As much as certain comedy sites seem to revel in mocking the absurdity of classic movie moments, the fact is, that's what Hollywood films are for: We watch them because we want to see things that could never happen in real life.
Except that some of those moments actually did happen, either because they were inspired by reality or because someone saw the movie and said, "Hey, let's do that, too."
#6. Face/Off -- The Cops Ram a Bad Guy's Plane Off the Runway
The Absurd Scene:
In Face/Off, John Travolta is an FBI agent and Nicolas Cage is a dangerous lunatic (he plays a terrorist). At one point Cage's character dresses up as a priest, headbangs his way into a church and grabs the ass of a girl singing in the choir. Then he and Travolta switch faces, literally. Everything about this movie is insane, is what we're saying.
It warped poor Nic forever.
Earlier in the film, before the two switch, Cage is trying to escape in a plane and Travolta stops him by ramming a helicopter into it:
Travolta prevents the plane from taking off and forces Cage to crash into a warehouse made entirely from fireworks, apparently. If you seriously think, even for a second, that a real law enforcement agent would actually try a stunt like that then you're hugely misinformed about how much money they make.
This is about a thousand pensions worth of damage.
Unless we're talking about a cop from Brazil, that is. In 2009, a police chase in Sao Paulo, Brazil, turned into a John Woo film when the cops found themselves racing to reach a plane full of smuggled goods that was about to take off. And then it got really crazy.
As the car closes in, the officer in the passenger seat leans out the window and aims his rifle ... but then the driver says, "Don't shoot, I'm going to hit the wing."
"Yeah, OK, that plan makes more sense."
The officers duck and the car rams the wing, breaking the windshield ...
They must have been driving a pickup truck, because it would take a flatbed to haul those enormous balls.
... and the plane is knocked sideways and lies crooked on the runway.
The cop is yelling "We should exchange insurance info."
As the car turns around, the cop in the passenger seat hops out and runs toward the plane with his rifle ready. If you watch carefully, you can see he starts to shuffle because his legs were getting in the way of the biggest adrenaline boner ever popped.
Heroes are real. And they apparently have the same fashion sense as Steve Jobs.
The officers arrested five suspects and confiscated $200,000 worth of goods, including notebooks, electronic surveillance equipment and a bicycle, which presumably they intended to use as an alternate method of escape.
#5. Mission: Impossible -- Rappelling from the Ceiling
The Absurd Scene:
In the first Mission: Impossible, Ethan Hunt's impossible mission is to sneak into the CIA headquarters and steal some classified files. Problem is, the computer he needs is in a room that's so secure (due to all sorts of lasers and shit on the floor) that the only way to get in undetected is through a vent in the ceiling. So he rappels in and ... do we ... do we really need to go over this? When we said Mission: Impossible, literally the first thing you thought of was this:
Ethan avoids the alarms, downloads the files into a floppy, gets lifted back through the ceiling and escapes. There's a reason that scene is so iconic -- it's completely insane. It's the sort of highly improbable scenario that could only exist in the universe of an action movie, where half the things people do are the result of a director/actor thinking of a cool stunt and forcing the screenwriter to come up with a way to include it.
"Ethan, the bomb can only be diffused by bungee jumping out of this blimp into a live volcano."
Besides, any place with that much internal security would have plenty of other external measures as well. It's not like someone could just climb onto the roof, cut a hole in the ceiling and rappel inside.
In March 2010, a group of highly organized professional thieves used the exact same method as Ethan Hunt ... to rob a Best Buy in New Jersey.
Don't laugh -- their reason was exactly the same: to thwart a system of state of the art motion sensors covering the floor.
Which begs the question, how long has Best Buy been a front for the CIA?
Like Hunt, the thieves had to reach the computers to extract what they needed: namely the computers themselves, like 20 of them, valued at $26,000. According to police, they climbed an exterior pipe and removed a piece of the roof using a suction device. At this point they rappelled into the store, staying 10 feet off the ground at all times -- any lower would have triggered the store's alarm.
"Just looking, thanks."
Still hanging from cables, they broke into the store's storage racks and helped themselves to 20 MacBooks. When they were done, they rappelled back out and left without a trace. Store employees only realized what happened the following morning, when they noticed more debris than usual on the floor and a brand new hole in the ceiling.
