Writing a movie is hard work, and when all is said and done, there are always going to be a few small subplots that get ignored in the third act. But sometimes a filmmaker forgets an important plot thread. And by "important," we mean "one that was actually way more important than the main plot."
So we have to ask ...
6Inception -- What About Cobol?
Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a corporate spy hired by shady companies to investigate their competitors' dreams. It's established in the first scene that his particular brand of corporate espionage doesn't exactly fall under the heading of "ethical business practices" -- he's more like a prettier Bernie Madoff. So for instance, when he botches the job for a company called Cobol Engineering at the beginning of the film, Cobol sends its hit men after him. This results in an obligatory "Mr. Nolan, your script has just gone 20 pages without an action beat" chase through the streets of Mombasa.
"Boy, I sure could go for a spontaneous running gunbattle."
But Cobb has bigger problems to deal with. He's accused of murdering his wife, and the film is all about him doing "one last job" so he can clear his name and move back to America and see his kids.
Finally (SPOILER!) he appears to have accomplished just that in the final scene. The job is successful, he comes back home and he hugs his kids -- whether the whole thing was a dream or not is the subject of another article.
Spoiler: Leo is a replicant.
But What About ...
Uh, what about Cobol?
Over the two-plus hours of the run time, the film seems to forget that this huge, unscrupulous corporation still wants to murder Leo's ass and has black vans full of thugs capable of doing it (they've taken out one team member already). And let's face it: If they were able to track him down to Kenya, it shouldn't be too difficult to find him in America. At his house.
So the ending to this film becomes significantly less happy when we realize that, hell, they'll probably now have to murder his kids, too, to get rid of any witnesses.
"Hit men are looking for me. I should hide at home with my innocent children."
And now will they have to go on the run for the rest of their lives, living from town to town, never knowing when Cobol will show up to pop a cap in them, or wire their car to explode? Where do you run from the people who found you in freaking Africa?
Dammit, Leo, you should have just chilled with Michael Caine for the rest of your life and had him bring the kids to Paris from time to time to visit. Way to ruin their lives, asshole.
We hear he snores, but still.
And not to pick on Leo, but we also need to look at ...
5The Departed -- What About the Microchips?
Jack Nicholson is Frank Costello, one of the most memorable movie villains in recent years. Costello's an Irish mob boss, based on actual underworld figure "Whitey" Bulger, who does it all: murdering, drug dealing and racketeering. Oh, and by the way, he also rips the Chinese off in the form of selling them a bunch of fake microprocessors intended for military targeting technology. Hey, it's just China -- what are they gonna do about it? They're a forgiving lot.
He's eventually brought down by an undercover investigation that results in his own mole, Matt Damon, doing the job that old age probably would have done in a couple of months.
"It's a lot more badass to say, 'We shot him' than to say, 'Senility did him in.' " - State Police
Yes (SPOILER!), Leo DiCaprio gets killed in the process. But the bad guy gets his just deserts, Mark Wahlberg finishes off the rest of the scum, and we can all rest easy, safe in our knowledge that another criminal is off the streets. After, you know, evading the cops for decades, living a rich and full life and killing a shitload of people.
But What About ...
In all our enthusiasm for justice via Marky Mark, we forgot one major detail that's a bit of a downer: those damned microprocessors that, oh by the way, were going to be used to start World War III.
That's right -- they were intended to be used in cruise missile guidance systems. About midway through the film, Costello negotiates a deal with the Chinese saying they'd better show him the money if they "wanna nuke Taiwan anytime in this century." That's American ally Taiwan. The country that, if attacked, would draw an American military response. If nuked, there would be a nuclear response.
Those chips represent the end of the world. And the movie just forgets about them.
Above: Probably not worth worrying about.
Now, when Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg's characters confront him about it later, we learn that Costello actually tricked the Chinese with a package of fakes. We also learn that he's an FBI informant. So maybe the chips never existed?
Nope -- earlier in the film, we learned that Costello had orchestrated their theft, a job that resulted in the unfortunate death of the guy who pulled the job, Miles Kennefick. The film even makes sure to have Martin Sheen ask, "What did you do with the real microprocessors, Frank?"
So regardless of Costello's relationship with the FBI, the chips are still out there, in someone's hands. And if he was willing to go through that trouble, he must have had some plan to make money with them. If they weren't getting sold to the Chinese, they were getting sold to somebody.
If Costello didn't have a chance to sell them before he bit the bullet, whoever has them after his death certainly will. But hey, we killed Matt Damon. That's what really matters.