A Long Slow Finish

by Josh Golding

...A film poses a question with the first big twist in Act 1. It creates a problem that must be solved, or a question that must be answered, by the end of the film. If it hasn’t been, then your story hasn’t delivered.

But a good ‘hook’ does more than that. It makes inevitable a climax in which the forces that have just gotten entangled must fight it out to the finish.

In Vertigo, when James Stewart’s character unwittingly pulls a policemen off a rooftop to his death after an attack of vertigo, we know what’s got to happen by the end of the film. This defeated, devastated man is going to have another opportunity of saving a life – and to do it, he’s going to have to overcome his vertigo and climb.

In The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis is just celebrating an award for his achievements in the field of child psychology, when he gets confronted by an enraged former patient, and shot. But we know Willis is going to get a second chance. He’ll be offered a new patient, a boy who also says he sees ghosts. And this time, he’ll have to take him seriously.

A good ending should feel inevitable; but perversely, remain in doubt right up to the finish. The audience may despair of ever achieving the right outcome – but they’ll be so relieved when it comes.

That doesn’t mean all endings have to be neatly resolved. In fact, audiences are inclined to be disbelieving of such neat endings...

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Just for fun the trailer from 1958 Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo

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