Incidentally, "Danger Hole" is the name of our new band.
These guys were so well prepared that they even made sure to stay behind store banners so the security cameras didn't see them. At this point we're pretty sure they didn't go for a government agency simply because it would have been too easy.
#4. The Abyss -- Ed Harris Breathes Liquid
The Absurd Scene:
In The Abyss, Ed Harris plays Bud, a guy who works as the foreman of a futuristic underwater drilling rig, with everything the job entails (dealing with crazed Navy SEALs, missiles, deep sea aliens and so on). In one scene, Bud has to deactivate a bomb that lies ticking on a shelf too deep to reach using scuba gear, so he puts on a suit full of high-tech "breathable liquid" instead. It begins to fill up at 1:35 here.
As the fluid fills his lungs, Bud starts freaking out, and the other guy tells him, "We all breathed liquid for nine months, Bud, your body will remember" -- which is a crock of bullshit. You also absorbed nutrients from a placenta when you were a fetus, that doesn't mean you can plug one into your belly and do away with food.
There's no simple way this could work in the real world ... but this is a James Cameron movie, and vaguely scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo is what he does best. "Breathable liquid" is no more a thing than "a machine that switches your body with a giant blue cat person." Right?
Or "a rich lady who dates poor people."
Not only is this technology real -- the movie itself shows you a real example of it. Remember that scene where a rat is submerged in liquid and doesn't drown?
Yeah, those aren't special effects. That's a real rat, breathing liquid.
In fact, the American Humane Association gave The Abyss an "Unacceptable" rating because they "do not feel it was necessary to subject the rat to this experiment for the purpose of filming the scene." The fact that it was a real rat wasn't widely publicized at the time, possibly because the scene was reportedly censored in some markets, like the UK, at the behest of animal rights organizations.
"We tested it on Ed Harris first to make sure it was safe for the rat."
So how did they do it? Pretty much the same way they explain it in the movie: by using an oxygenated fluorocarbon liquid that mammals can breathe. You see, when someone drowns, they don't die because they have water in their lungs, they die from lack of oxygen. The water is more an inconvenience than anything, since it gets in the way of you getting to the air. If your lungs were full of a fluid they could extract oxygen from, you could breathe it just fine.
"Just fine" = "While completely losing your shit."
But what about humans? Well, in 2010, a guy called Arnold Lande patented a scuba suit just like the one in The Abyss. Breathing liquid solves the three most dangerous medical issues associated with scuba diving: barotrauma and decompression sickness, which are caused by pressurized gas expanding as the diver rises, and alien-killing underwater nukes too deep to deactivate by other means.
#3. The Da Vinci Code - A Dying Man Writes a Message in His Own Blood
The Absurd Scene:
In The Da Vinci Code, the police find a murder victim who, despite suffering severe gut stab wounds, had the time to write out, in his own blood, a complex message that would eventually lead to the killer. Also, two hours of bullshit.
We've already pointed out that this particular strategy makes no sense -- and yet we see blood messages all the time in movies and TV shows, even ones more grounded in reality than The Da Vinci Code.
First of all, if the person had time to write something down in literally the most time consuming way possible, surely they had time to, you know, call for help. Also, would a blood message even be readable? It's not like you can erase it and start over (not without giving yourself another stab wound, anyway).
"Hand me those forms! I've got time for maybe three signatures before this dries."
After being stabbed a whopping 86 times, a student in England used his last ounce of strength to write "DAV" on his computer -- bypassing the keyboard altogether and scrawling the letters directly onto the machine with his own blood. Soon afterward, a man named David Heiss was arrested and confessed to the crime. Yep, just like in the movies, the victim wrote his own killer's name, presumably after deleting all his porn.
And this isn't even the only time it's happened: After a man, also in England, was brutally attacked by a friend, he was left with a mouth so swollen that he was unable to speak. When the police asked him to say his attacker's name (presumably just to dick him around), he responded by writing it in blood.
Of course, neither of these guys wrote something as long-winded and pointless as the victim in The Da Vinci Code, officially making them better writers than Dan Brown.
