Executing a daring plan to steal gold bars from a security truck in the middle of traffic clogged Turin, Michael Cain and his gang of thieves evade capture by making off in red, white and blue Mini Coopers. The gold is transferred to a coach and everything has gone to plan - until the coach swerves off a mountain road, leaving the gang at one end of the vehicle and the pile of gold at the other, teetering over the edge of a cliff… “Hang, on lads; I’ve got a great idea,” is Cain’s famous closing line.
The genius of the ending is that not only is it very funny, but its ambiguity means it stays with you. You have to decide for yourself if the men get out of their predicament or not.
In recent years Hollywood seems to have shied away from stories that are so open ended. This is a shame, because when they are done well they are bold and indelible.
Directors often have to wrestle with studios to have a ‘less than neat’ ending. Frank Darabont, director of The Shawshank Redemption, didn’t want his two prison mates, Andy and Red, to have their emotional reunion on a sun-kissed beach at the closing of the film. Rather he preferred to end the film with Red, finally freed from prison, travelling on the bus. “I hope I can make it across the border,” his narration goes, “I hope I can see my friend and shake his hand.” Sadly Darabont was denied his open ending.
Director Ridley Scott was more fortunate. When his film Blade Runner was finally recognised for the masterpiece it is, he was able to remove the horrendously tacked-on happy ending he’d been forced to use and finish things the way he wanted. It was then up to the audience to decide whether Harrison Ford’s Deckard and his lover Rachel manage to make their escape… well, at least until last year’s sequel.
Real life doesn’t have neat endings and occasionally it’s good when films reflect real life too.
By Tom Brookes
From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published on 8th May 2018.