hated women."
Harriet (taking the name Anita Vanger when she fled) was found grown up and living in Australia, although every year on her birthday from a different worldwide location, she had sent Henrik a framed, pressed and dried flower (he had thought they were coming from her taunting killer).
In the conclusion, Lisbeth provided Mikael with "reading material" during the last few weeks of his incarceration. The material consisted of hacked documents proving that Mikael had been set-up. Mikael's next issue of Millennium exposed Wennerstrom for using his companies to commit serious financial crimes (setting up cartels for drug trafficking and gun-running).
An unidentified woman was seen in a surveillance tape, recognized as Lisbeth only by Mikael. She had extorted money from 44 year-old tycoon Wennerstrom (he had withdrawn funds from his offshore bank account in the Cayman Islands) before he committed suicide in his apartment in Marbella, Spain. In the final image, she had taken a new disguise, was chauffeured in a limousine, and strolled along a resort beach area.
Convicted, but Framed Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist)
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace)
Disappearance of Harriet Vanger in 1966
Revenge on Lisbeth's Probation Officer
Lisbeth's Dragon Tattoo on Back
Lisbeth Setting Her Abusive Father on Fire
Look-alike Cousin Anita and Harriet Were Both Mikael's Babysitters
The Killer: Martin Vanger in Parade Photograph
Mikael Confronting Martin in His Underground Torture Cellar
Martin Dying in Fiery Crash
Harriet Found Alive in Australia
Harriet's Father Gottfried's Death
Mikael's New Issue of Millennium - An Expose
British Agent 006 Trevelyan Had Faked His Death; Bond Battled And Killed Both Villainess Assassin Xenia Onatopp and Trevelyan
The title of director Martin Campbell's Bond crime-thriller, GoldenEye, was a code-name that referred to an awesome, top-secret space weapon system. It was to be used on London to cripple its economic system and cause a worldwide financial meltdown.
In the pre-title credits sequence, nine years before the events of the film, British agent 007 James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was working alongside British secret agent 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). Their assignment was to destroy a Soviet nerve gas factory at the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility, but the mission went awry and Trevelyan was executed. As he was shot by General Ouromov (Gottfried John), Trevelyan called out: "For England, James."
Later, it was revealed that the "murdered" Trevelyan had faked his own death ("Back from the dead"). Trevelyan showed himself in a St. Petersburg, Russia scrapyard littered with broken-down statues and busts of former Soviet leaders. Within the maze of bronze objects, a dark and backlit figure emerged ("Hello, James") -- Bond was shocked as he looked upon the half-scarred face of the traitorous defector. Trevelyan sneered as he greeted his former friend who was so doggedly loyal to MI6 and its missions.
Trevelyan was the villainous terrorist of the Russian crime ring named Janus Syndicate, based in Cuba in the mid-1990s, and the mastermind behind the theft of GoldenEye.
In the film's tense conclusion, the two agents engaged in a fight-to-the-death combat atop his destroyed control center-lair in Cuba. Bond raced to disarm the transmitter-antenna of a large satellite dish communicating with a second, deadly rogue GoldenEye satellite nuclear-weapon.
Reversing the situation, Bond held his enemy over the massive parabolic dish by his ankles, and they exchanged a final brief conversation before Bond dropped him: ("For England, James?" "No. For me"). After the villain fell to the ground, the massive satellite transmitter-antenna crashed down on him to end his life.
The "Execution" of Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean)
Trevelyan Alive Nine Years Later - A Faked Death
Bond vs. Trevelyan
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Ben Affleck's directorial debut film was an adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel Gone, Baby, Gone. In the film's opening voice-over narration during the credits, private investigator Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) spoke about how his job was to find missing people because of his connections in the tough neighborhood where he grew up (in the working class area of Dorchester near Boston):
The police were making little headway on the case of a missing and abducted 4 year-old daughter Amanda (Madeline O'Brien), along with her favorite toy doll "Mirabelle" (actually "Annabelle"). She was the daughter of slutty, cocaine-addicted, ignorant and neglectful mother Helene McCready (Amy Ryan).
