Oscar Contenders

What Do You Think of 'Argo's Highly Exaggerated Ending?

Hollywood exaggeration versus the real thing

Argo ending
Photo: Warner Bros.

Argo is currently the front-runner to win Best Picture at the Oscars and should Ben Affleck win Best Director at the Directors Guild Awards this Saturday I can't imagine what reason anyone would have for not predicting Argo other than blind hope something else would win.

That said, one thing about the film I was a little 50-50 on was that intense conclusion. The hold-up before getting onto the plane and the cars chasing the plane down the runway before it was airborne and safe. In an AP article at Yahoo, David Germain discusses it a little further against the reality of the situation as it happened:

That white-knuckle takeoff at the Tehran airport, with Iranian assault teams racing behind the jet down the runway? Never happened. In Mendez's book "Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History," the six Americans' passage through the Tehran airport and onto the plane was uneventful. The takeoff and two-hour flight out of Iranian airspace is told in just four sentences.

Much like the escape, Argo is Hollywood audacity at its best, taking the gist of a true story and dressing it up into a fun night out.

From my perspective I can understand the escalation in tension one of two ways. 1.) As Germain's piece states, dressing a real event up and turning it into a piece of Hollywood entertainment, or 2.) using an intense fabrication of the truth to visually represent what the six embassy employees were feeling as they made their escape. Perhaps it was uneventful, but I have a hard time believing their nerves weren't on edge the entire time.

So I wanted to ask you, what do you think of the ending of the film? Was it too much? Did it take you out of the story or was it just what you needed to cap off the thrill ride?

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  • http://letterboxd.com/ragingtaxidrver/ RagingTaxiDriver

    I think it was one of the most well executed scenes of the movie. And it could be the scene that gets Argo an Oscar for editing. And I agree with the statement of emulating the nerves/feelings of the six embassy employees.

    • http://letterboxd.com/ragingtaxidrver/ RagingTaxiDriver

      Okay, the italics didn't work like I thought.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

        They work like you thought, you just have to close them.

  • Torryz

    Knowing that the real ending wasn't as exciting as it was in movie bothers me a little, but I did enjoy the movie a lot. This is not the first time this has been done before in a film depicting real events and it won't be the last. If the film is as good as Argo, I can be forgiving for some Hollywood ending.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

    Personally it annoyed me. I thought the tension was already there, and I would have preferred it if we had just stayed with the passengers on the plane, feeling their nervousness build and build until finally... the plane takes off. In fact seeing the people rushing to try to catch the plane in their cars, just reminded me I was watching a movie and they would escape.

    However my least favorite bit was Arkin walking through the film shoot. These two characters have been led to believe that the mission will not continue as planned, yet Arkin and Goodman just walk through the shoot because they absolutely have to get back. As an audience, we know the phone is ringing and they have to pick up, but they certainly don't. I realize Arkin's character was a bit cocky, but he was also a professional and I just didn't buy him walking through the shot for no real reason.

    • Alexi D

      To be fair to Arkin's character had waited a couple of times for the shoot to finish. It wasn't as if he was rushing to get back, he was agitated and annoyed and I can completely understand that he would disregard the guys instructions and walk through the shoot to get back to the office. You have to remember they had been up all night waiting at the telephone and I can completely understand why he would want to get back. It did not appear to me at all as if the sequence was rushed. It was slow enough to keep the tension building. As an audience member it didn't appear to me as if the scene was contrived and I fully believe that a hot shot Hollywood producer would do just what Arkin's character did.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

        Your reasoning makes sense and if it worked for you that's fine. For me personally it just seemed like such an obvious obstacle created for the sole purpose of trying to get a little more (in my mind unnecessary) tension. These characters would have known the shoot was there and when I was watching the movie his whole reaction felt rushed.

        • Alexi D

          Fair point, can see where you're coming from.

  • http://fortheloveofmovies.wordpress.com Abe M

    I really enjoyed Argo as a solid and enthralling piece of entertainment that kept me engaged throughout the film even though 1) the suspense in the film didn't rely on any heavy action, and 2) that I was nervous even though I knew how the film would inevitably end. I think the film was very clean and well-made but not a novel piece of filmmaking. The ending with the plane chase undermined all the beauty I found in the film and I was dissappointed with it, but I acknowledged it as the one element of hollywood filmmaking that I guess had to appear in the film at some point. I was glad that at least it happened at the end so I could kind of ignore it and as you mentioned it did pair well with the feelings of the characters. I have had some problem like this one in Argo to some extent with all of the Oscar contenders, and while I am a bit forgiving of Argo's ending, I do feel did a significant injustice to everything else in the film that made it so good. Because of that betrayal, I actually don't feel Argo deserves a best picture award.

