3 Movies That Are Better If They Take Place Entirely In The Protagonists’ Minds: Spoiler Space

February 12, 2013


This is the Spoiler Space for today’s examination of 3 films made better if they take place in the minds of the protagonists.  If you’ve come here first, you might want to read the original discussion first.

And, as should be painfully obvious at this point, these addenda will give away the endings of the films.

Hey, remember how most of the preview was this part?  Bet you didn't think it be literally the last few seconds of the movie...

Hey, remember how most of the preview was this part? Bet you didn’t think it’d be literally the last few seconds of the movie…

The Grey – Even though I loved the ambiguous nature of the ending, the moment leading up to it is pretty silly.  These wolves, we are told, have a 300-square mile “turf,” and literally minutes after the last remaining colleague of Neeson is killed he wanders in to their den?  Their den??  What would be the odds of that?  But if this entire thing, including the other characters (all of whom, in some way, make a decision to embrace either life or death, and reflect Neeson’s mental progress), reflect Neeson’s trudge toward mental salvation – toward embracing life, no matter what it brings – then everything in the story had to lead him inexorably toward the den, and toward his ultimate decision about whether to give up on life, or embrace it. Consider the conversation he has with God just before he finds the den in which he concludes, “Fine.  I’ll do it myself.”

Panic Room – The ending of the film is, well, kind of dumb.  On a literal level it feels like all the energy was spent on structuring the physical plausibility of the break-in itself; the ending is sort of, “And, uh, then it was over. And Forrest Whitaker got arrested.”  Psychologically, though, it works better, because the push to the “treasure” becomes desperate and self-damaging. Ultimately it becomes about the price of getting out of that room, what must be protected and what must be sacrificed.

The lesser known "sit in a pool of human remains and attack someone with a climbers' axe" stage of the grieving process.

The lesser known “sit in a pool of human remains and attack someone with a climbers’ axe” stage of the grieving process.

The Descent – Okay, this one’s arguably a bit of a cheat, because the director’s original intention of this British film was to reveal that the whole thing was in her mind – the film closes with her surrounded by subterranean creatures, about to die, and then we see she’s insane in a mental hospital.  A happier ending was created and added for American audiences.  Your initial snobby, iconoclastic response – like mine – might be, “Lame!  Sanitized, American happy endings!  Bleah!”  But hold on to your black turtlenecks and hipster glasses, because the American ending?  Is better.  For starters, it lets us, the audience, engage with the story and decide the film is in her mind instead of giving us the obvious “Eh? Eh?  Get it?” ending.  Also, if a film starts with someone’s family dying and things get worse from there?  Dramatically speaking, that person needs to “come through” in the end and find a way out of that damned cave.  Otherwise it’s just torture porn.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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14 Comments on “3 Movies That Are Better If They Take Place Entirely In The Protagonists’ Minds: Spoiler Space”

  1. Go Jules Go Says:

    Okay, this page didn’t load for a while, and I really thought it was a metaphor for your mind.

    That’s shocking that the American ending of The Descent is better, but that’s a very valid point.

    Just off the top of my head, I feel like a movie like American Beauty could work in this context. A perfectionist trapped in a flawless suburban world in his mind (or Annette Bening’s mind, in this case), and things start to unravel… Truman Show-style.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Every now and then the “American Ending” works out. Vertigo actually has a darker ending in the American version. In the European version they tacked on this dumb radio broadcast where we hear about the guy who murdered his wife being arrested; in the American version he just gets away.


  2. thefoodandwinehedonist Says:

    It takes time for me to process movies. So when i saw The Grey, I was like “Awww, WTF!” when I saw the ending. Then after a month or so the wolves representing demons dawned on me as well.

    And, for the record, torture porn = not sexy in the least bit.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I actually really liked the “cut out” on its own. There’s just no way he’s walking out of that den, so I liked giving it the “Butch & Sundance” ending of ending on a moment of triumph and “I’m still alive, bastards!”


  3. rossmurray1 Says:

    The Descent is one of the most disturbing movies of recent years. Maybe it’s because I’m a parent, but the opening accident has stayed with me, unfortunately. And, yes, it’s all down from there. Kickass movie.


  4. pegoleg Says:

    Of the 3, I’ve only seen the Panic Room. The thing that struck me most about that film is that Jodie Foster almost always plays a strong woman who is up against it, and takes care of business. I like that about her. The Descent sounds like it is 100% guaranteed to give me nightmares for a year – can’t handle that kind of stuff AT all.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I’d steer clear of Descent if movies like that affect you. Foster was actually a last minute replacement on Panic Room – it was supposed to be Nicole Kidman (which, if you look at the picture of her “daughter” in the movie, that’s a closer physical match). But I agree – she seems very choosy about her roles, in a good way.


  5. Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) Says:

    You watch movies?

    I am so impressed.

    The last movie I saw in the theatre may have been Titanic (the first time). Suffice it to say I was happy it sank.


  6. Archon's Den Says:

    Tying two of our glorious leader’s posts together, to explain why some people blog, and many people Facebook – Bloggers go to see Titanic….and get it. Facebookers go to see Titanic – 9 times. The boat sinks, almost everyone dies. Save $120. You’re welcome!


  7. LizForADay Says:

    I think I have to agree with you totally on these movies. 🙂


  8. Brian Murphy (@murphdb22) Says:

    Interesting collection here because I enjoyed all of these movies and close to the same level, though maybe The Descent a little higher. I don’t like horror, but I really liked it. You’re right on about The Grey. It brings about a strange vibe since it gives us a very literal feel of a survivalist account, but it also has this meditative thing going on and really could be an allegory. Especially in light of some of the issues you raised which were on my mind too. Panic Room is a good candidate too given its simple setup. I tend to like these single-ish setting movies. I think it’s kind of underrated. Think you’re onto something here though with the endings. Each of these get a little bit detached from reality, but not totally overtly, as things come to an end.


  9. Brian Murphy (@murphdb22) Says:

    Also did the commentary in The Descent state his original intention was for it to only exist in the mind? I remember watching the commentary but don’t recall that. I’ve read a lot of theories about The Descent, even some from Marshall I think – that it was all in the mind, it was literal, or they did go to the caves but the crawlers were all in the mind. I’m confused about the “hospital” ending. I recall the UK ending being back in the cave and the US ending on the side of the road? I can’t say for sure how I’d feel about the US ending since I saw the UK first and can’t unsee it. I think torture porn would be more if we see her die, even though in the UK ending I think it’s pretty much a given. You never know…she’s pretty badass now, though. She’d probably skin one up and disguise herself or something. Or maybe she kills enough crawlers and becomes a Kurtz like figure. Anyway, I would take the UK ending if they cut it before that last shot of all the crawlers.



  1. 3 Movies That Are Better If They Take Place Entirely In The Protagonists’ Minds | The Byronic Man - February 12, 2013

    […] page will overview only the general plots, but not reveal key events. Be sure to visit the Spoiler Space page if you’ve seen one or more of the films – or don’t care about having the ending revealed […]

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