Happy 25th anniversary to the best mid-movie plot twist of all time
It was a great plot twist not just because it was a surprise, but because this isn't a movie that should even have a plot twist in the first place.
Who doesn't love a good plot twist?
Some of the most talked about moments in cinema history revolve around the rug pull endings to the likes of The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects or Se7en.
However, there is a subcategory of twists that happen much earlier in the movie, in and around the half-way mark, that sends the rest of the plot in an unexpected direction.
Be it the sudden killing-off of what initially seemed to be our primary characters in the likes of Psycho or Death Proof, or a sudden jump in genre, like action to horror in Predator, or crime thriller to horror in From Dusk Til Dawn, also usually accompanied by the sudden death of a major character.
However, movies like those, you're almost ready for that kind of surprise, because either (A) it was heavily implied in the marketing, or (B) you're watching a movie that automatically lends itself to big shocks.
That is not the case here however, and still, 25 years on, we're left thinking about the sudden plot-twist at the end of the first act of Executive Decision, one that completely changes the rest of the movie we're about to watch...
Clip via WB
Released in March 1996, the movie kicks off with Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal) leading an unsuccessful raid on a Chechen mafia safe house in Italy to recover a stolen Soviet nerve agent. Three months later, a 747 heading to Washington D.C. is hijacked by a group of terrorists, with intentions to use the plane to detonate their nerve agent on American soil.
A plan is put in motion for a mid-air interception, with U.S. Army intelligence consultant Dr. David Grant (a nerdy Kurt Russell) and Department of Defence engineer Dennis Cahill (an even nerdier Oliver Platt) brought along to help dismantle the bomb. With the help of an on-board flight attendant (Halle Berry), they are able to dock with the 747, but following a severe bout of turbulence, there is a mid-air accident, and Travis is killed by decompression.
Yep, the big action star of the movie, the guy the story began with, Steven Seagal, is killed 48 minutes into a 133-minute movie.
We'd all been lead to believe that this might be a big-budget action film, but instead it plays out like an incredibly tense thriller, all of heroes completely inept in real-life dangerous scenarios, but having to learn how to adapt to them in real-time.
This was director Stuart Baird's directorial debut, and it was something of a success, making $122 million worldwide on a $55 million budget, and scoring a decent 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. He would go on to make sub-par The Fugitive sequel U.S. Marshals, as well as the not-great final-outing for The Next Generation cast with Star Trek: Nemesis, before returning exclusively to a career in editing.
Same goes with the writers, Jim and John Thomas, who followed this up with two of the biggest box-office flops of all time - Wild Wild West and Mission To Mars.
It was also right around the time when Seagal's own career began to take a turn for the worst, with the arrivals of expensive duds like Fire Down Below and The Glimmer Man effectively consigning him to the bottom-shelf of DVD stores for, well, the majority of the rest of his career.
Really, this isn't the kind of movie that should be able to surprise you in any way whatsoever, and yet it truly did, with a whiplash-inducing character death, and a plot-twist that stands out from the pack simply because it was so magnificently unexpected.
Executive Decision is available to rent right now on Apple TV, Rakuten TV, and Google Play.