It isn’t knowing what’s at the end that’s great, but the journey itself.
Tropes in movies are like squares with 4 sides – facts that exist in the natural world. The character who has to pull one last job before they’re out, The Town, or walks away from an explosion like a BOSS, Any Action Movie, are staples of any movie’s diet. A personal favorite movie indulgence is foreshadowing or in its enigmatic name, The Prophecy. Where something is either visually or audibly foretold to occur later on, like a hero destined to defeat the evil and bring peace, or showing a random object that will be the key to the whole mystery. When a movie boldly states the ending through The Prophecy the viewer can expect a journey filled with twists and turns to reach its destination.
The nature of foreshadowing implies this article will state spoilers.
In Collateral the two main characters are introduced to one another in a Los Angeles taxi. The nature of a taxi cab warrants conversation between two strangers and in this fitting meeting ground The Prophecy is told. Tom Cruise’s character, Vincent, explains his dislike for the city by recounting a story about “a guy who gets on the MTA here, dies. Six hours he’s riding the subway before anybody notices his corpse doing laps around L.A, people on and off sitting next to him. Nobody notices.” The city is too disconnected for him, but this lays the track work for the movie to repeat his tale on this fateful night.
Vincent is a skillful assassin who is riding in the backseat, in a place of power over his taxi driver hostage, Max, played by Jamie Foxx. Vincent goes on to murder, with great accuracy and precision, various people on this beautiful L.A. evening. Through the course of the movie, Max learns that he can regain control, take back the driver’s seat, both literally and metaphorically. While realizing this fact, he drives the cab recklessly through the empty streets. Vincent getting nervous pulls a gun and threatens him, but Max calls out his bluff. Max, now in total control and moments before he crashes the cab he was once bound too, poignantly tells Vincent “to go fuck yourself.”
Moments later their clash continues onto the metro system or the MTA, as foretold earlier. With a bit of courage and lot of luck, during a blind shootout, Max fatally wounds the cold-hearted killer on a subway. Vincent, realizing his breaths are numbered, takes a seat and utters his last words. “Hey Max. Guy gets on the MTA here in L.A. and dies. You think anybody will notice?”
The moment their cat and mouse chase poured onto the MTA, The Prophecy started to take form. The original tale was told during the early moments and seemed to be a throwaway dialogue. However, when he asks the question during his last moments, instant chills occur as the film is reaching it’s final stop and the audience is eerily reminded of the beginning. A Prophecy like this, begs the film to be viewed multiple times to truly appreciate the full circle it completed.
Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na (JTYJN), a Bollywood film, tells a grounded love story set in modern urban India about Jai and Aditi, two friends who are coming of age and learning what they want from life and love. During the first half of the film, the audience learn that Jai’s a pacifist; he actively avoids physical confrontation and uses his wit to calm any attacker, like the college bully. Aditi hates this about Jai and it’s part of the reason they’re not together; she wants a strong man who won’t run from a fight. Jai comes from a royal warrior class family and to qualify as a “man” in this culture three conditions must be met. These conditions or The Prophecy is told by the Harry-Potter-like moving portrait of his dead father: he will ride a horse, get into a fight, and spend time in jail.
JTYJN’s Prophecy invoke ideas of a western or a gangster movie and nothing synonymous to the popular idea of Bollywood – romance tales with song and dance. The portrait told The Prophecy moments before the intermission (for those unfamiliar). This wonderful placement let the audience learn about Jai, understand his beliefs, and gives them time, literally, to question how he will undergo the changes foretold.
During the second half, as both Jai and Aditi go through love and loss with other people, they learn what they want from their ideal partner. Aditi found her macho man, but he was an abusive drunk who got into fights without just cause; he even went as far as to physically hurt her. Upon hearing this fact, Jai learned his limits of pacifism and went to the jerk’s house to teach him a lesson. Unfortunately, or as destined, he wound up in jail for his actions. The horse condition gets fulfilled after he’s locked up and the film concludes shortly after he gallops towards Aditi to pronounce his love.
Unlike Collateral, where the character had to go through one hoop, die on a subway, JTYJN jumps through three to be fulfilled. The Prophecy itself wasn’t told until half-way into the movie and two-thirds into it, none of the conditions had been met. The moment Jai goes to beat the drunk, The Prophecy begins to align itself and the pace at which conditions are met occur rapidly. The high frequency wish fulfillment created a gripping climax as the pieces to a grand puzzle were satisfyingly falling into place.
The Prophecy provides a new layer of enjoyment in watching a movie for the second time. Armed with the knowledge of the story, new details, overlooked the first time, will be more evident. Time travel movies have rewards reaped from multiple viewing like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or the Back To The Future series. Other movies integrate The Prophecy as a comedic element like in Hot Fuzz. Nolan’s Prestige or Villeneuve’s recent movie Arrival use the various tools in a filmmaker’s arsenal, like editing, special effects, etc, to craft a brilliant Prophecy.
The audience usually doesn’t know where a movie is heading; they take their seats, the lights slowly dim and are thrust into darkness. However, The Prophecy clearly tells them the destination, as if a light at the end of a tunnel has been turned on. It isn’t knowing what’s at the end that’s great about The Prophecy, but the journey itself.