Make the case: 5 of the best movie plot twists
What defines a good twist in a movie? Can it only be revealed in the last moments? How much of a surprise must the surprise really be?
There is always the argument that the journey is ultimately more fulfilling than the destination. Up to a point, I think you can apply this notion to cinema in all its forms. The real surprise can be hard to find, especially if you’ve only seen a few hundred movies. You can eventually get to a point where you can at least half predict how a movie will shake.
A partial surprise does not seem to be good enough for some. They either need to have a mild heart attack because of the disbelief or the whole twist, and by extension the whole movie was a waste of time. Granted, that’s not everyone’s state of mind, but I see it sometimes.
For me personally, while I love being completely bowled over by a major twist in the film, I’ve also come to a point where this part of the journey is so much more important. Even though I see a dramatic change coming, or at least guessing aspects of what’s going to happen suddenly, I can still love that the film executed all of these components with such skill.
Plus, if the twist doesn’t live up to anything that came before it, I’m still willing to appreciate that it was a pretty fun ride, with at least some effort to naturally and effectively reverse my expectations to the end.
Like many things in movies, the twist, or even a series of twists, can be expressed in different forms.
For the first Make the Case of 2022, the seventh year of a column that I always feel very lucky to have the right to write, I’m going to cover 5 of my favorite twists of all time. This is not a definitive ranking of all time. Just a collection of some of the examples that I have found the most enjoyable.
The element of real surprise is only one element considered in these selections.
I will also try to keep in mind that some people have never seen these movies before. I’ll do my best to refrain from spoilers, but the youngest movie here is also over ten, so I’m not going to walk on eggshells either.
5. The Island of the Shutters (2010)
Director: Martin scorsese
People really seem to think it’s bad that on some level, right from the start, we know there is something very strange about Leonard DiCaprio’s US Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels.
I don’t think the movie does much to dissuade us from this suspicion. Also, while I agree that you will likely come to a point on Shutter Island where you can see at least part of the ending come to pass, it still seems odd that anyone who considers the execution of these elements to be something far from be mind blowing and really, really fun.
Shutter Island turns Teddy’s investigation into a descent in a very deep form of madness. The details of this madness take several sharp turns, but at no point does the film give us a twist that doesn’t have a lot of substance behind it.
This substance comes from a rich style, a beautiful atmosphere and a multitude of performances that serve to enhance one of the best performances of DiCaprio. His work, especially at the end, offers a completely satisfactory conclusion.
4. Detective (1972)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Sleuth, the latest film directed by legendary Joseph L. Mankiewicz, is a masterpiece of cinematic deception. As we watch Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier go head-to-head, each man working flawlessly with an entirely perfect Anthony Shaffer screenplay (based on his winning play Tony), we are constantly being misled. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to confuse and shake its audience, but never to the point of losing comprehension altogether.
At no point in this story of a wealthy detective story writer lashing out at his wife’s young lover do we feel like we are on solid ground. Sleuth is a psychological study with genuinely humorous moments. It’s also a sort of carnival merry-go-round, with every plot working to keep us mesmerized and slightly unsettled.
I don’t think the ending shocks you, but you’ll probably still be wondering what you just saw.
In the right direction. Which might not be how you describe the intriguing but deeply inferior remake.
3. A History of Violence (2005)
Director: David Cronenberg
Who in absolute terms hell is Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen)?
David Cronenberg’s violent and disturbing A History of Violence keeps this question somewhat unresolved for the duration of his savage story of a man defending his business and his family, and ends up with unusual consequences.
We make our assumptions, and maybe reverse the question a few more times, as we watch Tom’s life suddenly include gangster ties (Ed Harris in arguably his best work) and new nuances to an already complex marriage. with his wife Edie (Maria Bello, who hasn’t had such a good role since). Learning the truth about Tom isn’t really the point, except in the sense of the genuinely shocking ending that comes after the answer is revealed. Watching Tom tackle the intrusions into his life and even his psyche is the place to have a lot of fun.
Yet even with that in mind, A History of Violence still puts you to the test with one of the purest twists I’ve ever seen.
2. Don’t Look Now (1973)
Director: Nicolas roeg
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Don’t Look Now punishes you for caring about these characters. Nonetheless, of all the movie twists we could ever cover in this column, Don’t Watch Now falls into its own unique category. It’s certainly a contender for one of the most heart-wrenching twists of all time.
You can also place one of Nicolas Roeg’s best movies on any list of the craziest and most unexpected twists of all time. People tend to remember the twist of the rest of the film, which features Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie exploring deep, unwavering grief amid a cloud of potentially sinister supernatural circumstances. Don’t Look Now is a horror film with a painful, almost heartbreaking obsession with taking your time. It is an incredible meditation on loss.
Of course, without everything getting ready for those final moments, the shocking discovery behind a mysterious presence that Sutherland’s character truly believes is his daughter, the ending would just be a flashy noise.
1. Arlington Road (1999)
Director: Marc Pellington
Like a lot of things about cinema, there’s a good chance I’m wrong. With that in mind, I always want to advance the idea that we don’t talk enough about the 1999 political thriller Arlington Road.
Starring stellar performances by Jeff Bridges as the man who begins to suspect his neighbors are terrorists, and Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack as the neighbors in question, Arlington Road is another of those films with a twist on the – beyond what most of us reasonably expected. It’s not a spoiler to say that you’re going to lean in on the suspicion that these neighbors are sure to keep something hidden in the dark of a cheerful, bewildering sense of divinity and purpose.
Where things take an extraordinary turn is in the execution of that larger goal, held by the seemingly benign couple played by Robbins and Cusack. It’s the kind of ending that can leave someone feeling a little helpless.
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