Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

Although Not Tried for the Murder of His Lover Cora's Husband Nick, Frank Was Charged With Her Murder and Faced Execution After a Tragic Car Accident

Director Tay Garnett's film noir was adapted from the 1934 crime novel by James M. Cain. It told about a drifter named Frank Chambers (John Garfield) who was hired to work at a rural California diner called Twin Oaks. He immediately fell in love with elderly owner Nick Smith's (Cecil Kellaway) sexy younger blonde wife Cora (Lana Turner).

The femme fatale reciprocrated Frank's interest and they became lovers. Then, the two schemed to kill Nick and make it look like an accident. Their first attempt at murdering Nick was botched, but not the second time. They got him drunk and then arranged to drive along the coast road with him. Frank bludgeoned a wine bottle over Nick's head, killing him. Then, Frank pushed the car off the cliff (with Nick in it), and also injured himself by getting trapped inside the car himself (Frank was subsequently hospitalized).

The DA Kyle Sackett (Leon Ames) suspected the two of murder, but only tried Cora for the crime. To neatly wrap up the case, Sackett wanted to pin the murder on Frank - but then on second thought, he shrewdly proposed that Cora was the one responsible for the murder, because Frank was drunk and didn't "know what happened." According to Sackett, Cora's motivation for killing both of them was that "she wanted that sweet little piece of property and that ten thousand dollar insurance money all to herself instead of sharing it with you."

The manipulative Sackett goaded Frank into signing a complaint against Cora, destroying any remnant of trust they had for each other. After implicating her in the crime, Frank was assured that he wouldn't be charged as Cora's accomplice in the murder trial. Cora felt double-crossed, and she became enraged at her own lawyer Arthur Keats (Hume Cronyn):

So you, you and this man [Frank], this so-called man, you two framed me so that I would get it and he would go free. Well, he's not gonna squirm out of it that easy...He was in this mess as much as I was and I'm gonna tell it to the world.

She tried to implicate Frank in the murder - but her anger was never heard by the DA. Without clear-cut evidence against her, Keats was able to have Cora plead 'guilty' to both counts: murder (against Nicholas Smith) and the attempted murder (of Frank Chambers). She accepted a plea bargain - guilty of manslaughter, and received probation (in other words, she was acquitted and freed).

Although the two lovers were divided, they began to run the diner together, and it was flourishing. For respectability's sake, Frank and Cora were advised by her lawyer to marry. But soon, Frank was two-timing Cora with another woman, red-headed Madge Gorland (Audrey Totter) with the well-worn line: "With my brains and your looks, we can go places." He spent a week with her in Tijuana, Mexico while Cora was gone. When Frank returned, Cora threatened to denounce him to the DA and be rid of him when she learned of his affair. She knew she couldn't be tried again for the same crime. They both became suspicious and fearful of each other. However, they were finally able to reconcile with each other.

The noir's shock ending occurred when the star-crossed lovers were struck by tragedy. Distracted during a 'kisses that come from life, not death' while he was driving, Frank ran off the road, killing Cora in the fatal auto accident. Cora's lifeless arm fell off the seat, and a tube of lipstick slowly dropped to the floor of the car and onto the ground.

Frank was charged and convicted with the murder and sentenced to death. The newspaper headlines screamed:

Killed Wife In Bogus Auto Accident, Charged to Face Murder Trial - Sensational Cora Smith Case Has Aftermath in Action against Husband

When Frank protested his innocence in killing Cora: ("I didn't do it, I didn't do it...I'm not going to go in the gas chamber for killing her!), the DA informed him that evidence of Frank's complicity in the murder of Cora's husband Nick was discovered, and that being acquitted of Cora's murder would be futile. Frank faced execution, because Cora's farewell note to Frank (written just before she died) had "just enough of a confession to convict you of helping her kill her husband" - according to Sackett.

Frank reasoned that he would pay with his life for a crime he didn't commit, making up for getting away with the murder of Cecil. In the ironic ending, Frank had a prayer request - he asked the priest to make things right with Cora so that she would know that her murder was only an innocent accident:

Father, you were right. It all works out. I guess God knows more about these things than we do. Somehow or other, Cora paid for Nick's life with hers. And now I'm going to. Father, would you send up a prayer for me and Cora, and if you could find it in your heart, make it that we're together, wherever it is?

The Two Illicit Lovers: Frank and Cora

Cora on Trial: Two Counts Against Her, Although Plea Bargained

Frank Flirting With Madge

Frank and Cora Reconciled and Driving Home

"Kisses That Come From Life, Not Death"

The Car Crash

Cora's Lifeless Arm With Tube of Lipstick in Her Hand

Frank - About to be Executed

Predator 2 (1990)

Predators Had Been Hunting Humans for Generations; Cop Harrigan Single-Handedly Killed the Predator, And Was Presented With a Trophy By a Group of Other Predators, But It Was Predicted That They Would Eventually Return

This futuristic sci-fi action sequel by director Stephen Hopkins followed the original film Predator (1987), which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer, the leader of an elite special forces team fighting an advanced alien life-form. Its tagline described the 'predator':

Silent. Invisible. Invincible. The Ultimate Hunter. This Time... Los Angeles, 1997.

The setting was Los Angeles in 1997:

The heat wave continues. It's 109 degrees in Los Angeles. As drought-ridden Los Angeles swelters in agonizing heat, drug lords wage warfare in the streets.

The city (a war zone), with violence out of control, was plagued by numerous and bloody drug wars and feuds between Colombian and Jamaican gangs:

  • Colombians - led by Ramon Vega (Corey Rand)
  • Jamaicans - led by voodoo high priest drug lord King Willie (Calvin Lockhart)

In the follow-up film, LAPD Lieutenant cop Michael Harrigan (Danny Glover) had discovered that the scenes of slaughter (skinned corpses, for instance) among the drug cartels were actually the work of the supernatural, ET Predator (Kevin Peter Hall reprising his role), who was equipped with infra-red vision and active camouflage.

The sophisticated Predator was set up to enter into a trap in a meat packing-slaughter house plant by the police authorities. In a lengthy battle with the creature, it wounded and then killed Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey) with a bladed thrown smart-disc. [Keyes was using his position as leader of the task force investigating the cartels to pursue the Predator and capture it for further study.] Harrigan pursued the Predator into an apartment building and then into its own spaceship hidden underground.

There, Harrigan killed the brutal Predator by slicing it in the chest with its own bladed throwing smart-disc: "That's right, asshole. S--t happens!" Suddenly and unexpectedly, a group or clan of other predators, an Elder Predator and eight others, materialized out of thin air to confront Harrigan.

