The Best Plot Twists Of 2013

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Often, a twist that you don’t see coming requires a good bit of thinking about afterwards to figure out whether or not it actually made a lick of sense. We have had a good noodle about this year’s biggest surprises to see if they’re actually something that legitimately works given the story and characters, or if they’re just a big pile of nonsense. Massive spoilers, obviously, abound, so please click through only to films that you’ve seen or that you’re pretty sure you don’t care about. Here’s what we found…


Trevor Slattery, Iron Man 3

Bad guy Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is trying to develop and one day market an amazing new compound that allows injuries to be completely healed and lost limbs to be regenerated intact. So far, so good – but the compound has the unfortunate side-effect of sometimes becoming destabilised and making people explode like furnaces.
Instead of returning to animal trials or something, Killian invents a terrorist called The Mandarin and explains away these occasional explosions as the result of this fiend’s campaign. This obviously works better when someone explodes in public places and less well if they’re in, say, a small apartment or a remote cabin. Still, everyone seems to buy it.

Still Unexplained: Why doesn’t he stay in beta testing until the horrific explosions side effect is dealt with? The fiery glow and spiking temperatures seem like issues that wouldn’t get past the FDA approval process anyway, so why does Killian have a launch date for his treatment?

Who doesn’t know where Croydon is? The city is a beacon of light and culture.

Does this mean the Mandarin isn’t connected to the Ten Rings group we saw in the first film?

Is Ben Kingsley really the Mandarin after all, so that Trevor was all an elaborate ruse? Part of us really, really hopes that’s the premise of a fourth Iron film.

Logic Points: 7/10 – it’s a decent cover-up, but we still don’t understand how it got that far.

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Mark Ruffalo Done It, Now You See Me

After bank-robbing magician troupe The Four Horsemen have escaped their pursuers, dogged FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) reveals that he was the guy who brought them together and gave them the plans for all their tricks in the first place. You see, 30 years before, his father, magician Lionel Shrike (Elias Koteas, judging by photos) was embarrassed by an exposé by Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) and attempted a dangerous underwater stunt during which he lost his life. Arthur Tessler (Michael Caine) and his insurance company refused to pay up for the death. So the whole time that Rhodes has been trying to catch The Four Horsemen, he’s actually been helping them.

Still Unexplained: So Dylan has spent the last 30 years becoming a master magician and somehow manoeuvring himself through the ranks of the FBI to ensure that he would be the agent assigned to this case. How did he know he’d be assigned at just the right time?

How did he know, or ensure, that Tessler would fund the Four Horsemen when they took their show to Vegas?

Why not tell the Horsemen who he was at the beginning? Surely he can trust such accomplished magicians and dissemblers to react appropriately to his FBI persona anyway?

Aren’t there easier ways to get revenge?

What’s with the sequel-baiting ending? Who else is there to take vengeance upon?

Logic Points: 6/10 – Dylan’s plan seems to depend on an awful lot of coincidence.

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The World Ends, The World’s End

The jury is still out on whether this is actually a twist or not, what with the title being so up front about it, but by the time Gary King (Simon Pegg), Andy Knightley (Nick Frost) and Steven Prince (Paddy Considine, arriving a little later on a rope) have come face-to-floating-cloudy-beer-brand with The Network (voiced by Bill “The End Is” Nighy), part of you thinks everything will be all right after all. It won’t be. Telling the Wetherspooning extra-terrestrial wellwishers to “Fuck off back to Legoland, you cunts!”, King sets off a chain of events that catapults civilisation back to the Dark Ages. A few of the gang get together with their other halves and make a go of the whole organic farming thing, but really, it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong.

Still unexplained: Why does The Network give up so easily? Are we humans so belligerent and imperfect that a drunken Sisters Of Mercy fan shouting at them would be enough to scare ‘em off?