Amanda's Aunt Beatrice McCready (Amy Madigan), hired two other private detectives to help in the case (who were familiar with the neighborhood), to enter a world of gangs, drug dealers, murderous child-molesting pedophiles, and a web of corrupt cops:
They assisted other police detectives, including:
As it turned out, Amanda's kidnapping (and her murder) had been faked and she was found living happily with recently-retired police Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and his wife Francine (Kippy Goldfarb), who reasoned that the child was better off with them (they had also suffered their own daughter being kidnapped and murdered years earlier). Doyle begged with Patrick to reconsider turning him in, but Patrick refused:
There were many unsettling and unresolved ramifications of Doyle's arrest and the discovery of Amanda, including Patrick's breakup with an argumentative Angie (who hadn't wanted Patrick to notify the authorities), and Amanda's return to her irresponsible and negligent mother (her mother oddly exclaimed to the press: "I feel like 9/11 right now").
In the final lines, Patrick volunteered to look after Amanda as her irresponsible mother went out on a date with someone she met during the ordeal, without arranging for a baby-sitter. He spoke to Amanda on the sofa, who was holding her doll and watching television:
PI Patrick Kenzie
Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan)
News Broadcast of Abduction: Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) Mother of Child
"Missing" Abducted Amanda McCready
Captain Doyle (Morgan Freeman) Asking Patrick to Reconsider Turning Him In
The Arrest of Captain Doyle
Amanda Released to State Police by Mrs. Doyle
Amanda Returned to Mother Helene
The Last Scene
Gone Girl (2014)
The "Gone Girl" Amy Had Faked Her Own Disappearance, in Order to Frame Her Husband Nick for Her Murder
Director David Fincher's positively-reviewed dark crime thriller had the advantage of being adapted for the screen by the writer of the original 2012 best-selling novel, Gillian Flynn (with her debut script). The trashy who-dun-it story and cautionary tale was conveyed mostly through flashbacks, dialogue and major plot twists.
The five year loveless, dysfunctional, and disintegrated marriage of a young couple on the verge of divorce - with financial problems and frequent domestic disputes - was the kickstarter for the plot:
The couple were reduced to lower social status due to stock market crash losses and unemployment for both of them, and they were forced to move out of NYC to Middle America. The story really began when Nick's wife went missing from their fictional suburban North Carthage, Missouri home (Nick's Ozark Mountains boyhood home), and Nick became the prime suspect of foul play in the tabloids.
The homicide detectives, led by Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), uncovered many clues and possible motivations or complications in the case. Meanwhile, tabloid journalists, influenced and spearheaded by shameless Ellen Abbot (Missi Pyle) (a character similar to TV's Nancy Grace), rushed to judge Nick as the major suspect for the murder-disappearance of his wife, although he couldn't be arrested without evidence of a body:
Nick hired a NYC defense lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), who sought to prove his innocence - and evidence was revealed that Amy was sociopathic. It was found that two of Amy's ex-boyfriends had damning information about her:
By the film's conclusion, after Amy was reunited with Nick, it was obvious that Amy had added to her lengthy past history of faking things, lying, framing others, or being very deceptive:
While hiding out at Desi's lake house, Amy framed Desi, making it look like he kidnapped, raped and abused her, although he was attempting to help her when her runaway plan fell apart. In fact, she seduced him and killed him during sex - a grisly murder sequence when she reached under her pillow and slit his throat right after he orgasmed - (and returned to her home covered with blood to shower).
In the unusual and unsatisfying ending, after being reunited, Amy was cleared of any wrong-doing. And she received no punishment for the cold-blooded murder of Desi.
However, she entrapped Nick - she insisted they remain a couple because she was pregnant (she claimed she had impregnated herself with Nick's sperm from a sperm bank fertility clinic). Nick realized he had to stay with Amy, in part to protect his future child from her.