  • Jack

    First of all, IT'S A MOVIE!.

    We've all seen a movie that ended with Hitler getting blown apaprt by machine guns, and then torched in a movie theatre.

    It's not a documentary. It is a movie.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Is there a second of all? I haven't heard this argument before. Is it really a movie?

      • Art

        Well it wasn't a 100% factual film or documentary. For instance Arkin's character was made up and the real Canadian character did not like other parts that were fictionalized. The scene worked for me, it added more excitement imo.

      • http://smartfilm.blogspot.com SmartFilm

        Classic Brad getting mad.

        All though his argument is simple I believe the gist of Jack's argument is that a film needs to be greater than just a factual connect the dots. They need to have tension and impulse and he's willing to accept the fact that the 'true story' is slightly stretched in order to make it into "a movie," with said movie being a film that can attract and excite general audiences.

        I agree with that sentiment myself.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

      I think the key difference is that Basterds' ending was tonally consistent with the movie up till then. Argo, in my opinion, had a much more gritty, realistic feel that was tainted a bit by the ending.

    • http://www.gamingsymmetry.com Stinger

      Documentaries are a kind of movie, aren't they :/

  • Bertram J. Krogh

    I don’t really put much thinking into the dilemma of historical accuracy. One of my favorite movies, A Beautiful Mind from 2001, is a biopic, a masterpiece. Though, I have heard it is historically inaccurate and heavily dramatized. I don’t care, it’s a great movie. Just as Argo is a great movie. I thought the last scenes in Argo were suspenseful and tense. I got chills during the plane scene. It was somewhat of a perfect ending sequence, though it might have been dramatized a lot. But like I said, I don’t care, it’s a great film.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

      I like the term "biopic". And I loved the film A Beautiful Mind. I was a bit disappointed at some of the changes the film makers made in it. But it is, in my mind, tolerable.
      The divergence from reality in the ending of Argo, did not take away from my pleasure with the film as a whole. I too, don't care!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/navaneethks/ navaneethks

    I am perfectly fine with it. Overall the movie stays true to the story for the most part other than the ending which is completely understandable. Other than the fact that it is hollywood which dresses up stuff, I completely agree with your 2nd option. I am sure they were nervous as heck when going through security and the scene in the movie takes it one step further and is well executed. Afterall, we all prefer a good climatic end to an anti-climatic end anyway. If it was just them getting on to a plane without any issue and taking off, and I am gonna be honest here, would probably have let me just a little disappointed. But hey, they did a good job for the ending and hats off to Ben Affleck.

  • Chris

    Doesn't bother me one bit. It's a movie. Cinema is an illusion of reality. It isn't real. Argo is based upon a true story, not a true story. An uneventful conclusion to the set up in the film would have made no sense. People need to realize that cinema is not real.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

      True dat!

  • http://cineenuruguay.blogspot.com/ Driver

    It wasn't something that took you out of the story, it works with the tone of the whole movie, and it makes it end at a heart pounding point, so I think its a great ending.

    The only problem I could point out, is the time that Alan Arkin and John Goodman take to pick up the phone. That is a little bit too exaggerated, but still, the tension increase even more by that scene, so I ended up forgiving it...

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Kessler/ Kessler

    I don't have a problem with it either. It's only there to increase the tension and that's fine with me. As long as I like the movie, I'm okay if it is vastly different than what happened in real life. For example, look at Cinderella Man. The portrayal of Max Baer is, from what I've heard, completely different than in real life. He wasn't the angry and evil boxer that the movie made him out to be. Yes, it's an inaccurate portrayal, but that does not change my enjoyment of the movie at all. If the movie stuck with the real version of Baer, it wouldn't have been as exciting. Same with Argo. If the true version isn't that interesting or compelling, then I'm fine with the writers or directors making something up so it can be more exciting for the audience. As long as I enjoy the movie, then historical inaccuracy doesn't really matter.