Outnumbered, Harrigan dropped his glowing green disc weapon and muttered: "OK, who's next?", but these Predators did not attack - they surprisingly let him live. They carried off Harrigan's slain foe, and then the Elder Predator rewarded Harrigan with a trophy prize for killing one of their own ("Take it"). The Elder tossed at Harrigan an antique, flintlock pistol from the 18th century (dated 1715) that had belonged to the famed Barbary pirate Raphael Adolini.

[Note: The extra-terrestrial warrior race of Predators had been visiting Earth and hunting humans for sport for generations.]

The aliens departed, in spectacular fashion in their spaceship, causing tremendous shaking with debris flying into the air.

Garber (Adam Baldwin), a member of Keyes' task force, arrived - and was furiously regretful about not capturing the alien for study, in the final two lines:

Garber: "Harrigan! What the f--k happened in there, huh? Goddamn it, we came so close."
Harrigan: "Don't worry, asshole, you'll get another chance."

LAPD Cop Michael Harrigan (Danny Glover) Battling Predator

The Predator (Kevin Peter Hall)

Harrigan Striking and Killing the Predator in Its Mid-Section With A Glowing Bladed Disc

Harrigan Surrounded by Other Predators

A Trophy Gift to Harrigan: 1715 Flintlock Pistol

Last Exchange Between Harrigan and Garber

Premonition (2007)

The Days of the Week (of Her Husband's Death) That Time-Warped Housewife Linda Experienced Were Out of Order, An Unexplained Phenomena - She Was Ultimately Unable to Change Fate And In Fact Helped Cause His Death in the Car Accident

This lukewarm, hyped-up, mysterious and supernatural thriller by German director Mennan Yapo and writer Bill Kelly explained part of its plot with two taglines:

  • Reality is only a nightmare away.
  • It's not your imagination.

[Note: It was not a remake of Yogen (2004, Jp.) - a Japanese horror film with the English title of "Premonition."]

The convoluted, sometimes illogical (with lots of plot holes) and unoriginal trick twist, semi-similar to the hook in Groundhog Day (1993), was that the days of the week were shown out of sequence. The puzzled female protagonist, shocked by the news of her husband's death, became disconnected from linear time during sleep, and was arbitrarily jumping around the scrambled days of the week of his death (before and after he was dead). No wonder she became completely confused and disoriented.

The Hanson family (supposedly a perfect marriage) was composed of:

  • Linda (Sandra Bullock), a housewife, slightly discontented
  • Jim (Julian McMahon), a loving husband
  • and two daughters, older Bridgette (Courtney Taylor Burness) (with scarred face) and younger Megan (Shyann McClure)

On a Thursday morning, she received a visit from Sheriff Reilly (Marc Macaulay), telling her that her husband had died in a car accident the day before - on Wednesday. But when she woke up the next day - it was now Monday, and he was still alive - she thought she had experienced a nightmare. She was often experiencing other-worldly premonitions (or ESP) of the impending death of her loved one, although ultimately had little control over fate.

When she told her lithium-prescribing psychiatrist Dr. Norman Roth (Peter Stormare) that she didn't know what was happening day-by-day, he responded:

"Seems a little complicated...Obviously, you're dealing with some inconsistencies."

At one hour into the film, Linda drew a chart of the days of the week and what she remembered doing each day.

One Week
(The Days Appeared in Mixed Up Order in the Film)
Events of Each Day
(in Chronological Order)
(6) Sunday
Linda went to church, where she spoke to Father Kennedy (Jude Ciccolella) about case histories of unexplained premonitions, and she felt she had lost faith; Linda drove to the Mile 220 marker and tried to imagine accident; Jim took the girls on a day outing; that evening Linda encouraged love-talk to each other and their family; the two ended up in her backyard during windstorm, and she feared their troubled marriage: "We're running out of time"; a black crow was electrocuted when an electrical transformer exploded; she made love to Jim (she later showed signs of pregnancy); she told him: "I had a dream you're gonna die"
(2) Monday
Linda awoke and was aghast to find Jim alive in the kitchen eating breakfast; he asked her to take the kids to school since he was late for a Monday morning work meeting with a new assistant manager; Linda fell on remains of bloody dead black crow in backyard near her clothesline (and left bloodstains on patio door)
(4) Tuesday
Linda awoke, hugged Jim in their bathroom's shower; she told him that she was confused: "I don't even know how to explain it"; there were no scars on Bridgette's face; she dropped the children at school, then located Dr. Roth in phone book (she ripped out page) and met him for the first time in his office; Linda told him of her problem: "I wake up and he's dead. I wake up and he's alive." Roth told her it was common to daydream about someone dying; he prescribed Lithium for her anxiety; at husband's workplace, Linda met blonde Claire Francis (Amber Valletta), Jim's new co-worker (and assistant manager), and became suspicious; Linda threw Lithium pills into sink; her daughter Bridgette crashed through a glass patio door and scarred her face; Linda covered mirrors in house; Linda drew a chart of days of week to try to figure out pattern
(7) Wednesday
Linda awoke late - Jim had already taken the girls to school; he tripled his life insurance's death benefits; Jim claimed he had an out-of-town business trip (although was contemplating an affair with Claire and had booked a room for them, but then cancelled their plans); this was the day of Jim's death at Mile 220 marker (on Hwy 57 West) where Linda was complicit in the tragic accident; she drove to the site of the impending car crash, drove up behind him as she called him and told him to turn his car around, and unintentionally caused him to stall his car in the path of jack-knifing (and exploding) fuel-gas semi-truck - she witnessed his demise
(1) Thursday
Linda awoke, took two daughters to school; received phone machine message from Jim (from the day before) about his love for her, but then his call was interrupted by someone else's call (Linda's own cellphone call); she received news from the Sheriff of Jim's death the day before ("He died on the scene"); Linda informed daughters of the bad news, then Linda's mother Joanne (Kate Nelligan) came over and helped Linda cope with loss
(5) Friday
Linda drove to Claire's (husband's potential mistress) house and realized that Jim had been planning on cheating on her; Linda felt: "Maybe it was supposed to happen"; her husband's term life insurance policy guaranteed income for mortgage and daughters' education; she made funeral arrangements
(3) Saturday
Linda awoke, wearing one of Jim's blue workshirts; mirrors in house were covered; she had been prescribed Lithium (by Dr. Roth); family and friends were in mourning downstairs, ready to attend funeral; Linda was in denial about Jim's death; Linda saw cut-marks with stitches on Bridgette's face; everyone went to Jim's funeral, where Linda became crazed at the sight of Jim's severed body in opened coffin; during delivery of a eulogy at outdoor gravesite, Linda noticed Claire at the periphery of the group behind tree, and Linda claimed she had never met her before; after the funeral, Linda was taken away by a summoned Dr. Roth (on Joanne's recommendation) and committed for treatment at a mental health facility; Linda was sedated by injection and fell asleep
(8) End of Film (Undetermined Time)
Widowed Linda and her two daughters were moving on - to another house and life, and Linda was pregnant with Jim's child

