In the aftermath of Logan and it’s devastating ending, here at Impact we thought we’d look at some other crappy endings that may/may not have made us cry… (spoilers ahead!).
When Michael Corleone returns to New York for his sister’s wedding, he doesn’t know that tensions are running high between the Five Families. He doesn’t know that within a matter of years, his father and brother will be dead and that, soon, he will assume the position of the patriarchal Don of the notorious Corleone family.
You already know that Francis Ford Coppola’s 1977 gangster epic is a classic – a milestone in the journey through cinematic history. While there are several iconic scenes – the opening for one, the restaurant shoot out for another – one of my favourites is the ending. As Michael secures the Corleones’ standing as the dominant tribe, by masterminding the murders of the other Dons, he sacrifices his own family for the good of, well, The Family. It’s the last phase in his metamorphosis into everything he used to abhor.
Al Pacino, whose career was immortalised by this franchise, plays Michael with a sincere dedication to his new field of work – any remorse or guilt pertaining to how his life turned out are absent. During the final sequence, while his sister cries out in hysteria, the camera stays on his facial expression, which could be perceived as impatient or even indifferent, as he’s already thinking about what needs to be done next.
As Michael’s wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), watches her husband be greeted with the same respect his father received, the audience shares how she must be feeling. We have taken this three-hour journey with her, witnessing his transformation from a good-hearted war veteran to a cold-blooded manipulator. He could have amounted to so much more, but instead he succumbs to a life that was always laid out for him – no one else could have succeeded Vito but him. The inevitability of this ending adds to the tragedy of it, leaving the audience stunned into silence.
Right off the bat Se7en sets a pretty bleak tone, with detectives David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) investigating the death of John Doe’s (Kevin Spacey) first victim -, the man forced to eat himself to death to embody ‘gluttony’. What follows is approximately two hours of equally gruesome murders centred around five of the seven deadly sins, but we also get to know more about Mills’ and Somerset’s lives, as well as Mills’ wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow). Herein lies the tragedy of this film’s truly grim ending.
Clearly, we would like to see Mills and Somerset succeed; unfortunately Fincher puts another twist in the tale as the ice-cold antagonist turns himself in. Having turned himself in, Doe brokers a deal in which he will sign a full confession to every murder, as long as Detectives Mills and Somerset accompany him to the location of the final two victims. Determined to finally bring an end to the gruesome series of events, the two detectives agree.
Doe, Mills and Somerset arrive in the desert finding no victims, but on their arrival a delivery truck speeds towards them, resulting in Somerset intercepting an ominous box addressed to Det. Mills – a box in which Somerset discovers the head of Mills’ wife. Now alone with Mills, John Doe finally reveals his endgame. Doe reveals that he was envious of Mills’ simple life, and so took Tracy’s head as a “souvenir” in order to goad Mills into becoming wrath and shooting Doe himself. Somerset attempts to talk Mills down, but in his determination to complete his masterpiece John Doe reveals that Tracy had been pregnant when he murdered her. On learning this, the already distraught Mills is completely broken down, and fulfils Doe’s plan, becoming wrath and killing him.
The Iron Giant
Brad Bird’s 1999 feature debut, whilst a failure at the box office at the time of its release, was met with wide acclaim from critics, and has since garnered a dedicated following. For the most part, it’s a charming tale about the young Hogarth, who befriends a giant metal robot when it falls from space. The film has a fun time playing with this idea, set against the backdrop of a Cold War era American town, playfully evoking ’50s B-movie clichés.
Things begin to take a more serious turn however, when villainous FBI agent Kent Mansley arrives to track down the Giant. He eventually inadvertently fires a nuclear missile to track the robot, who is still in the town. What follows is possibly one of the most devastating scenes ever to make it into a children’s film: the Giant bids farewell to the tearful Hogarth, before taking off into the sky and exploding in the atmosphere. The ending truly comes out of nowhere, and would be completely jarring if it didn’t perfectly tie up the themes presented earlier in the film. The giant, refusing to be the weapon that everyone sees him as, chooses to sacrifice himself in order to save the entire town. Just before he meets the missile, he whispers “Superman”, echoing an earlier scene where he is shown to admire the hero with an almost child-like wonder.
It’s very rare for the main character of a film to be killed off, even more so in a children’s film. We’re shown a brief epilogue in which the entire town remembers the giant as a hero, and the parts of the robot moving in the Arctic suggest that perhaps he isn’t entirely gone. However, this ending works perfectly with the film as a whole, with the morally grey politics presented in the background of the film being starkly contrasted with the clear, unselfish heroism shown by the giant. An excellent, but equally bittersweet message to end a children’s film on.
No Country for Old Men
The Coen Brother’s 2007 Best Picture winning film No Country for Old Men is an entertaining but by no means a light-hearted affair. It stars Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and a menacing Javier Bardem who has many iconic scenes as Anton Chigur, destroying everything and anything in his way to get to $2 million cash. The entire film shows people driven by money, murder and a genuine lack of compassion for human life. It’s only right that the ending continues this theme.
I always think of No Country for Old Men as having two endings: the ending for Brolin’s character Llewellyn Moss and the ending for Tommy Lee Jones’ character Ed Tom Bell. Brolin’s character, who is the obvious protagonist and whom we follow for the majority of the film, dies at the hand of Chigur. Not only is it unexpected and unconventional for the villain to come out on top in Hollywood, but he also dies off-screen. It feels unsatisfying. Characters we follow and root for rarely get killed off, let alone off screen.
However, the film carries on for another fifteen minutes and we reach the chronological ending of the film with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. It’s at this point when the plot of the film becomes irrelevant. The money and the goose-chase are mere external elements of a story for the true protagonist of Bell. He describes two dreams which, although both hold up for interpretation, I believe depict a man giving up. This is “no country for old men” like that of Bell; the world has moved past him and he can no longer comprehend the senselessness of it all. He ponders on why, or how, anyone would go to the extremes that Chigur went to in order to get a hold of the money. All of this means he can’t come to a rational conclusion and the viewer is left suspended on a sombre, ambiguous finale. No Country for Old Men’s ending is about as futile a conclusion you could possibly get; pure nihilism at its finest.
Images courtesy of Don Vito Corleone, Cecchi Gori Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Vantage & Donners’ Company