  • Susan

    It didn't both me that it was faked innately, but I did find the last fifteen minutes overdone. Affleck and company pile on the stumbling blocks for the characters to the point where I just found it a little silly. If they had all happened, that would be another thing. Having so many obstacles, however, definitely took me out of the movie and made it, in my eyes, a bit of an overrated outing.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kylejames182/ kyle coley

    Nah it doesnt bother me

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    Well, I was rooting for the Iranian Guards so I was hopping they would be stopped. But to answer the question, the sequence is completely in line with the Hollywood filmmaking on display throughout the film. It seems strange to criticize the ending without criticizing the rest of it.

    • Susan

      It's not solely a Hollywood film trait.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

      *Hoping

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/JonSullivan/ Jon Sullivan

        AS has really brought the snark lately.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

          I wasn't trying to be sarcastic.

  • Travis

    I thought the chase down the runway was a bit much, but the scene in the airport when they are detained was fine, I think. It completed the Scoot McNairy (I think) character's arc and the subtle references to the Iranian revolution were a nice touch that I found to work well with the film they were telling

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

      I'd have to agree with Travis. The scene in the airport was suspenseful enough. The chase scene on the runway was overdone enough that it sort of drew me out of the tension in the story. It could have cut to the feelings of the passengers, Their anxiety and panic they were feeling once they boarded the plane. I was aware that the intensity was a bit contrived, but it didn't bother me so much as to take away from my pleasure in the film as a whole.

  • http://yahoo.ca Bernie Fletcher

    I am curious, do people know that almost the entire movie is fiction after the embassy takeover, not just the ending? If Affleck had come out and said it's fiction, there would be no problem. For instance, Mendez wasn't separated, didn't have a young son, didn't go into Iran alone, didn't take the six anywhere, not to a bazaar not to any airport, didn't do the fake interrogation, the Brits and Kiwis didn't turn them away, the six didn't stay at Taylor's home (only two), etc. etc. the list goes on and on. Entertaining fictional film, just call a spade a spade.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

      Wow, I had no idea how different the true story was! But I am fine with it. I think the general idea of the event is communicated.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the ending. I believe that films based on historical events can take dramatic license and that is exactly what Argo did. The whole film was building up to them leaving the airport. If the ending played out as stated in Mendez's book, in an uneventful departure, then the ending most likely would have been anticlimactic, and a bad payoff. The film is supposed to keep you on the edge of your seat, and it has to maintain that or else, at least in my opinion, the film would not be as good.
    Granted, someone could make the uneventful departure suspenseful, but I believe that the spruced up, hollywood ending was for the best.
    After all, the conclusion is the same no matter what: they all get out of Tehran and the mission is a success.

  • mickche

    The ending annoyed me. I understand that despite the inplausability, it is a typical Hollywood ending, which is understandable for such a Hollywood-based film. But as Mikey pointed out, the tension was already theme and to Hollywood-ise was unnecessary. By far, the storming of the embassy was the best scene, built-up by truthful recreations and tension.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/MrPA/ Mr. P.A.

    It drove me completely insane and I've complained about it to anyone who loves the movie. I was so excited to see the film, saw the second show that played at my theatre that morning (and only missed the first because someone made me late) and was ready to give the movie an A until that point. I know they need to build tension for the movie, but anytime I know the outcome going in to a film I kind of feel like we're just buying time the whole time since everyone knows what will happen anyway and them just hammering down how they are aboooouuut to get caught, oh no saved, or no about to get caught again, saved, oh no the plane is getting chased! After the second or eighth obstacle I hit a point of "ok, we know they are okay, airport security isn't that interesting, move on! Enough now, enough."

    The one part of it I liked was Scoot McNairy's character (I'm blanking on his name.. Joe?) having his moment to shine speaking Farsi and describing the movie because that showed character growth and added to his arc (didn't even see that someone had already commented on that, haha), when nothing else added anything to the story other than the most basic rising action and falling action struggles that felt like they were hashed out by a 10th grade creative writing student the night before his big story was due. The writers just took every stop point and thought "now what could be the problem at this one?" If the story isn't interesting in its own right, than don't include it, or give it four sentences of acknowledgement like the book. The movie would've been fine with just being able to leave, sure you can include them being figured out and all but include 2 stop points at most, or just a race to reach them, no tarmac chase scene or anything. In fact, it was almost humiliating to the Iranians in the film that they were unable to stop these six people from getting on a plane, a simple action in a very public place, even after they finally find out who they are, and know how badly they need to stop them. They fail so miserably it's almost like they are saying they were never a real threat at all, which just depletes the rest of the story.