Jim and Linda Hanson (Julian McMahon and Sandra Bullock)

Two Hanson Daughters: Bridgette and Megan

Jim's New Co-Worker Claire Francis (Amber Valletta)

Linda Charting the Days

The Shocking Accident


The Prestige (2006)

Showman Robert Angier's 'Real Transported Man' Trick Did Not Cause Him to Die (Tesla's Cloning Machine Invention Created an Exact Angier Duplicate or Clone Who Would Die Instead Each Time). Lord Caldlow (A Disguised and Vengeful Angier) Staged His Own Murder to Frame Competing Magician Borden. Borden Was Hanged, But Then Miraculously Reappeared, Since His Trick Was That He Had A Twin (the Fallon Brothers, Albert and Frederick). Borden/Albert Then Killed Angier, and Reclaimed His Daughter Jess

The Christopher Nolan-directed mystery-drama had a very appropriate tagline - referencing dueling stage magicians whose friendship turned into deadly one-upmanship competition, using teleportation devices:

A Friendship That Became a Rivalry.

The convoluted, non-linear thriller began with the taunting words "Are you watching closely?" (another of the film's taglines) Part of the reason for some of the uproar over this film's twist was that it had a 'supernatural' explanation that could not have been guessed, and left some viewers feeling cheated. The tale was further complicated by moving back and forth across time periods (and having flashbacks within flashbacks) to lead up to the film's climax.

The film's first image under the title screen illustrated the film's major plot point - it was a shot of dozens of black gentlemen's top hats spread across a woodsy area - proving that scientific inventor/wizard Nicola Tesla's (David Bowie) transporter invention (or cloning machine) that first experimented with top hats, was actually duplicating (or cloning) magician Angier each time during his magic trick.

The film opened at the end of the 19th century Victorian England, in London. There were three individuals who were both friends and assistants of elderly "Milton the Magician" (Ricky Jay):

  • Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), from the aristocratic class
  • Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo), Angier's wife
  • Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), from the working class

Angier was motivated against Borden with deadly revenge when he blamed him for tying a complex Langford Double knot on his wife Julia's wrists when she was serving as an assistant to Milton in a water tank trick. She was tragically drowned during the failed underwater escape trick.

Angier and Borden emerged with two separate careers, as two vengeful stage illusionists riskily competing with each other's rival magician acts:

  • Alfred Borden, now known as "The Professor," with a mute assistant known as Bernard Fallon
  • Robert Angier, now known as "The Great Danton", a master showman, assisted by Olivia Wenscombe (Scarlett Johansson) and John Cutter (Michael Caine)

They often caused the other's elaborate tricks to fail when they volunteered from the audience and scandalized the competitor's reputation. Both then developed elaborate disappearing acts - one of which was an "ultimate" illusion. Angier had hired scientific inventor/wizard Nicola Tesla (David Bowie) to build a transporter invention (or cloning machine) for his trick:

Borden's 'Transported Man'
Angier's 'Real Transported Man' Trick
In the 'Transported Man' trick, the magician entered one cabinet and exited another across the stage, seemingly having been transported across the entire length of the stage in just one second.

It appeared to use a double, but it couldn't easily be seen how the trick was performed.

Borden was actually two people - twins, in fact.

He explained how he had an exact disguised double - a bearded mute twin assistant named Fallon (also Christian Bale), who had been living half of Borden's life (they often switched or alternated places):

"We each had half of a full life."

The trick was much more supernatural or miraculous (and deadly) since a real duplicate or exact clone of Angier was created with every performance.

Angier was helped by Tesla's transporter (or cloning machine), which truly worked. It created an exact replica of Angier during the spark-filled transport within a large trapezoidal box.

But every time the trick was performed, Angier's double routinely had to die - by drowning, in a locked water tank below the machine.

In the ending, Angier performed his 'Real Transported Man' trick and 'accidentally' drowned in a water tank (used for another trick) located beneath the stage, when he disappeared and fell through a trap door from above. Borden was accused of the crime of Angier's murder and sentenced to hang) (although later it was revealed that he was falsely accused.

Just before Borden's execution by hanging on death row, a collector named Lord Caldlow - actually Angier in disguise - appeared at the prison. Before the hanging, Angier/Caldlow persuaded Borden to give up all his secrets, tricks, and devices, in exchange for his adoption of Borden's blonde daughter Jess (Samantha Mahurin) by Sarah (Rebecca Hall), who would otherwise have become a ward of the state.

It was then revealed that Angier had remorselessly framed Borden by staging his own drowning murder:

"I must leave you Borden. Yes, you, Borden, sitting there in your cell, awaiting your death. For my murder."

[Note: When the crime was played a second time in the film, it was clear that Borden had nothing to do with Angier's drowning death. The water tank would catch and drown each of the duplicates every night, purposely supervised by blind stagehands. Numerous water tanks were discovered that contained the duplicates of Angier that drowned each night of the performance.]

Angier was taking everything away from Borden as he had planned, but things didn't end up well for Angier. As Borden was about to be hanged, he said the words: "Abra - cadabra."

After the hanging, Borden miraculously appeared again and fatally shot Angier. Angier was astonished, asking: "A brother, a twin? You were Fallon, the whole time?" As Angier slowly died, Borden explained how he had an illusionary twin 'double' for himself, so that the transporter trick could be accomplished:

"We were both Fallon. We were both Borden...We took turns. The trick is where we would swap...There's nothing easy about two men sharing one life."

"Alfred Borden" was the name adopted by the twin Fallon brothers, Albert and Frederick. Each of them took turns being Borden and Fallon, each living half of Alfred's life to prepare for their "Transported Man" trick. The difficulty was with the women in their lives - ("We each loved one of them. I loved Sarah, he loved Olivia") - Albert loved Sarah while Frederick was with Olivia. The surviving twin after the hanging was Albert! Borden/Albert claimed he had 'sacrified' a lot of his life for the good of his trick.

