by Ben Bradley
Luck is something we contend with in our daily lives, influencing its most mundane and impactful events. We can’t know if coincidences happen for a reason or not – except when they happen in a script. With our favourite movies, we can put names and faces to the people that made them happen and sometimes, they get a little too familiar with luck to drag out their stories. Here are three examples.
When Luck Counts
First, we should establish when luck counts. For example, some might say how very convenient it is that a plot starts through a chance encounter. However, at the start of a story, we’re generally more forgiving of coincidences and blind luck as everything is set up – the stakes are low. It’s at the climax of a movie, when loose ends need tying up that it’s most egregious.
Luck itself is an entertaining notion. There are entire industries built off luck, where the appeal is how unpredictable an outcome can be. Think casinos or their digital counterpart – iGaming websites. On these sites, users will line up to play slingo bingo exciting games where the outcome is entirely random. They may have different themes and digital art styles, but the central premise of each game revolves around luck.
So, luck can be enjoyable but, when it’s the difference between the hero winning or losing, it can deflate tension and show the writer’s invisible hand guiding the action.
A Train Tunnel Saves Mission: Impossible
The Mission: Impossible franchise is getting long in the tooth, with seven released movies and an eighth upcoming. While Tom Cruise has received heaps of praise for keeping the franchise modern and doing his own stunts, it’s the very first movie that has a glaring ‘well, that was lucky’ moment.
In the first movie, Ethan Hunt becomes a suspected traitor to his organisation – the IMF. As a result, he must go it alone to find out who is trying to leak CIA secrets while avoiding those trying to bring him to justice. To do that, he actually steals the CIA secrets in that famous sequence.
The plan is to rendezvous with bad guys Max and Phelps to expose them, clearing Hunt’s name. Now, that plan can be debated already (betray your country to prove you’re not betraying your country) but it’s the Max meeting where luck strikes. Hunt gives Max the list of CIA secrets while Ving Rhames’ Stickell makes sure she can’t upload it.
However, he gets chased away by agents and Max almost completes her upload. Just as it’s about to go through, the train goes into a tunnel that stops her connection. This being the ‘90s, the whole transfer is aborted instead of just carrying on afterwards.
Skyfall Needs the Trains to Run on Time
For Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond, Skyfall put aside the typical rogue’s gallery to give us Raoul Silva instead. A forsaken MI6 agent, Javier Bardem’s Silva is out for revenge against the organisation. His plans come to fruition in a London set piece that involves getting captured, tricking the MI6 into hacking themselves and then escaping through the London underground to cause chaos.
In fact, Silva escapes to the real underground – old pathways built and forgotten beneath the modern tube systems. Bond catches up with Silva, who does the expected thing by dropping a train on Bond. See it for yourself.
Amongst other issues with his winding plan, people have questioned how Silva could be so accurate with the train timing here. After figuring out the younger (but still old) Bond might catch him here, he needs to find the perfect point and angle to blow the old station open so that a modern train will fall through, right on cue.
There’s a world where Silva had a five, maybe ten-minute wait on his hands after dropping that witty radio callback. Of course, this is nowhere near the wackiest a Bond film has gotten. However, for the best-performing Bond movie with a great, relatively grounded story, it raises eyebrows.