    The movie instantly fell in my mind to somewhere in the B level, and while I'll definitely enjoy it again... I'll probably turn it off before the end... or maybe I'll just have to think of it as your number two from now on because that's the only semi-logical explanation I have seen. It definitely missed out on my vote for top ten of the year and the ending is the entire reason.

  • JAB

    The movie didn't really need the heightened ending, but "Argo" never claimed to be a documentary (it didn't even get nominationed for a "Best Documentary" Oscar).
    It is a heckuva fine movie regardless.

  • Scott

    It was clearly for a conclusion to satisfy the suspense built up to that point. For entertainment purposes, while also capturing the emotions of the escapees. A movie that does not satisfy has no reason to exist. (Unless made for that particular crowd whose worldview demands a hollow lack of conclusion regardless of anything else, and that's a little niche market.)

    • Scott

      (the narrative subversion that is, ironically, very satisfying to them. The people who LOVED the last fifteen minutes of No Country for Old Men.)

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Adu/ Adu

    The ending took me out of the movie actually. I was enjoying it until that point. It was a good movie and all, but too many things seemed stretched (trying too hard to create suspense), whether it really happened or not didn't matter to me.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    I'm with others in that it didn't bother me since it's a movie. Even though it's based on real life occurrences, it's just a portrayal.

    I watch movies to be entertained. That scene was entertaining. No further questions.

  • http://17272dorsetave.tumblr.com Saint

    For Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty a lot of professional writers said you must be free to adapt history for the sake of screenwriting -- otherwise it's a boring film.

    But there's a difference between interpretation and adaptation just as there's a difference between entertainment and manipulation.

    Isn't this what Michael Haneke was talking about in the THR's roundtables? The difference between film and entertainment.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

      For me there's no difference between film and entertainment. If movies weren't entertaining, I wouldn't watch them.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

      Do you have a link to Haneke's roundtable. I'm curious on the context in which he mentions this.

      • Liathach

        G-Man, it's on the Hollywood Reporter site, the directors' roundtable. Haneke doesn't get to say very much, unfortunately.

  • http://cinemaconfessions.blogspot.com Gautam

    Well Brad, what if you didn't know the actual ending. We are asking this question because now we know that what Argo showed, was exaggerated. There have been several movies based on true events, but they don't get questioned because we don't know what actually happened. So, isn't it unfair to judge Argo on that because I bet if you dug the truths about all those films, you can find inconsistencies everywhere. To further elucidate my point let's take an example.

    I know that Zodiac is one of your favorite films and obviously it's not 100% fact. Cinematic liberties have been taken there too. What if tomorrow you come to know that your favorite scenes in the film were all forged up. Will your love for the film diminish ? I don't think so. Even Zero Dark Thirty, what if you come to know that the finale was not as exciting as shown in the film. Would you start loving the film any less ?

    I think this is where perspective sets in. A person going into the theatre knowing what actually happened, will obviously feel slightly cheated in comparison to someone who doesn't know the truth. And that's why I think some people might have got offended with ZD30, because they would be knowing what actually happened. But for me, who is judging the film just on pure cinematic merit, ZD30 is the best made film of the year. Similarly, in Argo's case you have to judge it with the cinematic lens, and not how much of truth it showed. That criteria of judgement we should reserve for documentaries. Yes, but if someone has the issue with the tone of the film that suddenly gets heightened during the climax, then it's another matter of discussion.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I'm just asking a question and putting it out there for conversation. That's all.

      I mention the ending specifically because it is certainly a bit of a higher octane moment than the rest of the film and one that stood out to me personally. When I was watching, it was a moment that went beyond the facts of the matter. Zodiac had none of those moments for me if we must compare.

      • http://cinemaconfessions.blogspot.com Gautam

        What I meant was, it's justified if someone has issues with the tone of the film, but it's NOT if one feels the film is not truthful to actual facts. If people start getting disappointed because films based on true events are not facts of the matter, then believe me such films would stop getting made.