Angier then described how tough his own magic trick was on him, and urged Borden to look around.

I've made sacrifices...It took courage to climb into that machine every night, not knowing if I'd be the man in the box or in the prestige. Do you want to see what it cost me? You didn't see where you are, did you? Look. Look.

Borden/Albert realized that he was in the underground holding area for the water tanks holding the drowned Angier clones inside of them. Angier gasped to Borden/Albert that he was totally justified in his expensive and worldwide efforts to create the illusionary trick and create "magic" for audiences:

You never understood why we did this. The audience knows the truth. The world is simple. It's miserable. Solid, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you could make them wonder. And then you, then you got to see something very special. You really don't know. It was, it was the look on their faces.

Angier inhaled deeply and then expired, kicking his feet out, toppling a lamp, and setting fire to the theatre. In the film's epilogue, Cutter again described (in voice-over) the three parts of any magic trick (in shortened form):

  • the Pledge ("The magician shows you something ordinary")
  • the Turn ("The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it into something extraordinary. But you wouldn't clap yet...")
  • the Prestige ("Making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back")

Borden/Albert reappeared in the third part of a magic act ("the prestige") - he reclaimed his daughter Jess that patron Angier/Caldlow had wanted to take away from him. Cutter ended with the words: "Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it, because, of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled."

Hint: Top Hats in a Woodsy Area

Drowning Death of Borden's Wife Julia

Angier's Drowning

Lord Caldlow (Angier in Disguise)

Fallon Twin

Borden (Twin Frederick Fallon) to be Hanged

The Twins: "We were both Fallon, We were both Borden"

Angier's Cloning Machine

After the Hanging, Alfred Borden = Surviving Twin Albert Fallon

Angier's Dying Words to Borden/Albert: About Magic

Borden/Albert Reclaiming His Daughter Jess

Presumed Innocent (1990)

Rusty's Wife Barbara Confessed That She Killed His Ex-Lover Carolyn, Making It Look Like Rape; Rusty Was Investigating His Own Ex-Lover's Murder, and After Becoming the Prime Suspect (He Was Charged with the Murder and Then Acquitted), He Discovered That His Jealous Wife Was the Guilty One

Director Alan J. Pakula's legal drama was about a prosecutor who was charged with the murder of his female colleague and mistress. Its tagline was: "Some People Would Kill For Love."

The main characters involved in the story were:

  • Rozat "Rusty" Sabich (Harrison Ford), the Deputy DA
  • Barbara Sabich (Bonnie Bedelia), Rusty's wife
  • Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi), Rusty's murdered assistant

When Carolyn, Rusty Sabich's assistant, was found raped and murdered, Rusty was assigned to handle the investigation. He found himself trapped in a 'conflict of interest' case to look into his own ex-lover's murder, because he had engaged in a clandestine affair with Carolyn (that began with sex with her on his office desk).

During the investigation into the case, semen found in the victim's body contained only dead sperm, and the killer's blood was Type A (matching Rusty's). Rusty's fingerprints (on a beer glass) and Sabich rug fibers were found in Carolyn's apartment - and Rusty's affair with Carolyn was ultimately uncovered. Rusty was charged with the murder and put on trial.

However, with the fact that Carolyn was unable to conceive (due to a tubal ligation operation), it was unusual why she would have used a spermicidal contraceptive. It appeared that the fluid sample from her body had been planted. As a result of missing and contradictory evidence, and a lack of motive, Rusty was acquitted.

In the film's final minutes, wife Barbara delivered a shocking revelation to her husband. Barbara confessed that she had killed his assistant Carolyn Polhemus due to jealousy regarding their secret adulterous affair.

Barbara admitted her guilt to her husband when he discovered one of his claw hammers (the murder weapon) covered in dried blood and blonde hair and asked her about it. She gave a lengthy rationale:

...You understand what happened had to happen. It couldn't turn out any other way. A woman's depressed with herself, with life, with her husband who made life possible for her 'til he was bewitched by another woman. A destroyer. Abandoned, like someone left for dead, she plans her suicide. Until the dream begins. In the dream, the destroyer is destroyed. That's a dream worth living for...

She described how she had committed the murder and made it look like a rape by a "sex-crazed man."

Rusty's voice-over ended the film, in which he took full blame:

The murder of Carolyn Polhemus remains unsolved. It is a practical impossibility to try two people for the same crime. Even if it wasn't, I couldn't take his mother from my son. I am a prosecutor. I have spent my life in the assignment of blame. With all deliberation and intent, I reached for Carolyn. I cannot pretend it was an accident. I reached for Carolyn, and set off that insane mix of rage and lunacy that led one human being to kill another. There was a crime. There was a victim. And there is punishment.

Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford) Cheating With Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi)

Barbara's Confession of Murder to Her Stunned Husband Rusty

Primal Fear (1996)

There Never Was an Aaron Stampler - Evil Roy Stampler Was In Charge. Stampler Had Faked or Pretended to Have Multiple Personality Disorder To Fool His Lawyer, and To Be Declared Insane and Crazy Rather Than Face Execution for Murder as the Sane Aaron

Director Gregory Hoblit's neo-noirish legal-courtroom thriller was based upon William Diehl's 1993 novel. In the story, a defense attorney vigorously defended a client that he believed was not guilty (due to multiple personality insanity) - with unexpected consequences. Its tagline provided some clues:

Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real.

The main characters were:

  • Martin Vail (Richard Gere), an ambitious, slick high-profile Chicago defense lawyer
  • Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), a stuttering Kentucky altar boy

Vail was hired (pro bono) to defend Aaron who was accused of viciously murdering Chicago's influential Archbishop Richard Rushman (Stanley Anderson) in his residence. The Archbishop was later revealed to be involved in sexual abuse and corruption.

Early on, Vail witnessed how Aaron Stampler suffered from multiple personality disorder with two distinct personas or personalities, due to his suffering abuse at the hands of his father - and continuing abuse by the Archbishop:

  • Roy - a psychotic, sociopathic, and dominant alter-ego
  • Aaron - a normal rational self (who couldn't remember anything about Roy)

During one intense cross-examination in the seemingly impossible case, the violent 'Roy' erupted from Aaron's personality and attacked the Assistant District Attorney prosecutor Janet Venable (Laura Linney), Vail's ex-girlfriend, during the trial. Eventually, Vail was able to clear his client on the grounds of insanity.