How do these replacement blanks work exactly? When you knock their heads off, are they out of action? Sometimes smashing their eggy heads does the trick, and sometimes it doesn’t…

If almost everyone in Newton Haven is a blank, why do the young hoodlums in the bathroom even bother pressing the hand-dryer to drown out the noise of them fighting? That is, if that’s the reason why they do it? And surely, if The Blanks are all interconnected, when one of them gets into a scuffle, everyone else knows?

Screw it, we’re having a pint of Winshire.

Logic Points: 8/10 – The idea that The Network has been here for decades, introducing all this awesome technology, is a great one. As is the electro-magnetic pulse, and you’ve got to get bonus points for actually going through with the whole apocalypse thing.

Simon Pegg has responded to our needlessly pernickety queries about The World's End, and here is the tweet that proves it...

@empiremagazine re: still unexplained 1. There's more than one Gary King. 2. Varies depending on damage. 3. Tourists. Duh!

— Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) December 31, 2013

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Benedict Cumberbatch Is Khan, Star Trek Into Darkness

In maybe the least surprising twist of the year, it emerged that “John Harrison” is in fact Khan Noonien Singh, the terrifying figure of the 1990s Eugenics War on Earth who was exiled to space where he was deep-frozen, along with his people. So far, so canon. But in Star Trek Into Darkness a paranoid Starfleet Admiral (Peter Weller) finds Khan’s ship and thaws him out to help meet the threat of the Klingon Empire in a galaxy destabilised by the destruction of Vulcan. Who better than a defrosted ancient warlord to plan the war effort and build powerful new torpedoes to use against the Klingons? After all, you can keep control of him by keeping his crew in deep-freeze and ensuring he doesn’t get anywhere near them. Get him to use a fake name to, we suppose, avoid associations with the ancient warlord he actually is, and so J.J. Abrams and his team can lie to all and sundry and do the same.

ANYWAY, Khan gets loose and… tries to start a war between the Federation and the Klingons? In order to… release the frozen shipmates that he, for some reason, has hidden in torpedoes? Wait, so how does starting a war help? Why does he go to Klingon?

Still Unexplained: How come none of us remember the Eugenics Wars? Were we mind-wiped?

We know Starfleet’s about exploration rather than conflict, but are you seriously telling us that they can’t build warships without the help of some popsicle?

We get that he’s all smart and strong and all, but Khan’s blood literally cures death?!

Why would anyone hide their mates in a bunch of torpedoes and then start a war in which those torpedoes are going to be BLOWN UP?

Logic Points: 3/10 – Hiding people in a torpedo is a dumb idea.

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Loki Is King, Thor: The Dark World

It should never surprise anyone, human or Asgardian, that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki – the God Of Mischief – doesn’t play things 100% straight. In The Dark World, his twistery is twofold: first off, there’s a plan with distant but desperate brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to pretend to betray Thor in front of bad elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) to get the jump on the aether-hungry evil ‘un. This almost works, but for Loki’s “death” at the end of – oh, the Avengers-echoing irony! – a big spear. Later, we learn he hasn’t died at all, but Loki-ed himself into a Asgardian guard (an As-guard?) and headed home. The bigger news is that he’s somehow stolen the throne from his father, and pretends to be the All-Father as Thor relinquishes his claim as successor at the end of the film, leaving “Odin” to rule on.

Still unexplained: Where is Odin? Is he outside, tending the roses, or enjoying a deep bubble bath? Has Loki locked him up somewhere? And if so, where can you lock up the most powerful god in the galaxy and who could you trust to be his jailor? Don’t say he’s killed him! Loki isn’t that bad… is he?

How far do Loki’s dress-up powers go? As far as being able to look like Captain America, sure, but is appearing to be murdered at blade point in his lexicon too? Perhaps he’s a puny god, after all…

Logic points: 7/10 – within the whole “science if magic” world of Asgard, this all just about works (or will need to be explained in the next Loki-featuring feature).

