There Should Be An Oscar For...Best Plot Twist
As part of Awards Season at hmv, each week we’ll be taking a look at some of those all-important movie moments that never get a mention when it comes to the Oscars: Best Plot Twist, Funniest Sex Scene, Best Comedy Death etc.
So, since these will never win an Oscar in their own right, we’ve decided to make up some awards of our own. This week we take a look at one of the key features of any good thriller – the Plot Twist. We pick 5 of the best contenders from cinematic history to see who should have been handed a gong for their efforts.
BEWARE: PLOT SPOLIERS AHEAD!!
Planet Of The Apes
A crew of astronauts awake after 700 years from induced hibernation aboard their ship to find they have crash-landed on a world where it is apes that have evolved into the planet’s sentient ruling beings while men are still pre-lingual uncivilised animals.
One of the crew of four, led by Commader George Taylor, has died in the crash, while taylor and the other two are captured and taken to the apes city. One of them is shot and killed by the apes, while another is placed into a state of vegetation after brain surgery.
Taylor is put on trial, but escapes with a female human native to the planet and heads out into the wilderness to freedom.
In a scene that has become one of cinema’s most iconic, Taylor stumbles upon the top section of the Statue of Liberty sticking out from a beach and realises that the planet the astronauts crash-landed on is actually their home, planet Earth.
Two men, Adam and Dr. Gordon, wake up in what appears to be a locked bathroom, their ankles chained to pipes on opposite sides of the room, with the dead body of a man covered in blood lying on the floor between them. The two men find a tape recorder in the dead man’s hand and learn that they are to be subjected to a game organised by a murderous psychopath who calls himself ‘Jigsaw’.
In their pockets they find a tape each, which they play back using the recorder. Adam is threatened, while Dr, Gordon is told he must kill Adam by 6:00pm or his family will die.
After a series of flashbacks detailing the killer’s previous victims, Dr. Gordon saws off his own foot with hacksaw left in the room and shoots Adam with a shotgun, which has also been left there, before scaping and promising to get help.
A third player, an orderly at Dr. Gordon’s hospital named Zep, arrives with his own set of instructions, but is killed by Adam, whose wound is revealed to be non-fatal, believing Zep to be Jigsaw.
Just as Zep dies, the body in the centre of the room starts to move, stand up and removes a latex mask, revealing that he is Jigsaw and has been in the room the whole time. He then locks Adam in the room, forever.
The Usual Suspects
Four career criminals and a corrupt ex-cop are assembled for a police line-up in which they are accused of stealing a truck, but since none of them is guilty they suspect they are being set up and plan a revenge job against the police. The job goes so well they plan another, this time passed on from a lawyer named Kobayashi, who claims to work for a notorious criminal named Keyser Soze. Kobayashi explains they have all, directly or indirectly, stolen from Soze and must do the job for free if they want their families to be spared.
The job itself, to destroy a shipment of drugs on a ship filled with Argentinian and Hungarian gangsters, is practically a suicide mission and the only one of the five to survive is the crippled Verbal Kint, a fraudster with cerebral palsy. The only other survivor is one of the Hungarians, who claims to have seen Soze, and a police artist is dispatched to the hospital to draw a sketch of him.
Kint, who manages to secure immunity from charges through his lawyer, spends the entire movie being questioned about the job by Agent Kujon, an FBI agent convinced that Dean Keaton, the ex-cop, is behind the whole thing. Kint denies this, but as his story progresses it transpires that the drugs were never on the boat and the real cargo was a person who could identify Soze. Kujon appears to convince Kint that Keaton was Keyser Soze all along.
Just as Kint is leaving the building, a fax from the artist arrives in Kujon’s office and he realises it is Kint that is the mysterious Keyser Soze…and he’s just let him walk out of the front door.
Nicholas van Orton is a wealthy but lonely banker about to turn 48. His wife has left him as a result of his cold nature and workaholic tendencies, both of which are manifestations of a traumatic childhood. As a boy, Nicholas witnesses the suicide of his father, also 48, when he jumps from the roof of their stately home in San Francisco.
With his birthday approaching, Nicholas is visited by his wayward younger brother Conrad, who gives him a gift: a voucher for a company named Consumer Recreation Services. Nicholas reluctantly visits their offices where he is advised that the voucher is for a ‘game’ tailored specifically to each participant. After being subjected to hours of physical and psychological tests, he is told he is not suitable and sent home. Then things begin to happen.
An ordeal lasting several days begins, during which Nicholas is extorted, drugged and left for dead in Mexico. When he manages to find his way back he wants revenge and goes looking for CRS, who have disappeared from their offices. His pursuit culminates in a rooftop encounter where Nicholas accidentally shoots his brother. Believing Conrad to be dead, Nicholas walks to the edge of the roof and jumps.
Nicholas crashes through the plate-glass roof and lands right on an ‘x’ drawn on a giant airbag, where he discovers Conrad is not really dead - he was wearing a bullet vest and a blood pack – and learns that the whole experience of losing everything was the game, giving him a fresh outlook on what is important in life.
An illusionist named Robert Angier becomes obsessed with figuring out a trick by a rival magician called Alfred Borden. The trick, named ‘The Transported Man’, involves Borden seemingly teleporting from a cupboard on one side of the stage to an identical cupboard on the other side.
Angier creates his own version using a body double named Root. Borden however sees through the ruse and tells Root he should demand more money as Angier needs him for the trick to work. Angier is forced to get rid of Root and seek another way to do the trick. Angier becomes more and more envious of Borden’s success and happiness, but behind the scenes all is not well with Borden. His wife, Sarah, claims he is like two different people and believes he is having an affair with a woman named Olivia, which Borden denies.
Eventually, unable to successfully recreate the trick, Angier kidnaps Borden’s assistant and engineer, Fallon, demanding that Borden give up his diary. Borden agrees, and Angier is led to believe Borden is using a machine built by Nikolai Tesla to teleport from one cupboard to another. Tesla agrees to build Angier a machine, and though it does not work in exactly the way he had planned, it does mean Angier is able to perform the trick successfully. Borden is then becomes determined to find out how Angier has replicated his trick.
There’s actually a double twist here: firstly, Angier discovers that Borden has a twin brother and that they swap places every night, the other disguising themselves as Fallon, something not even Sarah knows. The brothers are so dedicated to their act that they share the same life and, indeed, the same wife. It then transpires that it is Alfred’s twin who is in love with Olivia.
Meanwhile, Angier has gone to even further extremes: Tesla’s machine, rather than teleporting Angier, actually creates a duplicate, forcing Angier to kill his own double each night, by drowning him in a tank of water underneath the stage trap door.
And The Winner Is...
Although they are all great twists, we’ve got to give the Oscar to The Usual Suspects. What makes this twist work so well is that the film actually makes its audience consent to being tricked. Throughout the entire film you find yourself rooting for Verbal, so when Agent Kujon actually appears to figure out that Keaton is Keyser Soze, it feels like a disappointment. When the truth is revealed there’s a huge sense of satisfaction, followed by an immediate need to watch the film over again and pick up all the clues you’ve missed…