The shocking twist of the film was revealed after the trial's conclusion. As Aaron congratulated his lawyer in his cell, he apologized with a stutter for injuring Venable's neck ("Will you t-tell Miss Venable I'm sorry? Tell her I hope her neck is OK"). It suddenly dawned on Vail that Aaron was uncharacteristically remembering what Roy had done, rather than blacking out.

Aaron had unwittingly revealed that he was only pretending to be insane and had actually premeditatively murdered two people:

  • the priest ("...cuttin' up that son of a bitch Rushman? That was just a f--kin' work of art!")
  • and his girlfriend Linda (Azalea Davila) ("That cunt just got what she deserved")

Also, he admitted that Roy was his real personality (and in charge) and that "there never was an Aaron either, counselor."

As Marty left the cell and courtroom, disgraced, devastated and disgusted, he heard 'Roy's' closing words:

We did it, man. We f--kin' did it. We're a great team, you and me. You think I could've done this without you? You're just feelin' a little anger here because you started to care about old Aaron, I can understand that, but - you know, love hurts, Marty. What can I say? Hey, I'm just kiddin', Bud! I didn't mean to hurt your feelings! What else was I supposed to do?

Aaron Stampler
(Edward Norton)

Aaron's Defense Lawyer Marty Vail (Richard Gere)

The Real Personality: "Evil Roy"

Marty Leaving Courtroom

Primer (2004)

An Enigmatic Film - The Accidental Invention of Two Engineers/Entrepreneurs Was A Time-Travel Box, Creating Multiple Issues, Paradoxes, Identities and Questions - and Complete Mistrust

The non-linear film, a complex, low-budget science-fiction tale by writer/director/producer Shane Carruth, was almost impossible to interpret after a single viewing. It was often interrupted by jump-cuts and various unidentified duplicate (and triplicate) reiterations of the main protagonists. Dialogue in the contrived film was very off-putting - almost entirely composed of overlapping, terse techno-babble.

It was a morality tale of sorts, reflected in its tagline:

If you always want what you can't have, what do you want when you can have anything?

Its two main characters were:

  • Aaron (director Shane Carruth himself), dark-haired
  • Abe (David Sullivan), light-haired

The brain-twisting film was partially (and unreliably) narrated (in voice-over) by an Aaron character, who had originally (as the film opened) established a project-work area in his suburban Dallas, Texas garage, to build a revolutionary invention that could be marketed for venture-capital funding. Although there were four engineers (all white-collar guys wearing ties and long-sleeved shirts, day and night) collaborating together to begin, only two emerged as the main characters.

As the result of an experimental accident, the two realized they had stumbled upon a time-travel device - i.e., the ability to travel backwards in time (not forwards), but only as far back in time as the time machine existed. They had built a large coffin-sized "box" that was housed in a locked U-Haul storage facility, where they would go on increasingly longer 'trips' - by remaining in the box. A six-hour stint in the box would reverse time and put the box's occupant 12 hours earlier.

Each time the box was utilized, a double was spawned (from a distance, they watched their own doubles in amazement), and it often meant living each day twice (sometimes with 36 hour days). At first as they experimented, they would drive their present selves to Russellfield (Texas) to hide out in a hotel room, to avoid causitive activity, media input (by unplugging everything) or other disjunctions.

Their first thoughts were to abusively exploit their knowledge - by manipulating the stock market or possibly betting on March Madness games. But then they began to notice numerous problems and repercussions as a result of their new invention:

  • Blackouts, unexplained ear bleeding, and degenerative hand-writing
  • Recursions (dislodgings from reality due to repeated time travels backward to alter reality), disjunctions with time continuums (multiple time-frames and alternate realities), the appearance of doubles and triples
  • An inexplicable "vegetative" comatose state, possibly due to the effects of recursion - experienced by potential VC funding prospect Thomas Granger (Chip Carruth), the father of Rachel Granger (Samantha Thomson), Abe's girlfriend. Apparently, Granger had learned of the time machines and traveled back in time, but something went wrong.

Trust between the two started to erode, fracture and break, when a second "failsafe" machine was built by Abe in secret. It would allow him to go back and nullify any potentially negative consequences that had happened, back to the time of the invention's conception. Things further intensified with the thought of taking one time machine inside another time machine. Both tried to second-guess, re-engineer, or sabotage each other's efforts, by gaining control of each other's "failsafe" machines.

Irresponsibly, the two also tried to change events that they knew would happen - they reorchestrated or reverse-engineered a potential shooting at a party. Aaron was confident that their plan would work, boasting that they were in full control: "We're prescient." However, they fretted about how many trials and iterations it would take to get it "perfect," while at the same time rationalizing their gross manipulations of time:

How many times would it take before he got it right? Three? Four? Twenty? I've decided to believe that only one more would have done it. I can almost sleep at night, if there's only one more. Slowly and methodically, he reverse-engineered a perfect moment. He took from his surroundings what was needed, and made of it something more. And once the details had been successfully navigated, there was nothing left to do but wait for the conflict. Maybe the obligatory, last minute moral debate until the noise of the room escalates into panic and background screams, as the gunman walks in. And eventually, he must have got it perfect, and it must have been beautiful with all the praise and adoration he had coming. He had probably saved lives, after all. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn't been there?

Aaron was made a hero when he saved Rachel from being shot by her ex-boyfriend.

It became clear that time-traveling Aaron (wearing an earpiece toward the end of the film) was listening to recorded dialogue of the day's happenings, following along (as with a "primer") so that he could engineer everything the way he wanted and become the 'primary' controller.

The film ended with versions of Aaron and Abe arguing with each other at an airport. Abe warned Aaron to never return. Aaron (or his double) was seen in a foreign, French-speaking country making plans (in a large airplane hangar?) with workers to build a much larger "box" for group time-travel. In voice-over, he spoke the film's final words of caution:

"And if you look, you will not find me."

Aaron and Abe

The Time-Travel Box

The Professionals (1966)

Abducted Wife Maria Actually Loved Her Kidnapper Raza - The Real Kidnapper Was Her Husband Grant

Director Richard Brooks' western was based upon Frank O'Rourke's novel, A Mule for the Marquesa.

A four-man mercenary team (the film's tagline: "Rough, tough and ready") was hired to complete a task by a Texas railroad tycoon/millionaire Joe W. Grant (Ralph Bellamy), in the year 1916 (at the end of the Mexican Revolution).