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Clooney’s A Dream, Gravity

George Clooney is a dreamboat, and his character in Gravity is also a dreamboat and then later, an actual dream. In a role that stretched his acting talents not one jot – sorry, Mr. Clooney sir – his take on Lieutenant Matt Kowalski sees the team leader as a jovial, jocular, loquacious fellow who inspires his inferiors and isn’t afraid of telling a shaggy dog story should the need arise (or not). He’s such an encouraging presence that when Kowalski suddenly appears outside Ryan Stone’s (Sandra Bullock) pod and hops in, you all but catch your breath for the first time in the film, which is handy as Stone has very nearly committed suicide by switching off the life support. Refreshed by his arrival, she’s back in business – only for it all to disappear as you realise it was a figment of Stone’s understandably fragile state of mind.

Still unexplained: It’s not anything to do with this classic switcheroo from father and son writing team Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón, but aren’t all these space stations a little far apart to hop to?

Otherwise, a little bit of stress-induced seeing-things is highly understandable. Which is good because we had concerns about what happens to the human body when exposed to the vacuum like that.

Logic Points: 9/10 – With what she’s been through, it was only a matter of time

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Catherine Zeta-Jones Is Loved Up For Rooney Mara, Side Effects

After everything Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) has been through – getting struck off the register, being publicly humiliated, having his wife leave him, being compared to the actor who plays Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad – it turns out Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta Jones) was having an affair with Emily (Rooney Mara), the patient he had been protecting. Together, the conniving couple had planned the whole murder-of-Mara’s-husband / drug scandal thing, working out a way to manipulate the stock prices in pharmaceutical companies because of the whole Ablixa farrago, and Banks was the fall guy. Blackmail and a wire later, and both are busted, though Emily can’t be sent to jail because of Double Jeopardy. She can, however, be prescribed other drugs with nasty side effects by her doctor…

Still unexplained: The plot hinges on Emily’s hatred of her rich husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), after he goes to jail for dodgy financial dealings. Angered by this, she goes to counselling for abandoned wives, where she meets Siebert, who is also in the same position, but also an important figure in the pharma world. Emily kills Martin whilst on Ablixa, and the plot rolls on. The question then: can anyone, even Emily, be so callous to cook up a murderous plot like this?

Doesn’t quite a bit of this depend on Banks behaving in exactly the way he does? Did they have to audition doctors to find just the right patsy?

Logic Points: 8/10 – It’s convoluted, but it all makes sense, as long as you believe their relationship, and Emily’s practically psychopathic reaction to the prospect of not having money for a brief period of time.

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Richard Jenkins Did It, White House Down

As Speaker of the House, Eli Raphelson is third in the line of Presidential succession. So he bands together with ne’er-do-well Emil Stentz (Jason Clarke) and retiring Head of the Presidential Detail Martin Walker (James Woods), who has terminal cancer – so nothing to lose – and wants revenge for the death of his son during a botched black ops mission – so everything to gain.

Raphelson’s plan is to take the President (Jamie Foxx) hostage, get the nuclear launch codes and bomb Iran back to the Stone Age. He also uses the hostage takers to shoot down Air Force One, with the Vice President aboard, leaving him putative commander of a reinvigorated USA unrestrained by the President’s planned peace treaty.

Still Unexplained: How on Earth was Raphelson going to explain the whole unprovoked-nuclear-attack thing to the rest of the world? Would “domestic terrorists” really be an acceptable excuse?

How does blowing up the White House and killing the President fit with Raphelson’s putative motive of strengthening US military power?

Isn’t he placing a heck of a lot of faith in a nutcase and a dying man?

Logic Points: 5/10 – his cover is good, but we’re not sure he’s thought this through.

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Cruise Is A Clone And It’s All A Lie, Oblivion

In 2017, an alien ship arrived at Earth, pausing to abduct astronauts Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) en route. There, the aliens destroy the moon as show of strength – presumably – and cause widespread environmental devastation as a result. The story goes that when the alien armies landed, humanity used nukes against them, incidentally wiping out almost all the rest of the species in the process.