#2. Sweeney Todd -- The Human Pie
The Absurd Scene:
Sweeney Todd is about a barber and a baker who strike a lucrative business partnership: The barber kills people, and the baker turns their flesh into delicious meat pies, which she then sells. In the Tim Burton film version, the barber and the baker are played by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, because of course they are. Here's the scene where they come up with the plan.
While a barber serial killer doesn't seem that far-fetched, a lady who turns corpses into pies and feeds them to other people, without them realizing it, doesn't make a lot sense. She would have to be not only especially coldhearted, but also a damned good cook. But, then again, nobody goes into a musical (or a Tim Burton movie, for that matter) expecting anything resembling a coherent story.
Anyone else craving a pot pie?
Between 1939 and 1940, Leonarda Cianciulli, an Italian housewife, killed three women, sliced their corpses into little pieces and turned them into tea cakes that she fed to her friends and family. Of course, there wasn't any human flesh in these particular cakes: She made them with the victims' blood. The flesh she turned into soap.
<the Italy Wiki
She was also the real life Tyler Durden.
"As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them." That's not a quote from the movie -- that's Cianciulli's official statement.
Like in Sweeney Todd, Cianciulli had worked out a clever and profitable system for her crimes: All three women had come to her asking for advice, and she had convinced each one to move to another city and prepare postcards to be sent to her relatives explaining the decision. Then she killed them with an axe, took their money and sent the postcards away to avoid suspicion. By the third murder, she remarked that she was getting better at it and "the cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet."
Her tools are currently on exhibit in the Criminology Museum of Rome, because Italy is weird.
It's probably wise to keep an eye on anyone who owns a meat cleaver like that.
#1. Goldfinger -- James Bond Has a Tuxedo Under His Wet Suit
The Absurd Scene:
The opening scene of Goldfinger is perhaps the most perfect summation of the James Bond character. It begins with Bond emerging from the water in a wetsuit ...
Only one man could make a duck hat look cool.
... and then, after knocking down a guard and rigging a compound to explode, Bond removes his wetsuit to reveal ...
... a perfectly crisp tuxedo. Bond calmly lights his cigarette while the place explodes, and in the following two minutes proceeds to make out with a nude lady and murder a Mexican assassin with a lamp. All of this happens before the credits even start. No explanation is given because none is necessary: It's just James Bond being his usual outrageously cool self.
The "tux under the wet suit" scene is so iconic that it now shows up whenever a movie wants to make it clear that the main character isn't a real secret agent but Hollywood's idea of one: If that can happen, the chances of the movie including an helicopter explosion go up by 200 percent.
Some wear it better than others.
In the movie, Bond's entire mission is to make something blow up. That's all. He puts on the suit and goes into the bar afterward, because he's a functional alcoholic. When a real MI6 agent did the same thing, on the other hand, he did it because he had to sneak into a Nazi-occupied casino and retrieve two other secret agents. That's right: The reality is even more James Bond than James Bond himself.
<Ga het na, National Archive
And the real secret agent had an even better chin than Sean Connery.
Peter Tazelaar was a Dutch agent working for MI6 during World War II. Under orders from the Dutch queen, who was hiding in Britain at the time, Tazelaar was dropped near the Dutch coast, swam to the docks, removed his specially designed rubber oversuit to reveal a pristine tuxedo and walked up to the casino. In order to make it past the sentries, Tazelaar made himself reek of cognac and pretended to be drunk.
"Really wish I'd thought of that."
Once inside, he extracted the two other agents and left. And then he did it again -- a few years later, he had to pull off the exact same stunt. Not only that, Tazelaar was also described as a womanizer and fond of missions involving casinos -- he wasn't James Bond with a Dutch accent, James Bond was Peter Tazelaar with a British one. According to the historian who uncovered the wetsuit mission, it's possible that one of the screenwriters in Goldfinger, a former agent himself, could have known about it and intentionally based the scene on Tazelaar.
Also, Moonraker may have been based on the time Tazelaar stopped a devious space plot.
Mohammed Shariff can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more instances of reality being way cooler than fiction, check out 7 Real Car Chases Way Crazier Than Anything in the Movies and 6 Soldiers Who Survived Shit That Would Kill a Terminator.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how you can make the Death Star trench scene a reality.
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