Grant wanted the "professionals" to rescue his beautiful wife Maria (Claudia Cardinale), who had been abducted by Mexican revolutionaries led by the guerrilla leader Captain Jesus Raza (Jack Palance). A reward was offered: $10,000 for each man ($1,000 was paid upfront).

  • Henry "Rico" Fardan (Lee Marvin), the team leader, a munitions and tactical expert
  • Jacob "Jake" Sharp (Woody Strode), a scout/tracker, a bow/arrow expert, and a crack rifleman
  • Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), a horse wrangler/specialist
  • Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster), an explosives/dynamite expert

By the film's conclusion, they had completed their job of rescuing the kidnapped wife Maria from Raza's bandit camp, and delivered her to Grant just across the US border. They had also captured the wounded bandit leader.

The plot's twist was that a major character reversal was now fully revealed - Maria actually loved the Mexican outlaw. She was his willing mistress. Grant had "bought" Maria for an arranged marriage, but she had willingly escaped and returned to be with Raza in Mexico. Grant was the real 'kidnapper' - not Raza. When Maria was reunited with Raza, she hugged him.

Dolworth confessed to Rico: "I found out what makes a woman worth $100,000," but agreed she shouldn't be turned loose.

"Turn her loose? After all we've been through together? After all the blood it's cost. Hell, no! You made a contract to kidnap a wife for Mr. J.W. Grant. Now, let's collect that ransom."

When they brought Maria to Grant to get paid for their services, he ordered Raza killed. The professionals wouldn't allow it, led by Dolworth: "You haven't earned the right to kill him." It was obvious that Maria didn't want to be with Grant, and threatened: "I will run away again." She asserted that she belonged with Raza! Grant abused Maria, grabbed her and slapped her across the face. He demanded that she return home with him. The professionals decided to abandon their "bad deal" mission as Rico explained to their employer: "There was no kidnapping!"

Rico told the real kidnapper, Grant, that his wife would go home with Raza:

"The lady's going home...We made a contract to save a lady from a nasty old kidnapper - who turns out to be you."

They allowed Maria to ride off with the wounded Raza (in the back of a buckboard), to return to Mexico. Dolworth added: "We both made a bad deal, Mr. Grant. You lose a wife, and we lose $10,000 apiece." Grant swore: "You bastard!"

The film ended with Rico's witty reply:

"Yes, sir. In my case, an accident of birth. But you, sir, you're a self-made man."

Rescued "Kidnapped" Maria (Claudia Cardinale) Hugging Jesus Raza (Jack Palance)

Maria With Wounded Raza

Dolworth (Burt Lancaster)

Rico (Lee Marvin): "You're a self-made man."

Prometheus (2012)

The Creators of Humanity on the Distant Planet of LV-223, Named Engineers, Were Found to Be Warriors - Who Were Making Bio-Weapons of Mass Destruction, And Were Planning to Destroy Earth. They Were Stopped By Their Own Escaped Black Goo Stored In Thousands of Vases. Only Expedition Leader Dr. Shaw and David's Robotic Head Survived, Now On a Continuing Mission to Locate the Homeland of the Engineers To Find Out Their Motivation For Destroying Earth.

Director Ridley Scott's science-fiction film was a long-awaited prequel to the series of Alien films, including Scott's own first film in the franchise in 1979.

The prologue was of a lone, muscle-bound, humanoid, pale-white alien (Engineer) at the top of a gigantic waterfall. The Engineer/alien sighted a large spaceship disc hovering above him and about to depart, then disrobed his cloak. The extra-terrestrial creature ceremonially and ritualistically drank a viscuous black goo-liquid from an opened urn, which caused the alien to retch, grunt and contort. An interior molecular transformation occurred before the alien died, then fell and disintegrated or dissolved in the waterfall. [Later revealed, the gardener-alien, a life-giver, was apparently creating life on primordial Earth - self-sacrificially seeding Earth with his own DNA.]

The film opened in the year 2089 in the late 21st century. Prehistoric cave paintings, about 35,000 years old, were discovered on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The cave paintings depicted various figures, including a tall human figure pointing to a pattern or constellation of stars (star-diagrams were showing the way for humans to locate their Engineers). The Scottish pictogram was the "same configuration" as those in many other different and separated cultures showing men worshipping giant beings pointing to the stars. The two archaeologists making the important findings were:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), the heroine
  • Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), Shaw's boyfriend

Shaw noted: "I think they want us to come and find them."

Four years later in the year of 2093, the Weyland Corporation (with the logo "Building Better Worlds") sent a monstrous, advanced space vehicle named Prometheus (with holographic displays) and a crew of 17 on a deep-space mission to a destination undisclosed. It was presumably following the recently-discovered star map, to seek the origins of humanity.

Before waking from cryosleep after 2 years, 4 months, 18 days, 36 hours and 15 minutes, the spaceship's crew was monitored by the ship's robotic android David (Michael Fassbender), who amused himself by walking around the ship, riding a BMX bicycle, bouncing a basketball and making impossible hoop shots, taking language lessons, watching Lawrence of Arabia and imitating Peter O'Toole's hairstyle.

The expedition was led by Dr. Shaw and Dr. Holloway, and funded with a trillion dollars by the Weyland Corporation. During a briefing conducted by Weyland's bitchy, autocratic executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the group watched a hologram of a very elderly Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) delivering a recorded message he had made in the year 2091:

"I have spent my entire lifetime contemplating the questions: Where do we come from? What is our purpose? What happens when we die?...The Titan Prometheus wanted to give mankind equal footing with the gods, and for that, he was cast from Olympus. Well, my friends, the time has finally come for his return."

The group was informed that the cave paintings from many cultures had directed (or invited) their way to a star system far beyond Earth, where they were now about to land on the planet's sole, life-sustaining moon (LV-223) in order to explore its ruins. It was believed that the directional signs to the planet and its moon in the cave paintings had been left by alien "Engineers" - those who designed, engineered or created humanity on Earth. The planet where they were landing was where the Engineers had come from.

After landing and suiting up, they entered a large hollow, domed rock structure which they mapped with robotic 'pups,' and discovered it had breathable air and water - evidence of terraforming. David accidentally triggered a projected recording - images of humanoid aliens running at them, and they found the body of one large alien Engineer (similar to the "Space Jockey" in Alien), decapitated by a doorway with its helmeted head on the other side. It had been dead for 2,000 years.