Problem is, this is a lie, and in fact humanity was killed by clones of Jack and Vita used as drone soldiers. The alien ship cloned slightly more aware Jacks and Vikas to help oversee the process of draining the Earth’s oceans, for reasons passing understanding.

Still Unexplained: Why do they need people to do their dirty work? Why not just use drones?

Seriously, what sort of species designs a massive ship to go wipe out populated planets (wouldn’t blowing up the moon pretty much do that anyway?) and builds in drones and powerful weaponry and doesn’t include a repair-bot?
Is water really so rare in space that it’s worth wiping out populated planets to get it? Couldn’t they just have siphoned it from Europa instead?

At the end, how is it possible for Earth to be “recovering” a few short years later with the oceans mostly drained? Come to think of it, how come we keep seeing clouds and such that indicate a pretty functional atmosphere and high water vapour levels? How can there be regular rain on that forest area that Jack finds?

Logic Points: 4/10 – we’re not sure our alien overlords have thought this one through.

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Gina Carano’s Bad, Fast & Furious 6

The only good ‘un in Haywire was one of many bad ‘uns in Fast & Furious 6! The bigger WTF moment in the film is that incredible mid-air catch from Vin Diesel Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) not being dead at all, but also having amnesia, and being part of new antagonist Shaw’s (Luke Evans) gang – but as that was in the trailer, it’s not really a twist. It falls, then, on Carano’s Riley Hicks to make you say “Say what?” in the cinema, when it emerges that despite being supercop Luke Hobbs’s (Dwayne Johnson) right-hand woman, she was in league with Shaw all along, and probably his lover too.

Still Unexplained: Riley needed to keep her cover when she was sent to chase after Letty in that Underground Station, but did she really have to lay the smack down so hard? She could have just let her go and no-one would have noticed. Perhaps she just likes a fight.

A side point, but //how long are runways in Spain//? Oh, that long. As you were.

How long was Riley in the police in preparation for this job? How deep does this rabbit hole go?

Luke Evans is meant to be Jason Statham’s brother? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

Logic Points: 5/10 – Bringing logic to a Fast And Furious movie is like bringing a unicycle to a drag race: laughable.

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The Mexican Restaurant Owner Is The Baddie, Despicable Me 2

God bless Benjamin Bratt for filling Al Pacino’s sizeable galoshes when he left the Despicable Me sequel due to “creative differences”. The role had many layers – well, two – as Eduardo Perez was not just the owner of Salsa & Salsa, a Mexican restaurant-cum-dance in the Paradise Mall, but also extremely luchadorable supervillain El Macho, who wears very tight wrestling outfits and wants to make extra-evil purple minions. Ole and so forth.

Still Unexplained: Considering they knew each other beforehand, how did Gru the genius not immediately head to Perez’s house and look around there for clues? It was, even for a kids’ film, absurdly obvious who the rotten egg was, and picking on that nice Chinese wig maker was just uncalled for.

What does “El Macho” mean? “The Macho Man”? Ah, okay.

Logic Points: 1/10 – This is a movie where little yellow pill-men laugh at the word “bottom” and fart guns are more often used than not. Leave your silly logic at the door.

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Koch Is The Bad Guy, A Good Day To Die Hard

A twist that was genuinely made up mid-shoot – see our interview with director John Moore here for more details – it turns out political prisoner, former billionaire and government whistleblower Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) was behind the whole plot to steal uranium (or something).

Working with his biker babe daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir), the whole explosion-filled affair was a ruse to get revenge on the guy you thought was the main antagonist, Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), a corrupt government official who likes waggling carrots around as well as killing people with attack choppers.

Still Unexplained: How many different (and far simpler) ways are there to get one over on Chagarin?

How much damage does the now seemingly indestructible McClane Sr. have to take to even walk with a limp?