In the film's last line, Nick told Amy (in voice-over) as he stroked her hair:
Prime Suspect Nick
Amy - Sex with Nick
Nick - Sex with Andie Fitzgerald (Emily Ratajkowski)
Amy - Sex with Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) Before Murdering Him
Bloody Amy Showering
After Desi's Murder
The Film's Final Image
The Good German (2006)
Before Leaving Germany by Plane, Lena (Who Had Murdered Corporal Tully) Admitted to Jake That She Had Given The Names of 12 Jews to the Gestapo, To Acquire Safe Passage Out of Berlin
Steven Soderbergh's atmospheric, film-noirish and experimental B/W film was a mystery-thriller tale of sad romance.
The dramatic tale was set in bombed-out, post-war Berlin, Germany, a divided city. Berlin was the location of the Potsdam Conference of Allied Powers in 1945. The main protagonist was:
Besides his work, Jake was interested in locating a past acquaintance:
He was shocked to soon learn that she was now the sex-slave of his sleazy, pimping, cruel, sadistic and callous US Army driver Corporal Tully (Tobey Maguire) - an opportunistic black marketeer who was attempting to help her escape to the West.
Lena had been Jake's love interest and secretary before the war, but he had lost track of his former love and he was determined to find out more about her and her missing husband, Emil Brandt (Christian Oliver). (Lena falsely claimed her missing and wanted husband had died in the war.)
The three main sections of the film were told from different viewpoints: first Tully, then Jake, and finally Lena. Jake was warned not to get involved by various competing interests, and clearly cautioned by American Colonel Muller (Beau Bridges): "When I was at West Point, we put a uniform on a mule."
The plot unfolded more completely when Corporal Tully was found murdered and pulled out of the river with a bullet in his gut. Jake appeared to be the only one interested in solving the murder. The persevering Geismer was often bloodied and beaten up, but he slowly put together the pieces of the puzzle:
The Final Airport Scene: Revelations Between Jake (George Clooney) and Lena (Cate Blanchett)
Goodnight Mommy (2014, Austria) (aka Ich Seh, Ich Seh, or I See, I See)
There was Only One Twin - Elias. The Other Identical Twin Lukas Was Killed in an "Accident" (Probably One That Also Disfigured the Face of The Mother) Before the Events of the Film. Experiencing Deep Denial and Guilt, Elias Was Only Imagining That Lukas Was Alive.
This chilling Austrian-German psychological thriller, a dark and disturbing fairy tale written and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, was about two identical 9 year-old twins and their dysfunctional relationship with their mother:
They lived with their single TV personality-host mother (Susanne Wuest) (recently divorced) in the isolated Austrian countryside in a large modern two-story house. Unexpectedly, she returned presumably from a facial plastic (or reconstructive) surgery operation (to start a new life?), appearing with her face heavily bandaged and swollen, with a changed personality ("She's so different" - the boys thought). Questions remained unanswered: How was her face damaged? Was it an "accident" or was she maimed or disfigured by one of her sons?
Bruised and unrecognizable to them, she appeared quick to judge and punish, less loving, more erratic and jealous of her boys' closeness. She required complete silence and peace in order to recuperate: no light in the house and no playing inside among other restrictions. The two frightened sons suspiciously believed that their radically-transformed mother who was now disciplining them more severely than usual, was an imposter. They also believed that she was refusing to acknowledge Lukas - as a form of punishment - and not for the real reason -- LUKAS DIDN'T EXIST - the film's obligatory spoiler twist.
There were numerous clues that Lukas was gone:
In the brilliant first two-thirds of the film, the focus was on the strange and random behavior of the mother (a "bait-and-switch" directorial technique), not on what the twins were doing. They went to extremes to test and torment her - changing the film's mood to torture-porn. Elias let a giant pet Madagascar hissing cockroach squirm from his sleeping mother's chest into her mouth. In a ghastly and brutal torture sequence, the two twins tied their mother to her bed and demanded that she prove her identity, or tell them where their real mother was.