David saw large metal vases contained contaminating (DNA-destroying) black slime with squirming snake-like creatures, and put one into his pack. Two of the crew's fearful scientists (including Millburn (Rafe Spall) and geologist Fifield (Sean Harris)) decided to return to the ship after the latter told Shaw: "Congratulations on meeting your maker." However, they became stranded in the cave-like structure, as the rest of the group returned to the ship.

Upon investigation of the retrieved alien head-skull, they realized it was actually a helmet which they pried off to reveal the head underneath. An experiment to revive it led to its implosion, as David commented: "Mortal after all." They conjectured that it belonged to the body of one of the alien Engineers (with pale skin like the humanoid in the film's opening), with sample DNA that matched human DNA ("Their genetic material predates ours. We come from them"). Shaw exclaimed: "It's us. It's everything. What killed them?" Had their mission to 'meet their maker' and get answers (such as "Why they even made us in the first place") been a failure?

The first of many twists was revealed:

  • Hypersleeping Peter Weyland was on the ship, unknown to everyone but David and Vickers. Weyland was the source of David's programming, including secret orders (and a hidden agenda) throughout the expedition. Later, it was revealed that Vickers was Weyland's daughter!

David caused Dr. Holloway to become infected and seriously ill by dunking some of the slime from the vase into the archaeologist's drink. Meanwhile, snake creatures emerged from the vases, attacked both of the stranded scientists in the cave (Millburn's body were found there during a second trip). Examining further in a control room during the return trip, David saw a hologram of the Engineers plotting courses through the stars and different planets, one of them being Earth. He also found a hypersleep chamber with pods, one of which contained the last-remaining, still-alive Engineer. Soon after, Dr. Holloway self-sacrificially asked to be exterminated by Vickers' flamethrower in order to stem the infection of the others, although he had already infected Dr. Shaw by having sex with her.

It was suggested by David to Dr. Shaw, with an accelerated three-months pregnancy, that she be put in cryostasis and returned to Earth (Weyland's evil plan was to bring the monster home!). She wanted the growing embryo out of her body. She conducted a self-inflicted caesarean-abortion in an automated, robotic surgery med-pod machine. She delivered a nasty-looking, coiled-up, octopus-like creature that she was able to gas in the chamber after she was sewed up. Meanwhile, a contaminated Fifield, one of the stranded geologists from earlier, attempted to gain access to the ship, and was eventually prevented from entering by another flamethrower.

Dr. Shaw explained how wrong they were about the alien Engineers:

"This place isn't what we thought it was. They aren't what we thought they were. I was wrong. We were so wrong."

The Engineers were actually making bio-weapons of mass destruction on the far-away moon. Engineers were warriors - not creators, in the process of venturing to Earth to destroy it with their monstrous creations, before they were stopped by their own escaped black goo in the vases. Unbelievably, Dr. Shaw was still curious, however, about what the last remaining Engineer had to say - an answer to why the Engineers had targeted Earth.

Weyland was awakened, then transported by David (with Dr. Shaw) into the rock structure, assured of the belief that the Engineer would save him from death. Another twist was revealed:

  • The elongated area in the domed rock that the crew had been investigating, with breathable atmosphere, was actually the cargo hold of a gigantic, circular-shaped spaceship. [It was identical to the one the Nostromo found in Alien, with a gun-turret chair.]

Weyland's group entered the bridge's control room where David had earlier located the sole surviving Engineer ("a superior species"). David bluntly explained why the Engineers were planning a trip to Earth: "Sometimes to create, one must first destroy." Dr. Shaw screamed out questions, including why the Engineers hated Earthlings so much.

  • Suddenly, the surviving, ivory-skinned, titanic Engineer twisted and ripped off David's head, and attacked Weyland (who soon flatlined) and the remaining crew. Then, it mounted a large navigational pilot's chair (looking like a gun turret) to reactivate the spaceship, and lifted off from its underground location towards Earth. Dr. Shaw warned that the Engineer would complete its mission by destroying Earth ("It's carrying death and it's heading for Earth").

During the resultant, catastrophic finale:

  • The Prometheus rammed into the alien spaceship during its lift off. Vickers (who had ejected in a separate escape pod) was crushed and killed when both crash-landed back onto the surface.
  • Inside the Prometheus' ejected lifeboat on the surface, Dr. Shaw's alien offspring had developed into a monstrous, tentacled, serpent-like octopus-creature (a huge face-hugger). The Engineer, who had survived and was attacking Shaw, was grabbed by the squid's tentacles and consumed!
  • Only Elizabeth Shaw survived with David's still-functioning robotic head.

The film ended in the year 2094, as she continued onward - but not to Earth ("I don't want to go back to where we came from. I want to go where they came from"). She was on a determined search for the alien homeland planet in one of the alien's other ships, to find out why they wanted to destroy humankind ("They created us. Then they tried to kill us. They changed their minds. I deserve to know why"):

(voice-over) "Final report of the vessel Prometheus. The ship and her entire crew are gone. If you're receiving this transmission, make no attempt to come to its point of origin. There is only death here now, and I'm leaving it behind. It is New Year's Day, the year of our Lord, 2094. My name is Elizabeth Shaw, the last survivor of the Prometheus. And I am still searching."

In the conclusion, inside the remains of the lifeboat, was the appearance of an embryonic version of the Xenomorph Alien from the exploding chest of the dead Engineer. After the final credits was this logo:

10. 11. 12



Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace)

Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron)

Android David
(Michael Fassbender)

Helmet and Alien
Engineer Head

Snake Creature

Dr. Shaw's Caesarean Birth of Squid

The Engineer

David's Decapitation

Death of Engineer by
Shaw's Alien Offspring

Birth of Xenomorph Alien

Psycho (1960)

The "Mother" Was a Part of Norman's Split Personality, After He Had Committed Matricide 10 Years Earlier; He/She Had Murdered Marion

Hitchcock's suspense thriller was adapted from Robert Bloch's 1959 novel of the same name. In 1960, the horror film was controversial for its shocking levels of violence, sexuality, and deviant behavior. The tale included such taboo topics such as transvestism, voyeurism, stabbing as rape, implied incest, and hints of necrophilia.

It began by following the misguided path of the presumed heroine:

  • Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a Phoenix real-estate office worker/secretary

She had become frustrated by the delay in marital plans with handsome boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin) from Fairvale, Arizona, whom she had met for sex during her lunch hour. Impulsively, she stole $40,000 (a down-payment from a client of the real estate company) where she worked, after she was asked to deposit the funds. Her motivation was to pay off Sam's debts to clear the way for their marriage.