How do John and Jack drive to Pripyat, Ukraine from Moscow – typically a 12-hour trip – at approximately the same speed as a helicopter?

Logic Points: 7/10 – The film’s general plotting is mushier than a bag of very old bananas, but perhaps in part because it was made up there and then, this twist actually – whisper it – works.

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Arnie’s That One Guy! – Escape Plan

Prison expert Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is sent in to a top new high-security prison to attempt to escape in order to test its systems, at the behest of CIA Agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe). Once inside, he discovers it’s a double cross that his business partner (Vincent d’Onofrio) is in on. He is also befriended by Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is imprisoned in order to put pressure on his cyber-anarchist boss Victor Mannheim.
But after the pair escape, Breslin discovers that Rottmayer is Mannheim and that Miller is his daughter, having set up Breslin’s insertion to get her old man out. “I did not see that coming,” says Breslin of a twist that literally everyone saw coming.

Still Unexplained: Why not tell Breslin the truth and just tell him to break Mannheim out?

Who would ever believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger works for anyone?

If Breslin’s the smartest man ever, why did he not see the dumbest twist ever?

Logic Points: 3/10 – we have to remove some because REALLY.

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Based on an older Ash (Bruce Campbell) appearing at the end of the film and saying “Groovy”, as well as Professor Raymond Knowby acknowledging that bad, bad book Naturom Demonto had been discovered previously by him, this movie appears to be a sequel to the original Evil Dead as well as a remake, considering how much it has in common with that horror classic. Director Fede Alvarez explains it this way:

“Now, the way I personally like to see Evil Dead (2013), it's as a story that takes place 30 years after The Evil Dead ended. The car is there, the cabin is there (a family bought it and did some work on it more than 20 years ago) and the book has found its way back to the cabin... New kids will encounter it and suffer its wrath. Is Evil Dead a sequel then? Maybe. But the problem with the sequel theory would be that there are too many coincidences between the events on The Evil Dead and the ones on Evil Dead to have happened on a continuous story line. But if you believe the Naturom Demonto can force these things to happen, then it could be a sequel... and I do believe in coincidences.”

So that clears that up then.

Still Unexplained: What is Ash up to? Where is he? And why?

What time is it?

Why do people still keep going to these creepy cabins in the woods? Have they learned nothing?

Logic Points: 2/10 – A lot needs to be cleared up in the sequel. As it is, it’s just very bloody tantalising

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Melissa Leo Did It, Prisoners

Poor Hugh Jackman. His Kellan Dover and mate Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) see their daughters abducted, and overcome their usual good nature to take the law into their own hands and investigate the suspicious, funny-looking and slightly ratty Alex Jones (Paul Dano). But after torturing the poor weird kid for days in a deserted house, Dover realises that it’s not Alex who’s responsible. He was once abducted too, and raised by a certified psycho and his equally psycho wife, Holly (Melissa Leo).

And yes, it’s that outwardly sweet little old lady who in fact lifted the girls and dumped them in an underground pit, before bringing them inside for lethal injections (for, reasons?). She does the same to Dover when he turns up asking questions, and it’s only the efforts of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki that save the day (presumably; we don’t actually see him lift Dover out).

Still Unexplained: Why the aging make-up on Leo instead of hiring an older actress?

What sort of kids get in a van with Alex anyway? And why did he ask them to? Have these girls no wit?

How did Holly then snatch both? Did Alex help after all?

Why did Holly put them in the pit and then take them out before Dover’s first visit (as she presumably did given the other little abductee’s “You were there!” to Dover)?

Given that the torture technically does reveal the clues that Dover needs to find his daughter, are we supposed to take from this that torture works?

Are the angelic symbols tattooed on Loki’s knuckles significant? Given that he (presumably) quite literally raises Dover from the pit, is he literally an angel? How far does the metaphor go?

Logic Points: 8/10 – It more-or-less hangs together, except for the bits that involve psychos acting psycho.

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