Instead of using duct tape, the two superglued her mouth shut to keep her quiet. To feed her, Elias used manicure scissors to split open her glue-hardened lips, causing her mouth to bleed. She started to pretend that Lukas was still alive (and set a place for him at the table) and claimed that he didn't die in the "accident." When she soiled herself and was momentarily freed, she attempted to escape, yet fell teeth-first into cement and knocked herself out - awakening again bound in the living room and surrounded by candles.
Finally, the two boys threatened to set the curtains on fire. Ignoring her, Elias pushed Lukas’s hand into the curtains, and set the room (and their mother) on fire. It was not clear whether Elias also perished in the blaze.
The twist was that Lukas had probably died in the same "accident" that had disfigured his mother - most likely a car accident, but maybe in a deadly fire (in an earlier house), or by drowning in the pond during the underwater breathing game. All along, deranged and psychotic Elias, out of both denial and guilt as the traumatized and surviving twin - and as a "unreliable narrator," was imagining that Lukas was still alive.
Elias and Lukas
"You're Not Our Mom"
The Cockroach Scene
The Ending - A Flashback to the Original House Fire
Benjamin 'Rescued' Elaine From Her Marriage Ceremony, But Their Future Was Uncertain
Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) made a mad rush to interrupt and stop the wedding of Mrs. Robinson's (Anne Bancroft) daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). He ran head-on down the street to the church (the main entrance was locked), then entered its upper balcony and looked down in shock as the ceremony concluded.
He pounded on the glass, hopelessly calling out: "Elaine! Elaine! Elaine! Elaine!", then fought off Elaine's father in order to grab the newlywed in front of the startled celebrants (who were swearing at him), as Elaine responded to her mother's "Too late" warning, with "Not for me." Ben secured the church door with a large cross after the two raced out of the church, to board a passing city bus.
They climbed onboard and rushed to the rear seat of a yellow Santa Barbara Municipal Bus and looked out the rear glass window, then turned smiling and ecstatic to glance back at puzzling, stern and cold looks from the other elderly passengers of another generation. The Sounds of Silence was reprised on the soundtrack as they stared silently ahead, uncharacteristically silent toward each other and not even looking at each other - journeying toward an unpredictable future after successfully rebelling against the parental generation.
Benjamin Running to the Church
Interrupting Elaine's Wedding and Fleeing with Her
The Final Image
The Grifters (1990)
Desperate Con Artist Lilly Accidentally Killed Her Son Roy And Then Took His Money
Director Stephen Frears' complex post-noir crime-drama story (with the tagline: "SEDUCTION. BETRAYAL. MURDER. WHO WAS CONNING WHO?") set in Los Angeles was about three con artists whose lives were inextricably intertwined, especially the two females who were engaged in a deadly power-struggle love-triangle for the male's attention:
In the film's conclusion, vengeful Myra had been shot to death by Lilly, and then Myra's face-blasted and disfigured corpse was made to look like Lilly's. Roy was called upon, as next-of-kin, to identify his mother at the Phoenix morgue - he concealed that he noticed Lilly's right hand did not have its tell-tale cigar burn mark.
Then, Lilly was confronted by Roy as she appeared to be stealing his money in his place. She argued that she was on the run and needed his money, and claimed she might make a break to get out of the con games and grifting (although she'd never had a legitimate job in her life) - she desperately begged and begged for his money, to tide her over:
When she came close and seductively kissed him, he asked: "Lilly, Jesus, what are you doing?" She replied: "Nothing at all, nothing at all," but then in a bizarre twist, she swung a suitcase full of cash at her son's head as he was drinking water from a glass. The glass smashed and cut an artery in his neck - and he profusely bled to death on the floor in front of her!
Red-dressed Lilly gathered up the strewn cash, descended in a caged elevator, and calmly drove away.
In the Morge, It was Myra's Right Hand, Not Lilly's
Lilly Dillon (Anjelica Huston)
A Fateful, Incestuous Kiss
Lilly Descending in Elevator
Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
(alphabetical by film title)
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M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z