During her flight in her car to Fairvale to give Sam the money, and in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, she pulled off the road and came upon the Bates Motel, where she met (and had a small bite to eat in the motel's back parlor) with:

  • Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the effeminate, shy motel manager, who practiced the hobby of taxidermy

Norman described for Marion his relationship with his mentally-ill, possessive Mother, who lived with him in the gothic house on the hill behind the motel. After settling into Room 1 of the motel, Marion had a change of heart and decided to rectify her crime by returning the funds.

However, after being spied upon by Norman through a peephole, about 48 minutes into the film, Marion was unexpectedly and terrifyingly murdered, as she began to take a shower. To cleanse herself, she had stepped into the water-stream and was brutally stabbed by a silhouetted, female figure brandishing a long knife. To his horror, Norman discovered the murder and meticulously cleaned up any evidence of the blood and her possessions, by dumping everything in the trunk of Marion's car, and sinking it in a nearby swamp.

Soon after, a private detective named Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) was snooping around for answers at the Motel, after speaking to a nervous and suspicious Norman, and desiring to speak to Norman's mother (who was seen in shadowy form in the home's upstairs window). The PI was brutally murdered by the same knife-wielding female figure as he climbed the stairs of Norman's house.

Soon after Arbogast's disappearance, Sam and Marion's worried sister Lila (Vera Miles) spoke to Fairvale's Sheriff Chambers (John McIntire) who told them the history of Norman and his mother:

Norman Bates' mother has been dead and buried in Greenlawn Cemetery for the past ten years...It's the only case of murder and suicide on Fairvale ledgers. Mrs. Bates poisoned this guy she was involved with when she found out he was married, then took a helpin' of the same stuff herself. Strychnine. Ugly way to die. Norman found them dead together. In bed...Well, if the woman up there is Mrs. Bates, who's that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetery?

In the famous shocking finale, it was revealed that Norman was keeping the mummified corpse of his "Mother" in his basement fruit cellar. Sam and Lila registered at the hotel as husband and wife, and then went searching for clues. When Lila discovered the Mother in a rocking chair in the basement, she was attacked from behind with a knife by transvestite Norman (wearing his Mother's dress and a wig) - and was saved only at the last minute by Sam's intervention.

In the expository conclusion, police psychiatrist Dr. Richmond (Simon Oakland) told how Norman was actually the murderous "Mother" who dressed in his mother's clothes. He explained how a "disturbed" Norman had an incestuously possessive and jealous love for his mother, so he poisoned both her and her lover after he discovered them in bed together ten years earlier. To wipe clean and obliterate the unbearable, intolerable crime of matricide from his conscience and consciousness, a remorseful, devoted and loyal Norman developed a split personality.

He also dug up and stole his Mother's body, and used his taxidermist skills to preserve and stuff her corpse (she was revealed as a dessicated skeleton kept in hiding in the basement), to keep her 'alive.' Then, he would ease his loneliness by lying with her in bed ("A boy's best friend is his mother..."). When attracted to Marion, Norman was completely transformed into his Mother and became jealously and pathologically mad -- his "Mother" side, which was escalated to full reality, stabbed Marion to death.

In the concluding scene, Norman's two personalities fused and he had become his dominant Mother's final victim. Completely still, he stared into space within his box-like jail cell, wrapped and insulated from the world and huddled in a blanket. A grinning smile slowly crept over his face, subliminally superimposed by and dissolving into the grinning skull of his mother's mummified corpse, as his voice-over intoned:

"I'm not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They'll see. They'll see and they'll know and they'll say, 'Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly'."

The last image was the dredging of the swamp - Marion's car with her body and the almost-$40,000 in the trunk was hauled trunk-first from the muck by a heavy clanking chain on a winch.

Marion Crane's (Janet Leigh) Shower Stabbing

PI Arbogast (Martin Balsam) Stabbing

Lila (Vera Miles) Looking for "Mother"

Norman's Mummified Mother

Sam (John Gavin) Struggling With "Mother"/Norman to Save Lila

Dr. Richmond
(Simon Oakland)

Insane Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)

Marion's Dredged Car in Swamp

A Pure Formality (1994, It./Fr.) (aka Una Pura Formalità or Une Pure Formalite)

The Entire Puzzling Film Was The Death-Dream of the Murderer After Suicidally Killing Himself

Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore's compelling psycho-drama starred basically two characters who were engaged in a tense battle of wills, during the questioning of a murder suspect on a stormy night in the French countryside.

The trailer's narration and poster nearly gave away the film's plot twist:

One second after life. One second before death...A mystery beyond imagination.

The film dramatically opened with the large close-up of the end of a gun barrel rotating into view - and firing at the camera! Under the credits, a man was running through the woods near his home, out-of-breath and in mad flight (filmed with a Steadi-cam from his POV). There had just been a mysterious gunshot-killing of an unnamed and unidentified victim in the same vicinity. Was he the suspected killer? Was there really a crime?

The individual was picked up and taken to a dank police station (without power or telephone service) with a leaking roof - for cross-examination questioning by the local police inspector. The two main characters were:

  • Blaise February (Gerard Depardieu), the murder suspect, a recluse who claimed he was famous French author/writer Onoff, but with a muddied and impaired memory; also hostile and possibly mentally-deranged
  • Inspector (Roman Polanski), an unnamed, dogged and tenacious local policeman (he called himself "Leonardo DaVinci" as a retort)

Confusing flashbacks, disconnected images in fast-paced montage, and other inconsistences in the suspect's ever-changing story were revealed during the questioner's attempts to learn the truth. Often disoriented and revealing a troubled past, Blaise/Onoff repeated himself, then claimed amnesiac memory loss, and often seemed to incriminate himself.

There were attempts to confirm the man's claim that he was a celebrated yet reclusive novelist/playwright named Onoff. The Inspector was familiar with Onoff's literary works, adding another layer of complexity (Was Blaise who he said he was?). Toward the end of the film, Blaise/Onoff revealed his 'diary' bag of photographs from his life.

The ambiguous, existentialist, Twilight Zone-like ending was similar in its ending to An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1962), Jacob's Ladder (1990), A Pure Formality (1994), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Others (2001), Dead End (2003), Stay (2005) and Passengers (2008).

It was strongly hinted that the suspect was experiencing an after-life nightmare - trying to forget that he had committed suicide. The murdered victim was indeed himself (he had shot himself in the forehead), and he was poised between death and the after-life.

Gun Barrel Blast!

Murder(ed) Suspect Onoff (Gerard Depardieu)

The Inspector (Roman Polanski)

The Suicide

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

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