I watched In the Valley of Elah the other day, a movie I'd heard mixed things about but felt compelled to watch because the talent involved was interesting and Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for Best Actor. I actually thought the movie was pretty darn good. It's an interesting story that's based on actual events, and the acting was strong all around. However, the movie completely lost me with its final, manipulative and way overdone last shot. It's not important what that last shot is right now, but I just didn't buy what Paul Haggis was trying to sell there. And no, I'm not one of these Haggis haters (unless you're talking about pig intestines).
Anyway, it got me thinking about other endings that just ruined a movie for me recently and I came up with at least three. Now take into consideration that this is not an all-time bad ending list. But at least one of these would be a serious contender. Enjoy and beware of SPOILERS!!!
As we watched Guy Ritchie's critically-panned film, my girlfriend and I both said the same thing: What is everyone talking about? This movie kicks ass so far! But then -- thirty minutes before the film mercifully ended -- we realized what everyone was talking about. The movie stinks. I mean three-day-old baby diaper stinky. The last half hour completely kills what was previously a fairly entertaining movie with some decent performances. See, Guy Ritchie is smarter than all of us and he wants to show just how smart he really is. So he "layers" his movie with loads of philosophical nonsense; injects ambivalence into the plot and characters to the point where you don't know who or what is real anymore.
I am not without a brain. I like movies that challenge the intellect and get philosophical. I have long-championed Darren Aronofsky's film The Fountain for it's visual beauty, emotional power and intellectual and philosophical depth. I didn't understand the movie the first time I saw it and didn't love it at all. Today I do and it's a film I continue to rediscover. But here's the thing ... that movie was interesting enough for me to want to revisit again. It was clear, failure or not (I was unsure whether or not it was a failure when I first saw it), that it was the work of an artist who was very sure about what he was doing. And I just can't say the same about this abstract mess that is Revolver. I don't ever want to see this movie again. I don't want it within 50 feet of my home.
Here's another movie I didn't see until recently, and boy oh boy does it suck. The ending to this movie is so terrible and ill-conceived that I'm shocked the talented set of actors involved didn't see through it. See, Kevin Spacey is on death row for raping and murdering Laura Linney. They were friends, activists against the death penalty (by the way!!!). Kate Winslet is a journalist who interviews Spacey days before he is sentenced to die. But we find out he didn't do it! Laura Linney was dying of cancer and killed herself and she even recorded it on camera! I know ... at this point it doesn't make sense but just stick with me here.
Anyway, Winslet now has proof that Spacey is innocent, which totally rules. But oh, no! It's too late. Spacey is executed (for some reason, I'm recalling that movie Habeas Corpus from Robert Altman's The Player).
Winslet finds the tape and releases it to the press. It creates an uproar and a host of concerns involving the death penalty are once again an issue. But then Winslet receives a second tape. And in this tape we see more of the suicide video. We see Spacey framing himself for the murder and rape of Linney, leaving his evidence everywhere and making the suicide look like a crime scene. See, folks, he didn't do it, but since he is an advocate against the death penalty, he took credit for the rape and murder in the hopes he would get executed, only later to be proven innocent thereby proving the death penalty is flawed because innocent people can be killed! That's not convoluted at all!
The death penalty is a tough issue I myself haven't completely grappled with but I will say Spacey's stunt in this movie doesn't prove anything. It certainly proves the death penalty is flawed when it comes to defendants who are trying to get themselves convicted. Ya got me there, Gale!
There is a much better film that deals with this subject matter in a much more intelligent way, the excellent Dead Man Walking. However, I must warn fans of David Gale that there are no self-convicted conspiracies in that movie.
This is one of the most disappointing of the group because I'm a huge Danny Boyle fan and there are a lot of interesting ideas going on here. At times Sunshine is science-fiction of the highest order. It's a film about an expedition to the sun (which is dying) in an effort to save mankind. There are interesting philosophical and intellectual discussions in the movie and more than a few that will find themselves running around in your head. The science in the film is practical and makes sense (I especially like the ship, Icarus II's design and how the mirrors work both for and against the crew). For a long time, Sunshine is a strong sci-fi.
Then it turns into a monster movie.
We spend our last act watching a super-human, mad burn victim wreak havoc on the crew of Icarus II because Boyle and his screenwriter cohort, Alex Garland, couldn't think of any other imaginative directions to take this otherwise intelligent feature. In the end, the movie feels like a missed opportunity for something special.