Gone Girl: What makes a movie plot twist work?
Director David Fincher has handled his fair share of plot twists during his career, with films like Se7en and The Game already under his belt, but his latest outing, Gone Girl, might just be the film with the twist that tops all of them. Based on Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name, Fincher's screen adaptation stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple about to embark on their fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy suddenly goes missing.
Nick's life is soon the subject of a media circus as the news networks clamour to cover every angle of his wife's vanishing act, but when strange clues start to appear Nick becomes a suspect in his own wife's disappearance and suddenly finds the spotlight is turned on him.
Affleck delivers an impressive performance as Nick, struggling to cope with his wife's disappearance while at the same time desperately trying to prove his innocence to a frenzied media. Throughout its many twists and turns, Fincher's new film will have you on the edge of your seat right up until the final scene and twist in the tail pays off handsomely here.
It's not always the case with plot twists though; when they work, they can change an audience's perception of everything they've seen and inspire them watch the movie all over again. When they fail, it can ruin a great film. With that in mind we've picked out five of our favourite movie plot twists, plus five more that didn't quite work out. Spoilers ahoy!
(You can also find the trailer for Gone Girl below)
Five of the best movie plot twists...
The Usual Suspects
One of the best plot twists ever, by now this one is so well known it's barely even a spoiler, but the moment at the end of Bryan Singer's film when Verbal Kint is revealed to be the criminal mastermind Keyser Soze is still one of our favourites. So why does it work? Well, by the time the film winds to its conclusion Agent Kujan's whole “I'm smarter than you” schtick has become genuinely annoying, so when he is outsmarted by someone he calls “stupid”, it's just immensely satisfying.
Lucky Number Slevin
The less you know about Paul McGuigan's film before you see it, the more you'll enjoy it, so we won't say too much, but when a case of mistaken identity finds Josh Hartnett's character stuck in between two crime bosses at war with each other, there's more happening than either of them realise. Why does the twist work? Because you'll kick yourself for not seeing it sooner, but that's not the question you should be asking. The question you need to ask is this: what's a Kansas City shuffle?
Still one of our favourite films of all time, at least part of Fight Club's popularity is down to a wicked twist that sees an insomniac office worker develop a spilt personality and inadvertently create a global underground terrorist network. It's not a defence you'd want to use in a court of law, but the moment Edward Norton's narrator realises who he really is is pure cinema gold. Not to be missed.
Much like The Sixth Sense, this is definitely one of those films where you either catch the twist coming near the beginning or you don't, but if you miss it first time around it makes the whole film much more enjoyable. Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant as U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, investigating the mysterious disappearance of a girl from a maximum security psychiatric hospital, but Daniels has the feeling there's something bigger that he's missing. Packed with intrigue and suspense, the twist in Martin Scorsese's tale is a beauty.
Given that The Prestige is a tale of two rival illusionists it should perhaps come as no surprise that Christopher Nolan's film comes packing a big twist at the end. The clues are there, but they're easy to miss, so when Christian Bale's character finally gets the better of his obnoxious and obsessive, it's pretty rewarding. Dark and mischievous, this film is a lot if fun.
...and five that didn't quite work out
You can't help but feel a bit sorry for M. Night Shyamalan. After The Sixth Sense, it sort of became expected that his movies would have a twist in the tale, so when Unbreakable came around the audience was looking for the twist from the beginning. As it turns out, it isn't particularly well hidden: it's fairly obvious from the beginning that Samuel L. Jackson's character is pretty sinister, so it's really no surprise at all to learn that he's the bad guy. Not his finest moment.
We don't want to seem like we're picking on Shymalan, but you would think he'd have learnt from his mistake by the time he release The Village. Not only is the twist telegraphed, it's also pretty underwhelming, so let's go ahead and save you the trouble: yes, it's the present day and no, those aren't monsters, just a bunch of village elders trying to scare the kids. Moving on...
It has to be said: Paul Thomas Anderson's 199 film is exquisitely filmed and the cinematography is genuinely stunning. Magnolia also happens to have one of the best opening sequences of any film we've ever seen and it genuinely glues you to the screen to see what will happen next. Sadly though, when all the intertwining tales finally climax in nothing more than a freak storm in which it rains frogs, you can't help but feel a little cheated. A shame, really, because the performances from the film's ensemble cast are just brilliant, particularly those of Philip Seymour Hoffmann and Julianne Moore.
If there was ever a film that collapsed under the weight of its own ambition, it's Guy Ritchie's Revolver. You can watch this film as many times as you like, it won't make any more sense. Again, it's stylish, it features some solid performances from the likes of Andre 3000 and it comes so, so close to being a really brilliant film, but the plot is so confused that by the time the film's high concept ending finally rolls around it just leaves the viewer even more puzzled. What really kills Revolver though is that the entire film is spent virtually telling you what the twist is while simultaneously trying to convince you that you're wrong. We like Guy Ritchie's films, but this is just maddening.
Along Came A Spider
The clues to the twist in this tale of abduction and psychometric profiling are just about screamed at you at every opportunity and there's nothing more dangerous than a film that underestimates the intelligence of its audience. Again, just a few tweaks is all it would have taken to turn this into a genuinely gripping thriller.