    • Eric

      I went into the movie not knowing anything about what really happened. And I found the ending contrived. Up until then, it seemed like everything could have happened that way. But the chase scene seemed over the top. I do think, though, that it accurately captured the feelings of the Americans.

      And for what it's worth, I thought Argo was a good movie, not a great one worthy of being named Best Picture.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

      I often prefer to go into a film with a blank slate. First to get a sense of the story (if i am unfamiliar with it) and writing. If I enjoy it, i will typically watch the film again to study the acting and directing specifically. This is why I try to avoid trailers. I do skim reviews though. I might even find out later that the events of the true story differ from the film. But it usually doesn't change my enjoyment of the film.

  • Art

    Worked for me, it made it more exciting imo.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Fox/ Fox

    I didn't have a huge problem with it. It may have been a little excessive and over dramatic, but most movies are these days. In terms of bending history, it's not a huge deal to me. Argo may have taken a couple more liberties than most "based on a true story" films, but it made for a decently entertaining movie.

  • Jesse3232

    To be honest, it did kindof bother me because millions of people who had no idea about this incident will go into the movie thinking that that was the end result. It did happen to me until I was informed that this was a "Hollywood Dramatization" I am still a fan of the film as a whole but I do think it should have stayed true to the actual story.

  • jess E.

    Well, from what I understand much of "Argo" is made up stuff that didn't actually happen. First it was the Canadian Government working with the CIA that made their escape happen and not the Carter White House as I read it Mendez only got involved when they needed someone to go to Iran and take them out. In the film they make it seem as if Mendez did it all. Hell, they even have Carter taking credit at the end.

  • simon

    I think there are some fabrications that are okay and some that aren't. I really got the impression this ending did, as said above, represent the feelings of the group in a more visual manner than would otherwise have probably been communicated. To me, it doesn't fundamentally alter the basic direction of the story. Then again, it is an ending, and many would say the ending is the most important part of a story, so any changes to it are significant. But, I thought this was okay.

  • http://www.gamingsymmetry.com Stinger

    The problem with "Argo" is not the movie itself. Yes, a movie is free to change reality as much as it wants because it's an art and not history, and if the audience of a film think this is exactly true, then it's their own fault, not the movie makers. I mean, which historical movie did not change the history? None, or at least it would be boring. A work of art is fiction even if it is based on reality, and it should be judged only as fiction.

    The real problem is that "Argo" is a mediocre movie and everyone says Affleck was snubbed for his non-existent directing. But i Have already ranted about a lot here, so I rest my case.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

    For me, the ending took me out of the film. I went into the movie knowing nothing about the plot; which i think is the best way to go into Argo.

    Up until the final act I probably couldn't have called whether the ending was going to be a happy one or a downbeat one. Then the final act happened. There were just too many cliches used which basically spoilt the ending.

    Both the phone ringing scene and the runway chase are scenes I've seen in many less competent movies and really bothered me.

    It didn't bother me that Argo had an exaggerated ending; it bothered me the scenes that were used to exagerate the ending.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/JonSullivan/ Jon Sullivan

      I agree with what maja said. I really enjoyed the movie, but thought there was enough tension with the source material that there was no need to play up the drama in the climax.

  • http://Awardscircuit.com Mark Johnson

    It honestly bothers the hell out of me. I've been trying for months to get over it and realize that it is just a movie and they can "hollywood" it up all they want. But the fact that it is based on real events just makes it hard to accept changing what really happened. For whatever reason, that just takes the film down a notch for me. It was still #7 on my top 10 list for the year, but it could have been #3 - and a film I could be ok with winning BP - if I was able to get over the change. I understand those that are ok with it, I'm just not.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/DArtagnan/ DArtagnan

    I have a feeling there's a #GoodComment somewhere on this page.

    I didn't mind the ending. When I first watched the film, I did not know whether they had been able to make it or not. I had avoided reading anything around the movie.

    So, when it was happening, I felt the tension during that scene. At that moment, I really believed they could have stopped the plane and that they had the authority to do so.

    When looking back, and knowing how it actually ended, it is indeed exaggerated, but it does not hurt the film for me. Argo is my #1 film for 2012.

  • Abhishek

    The ending was killer..being an Indian audience and a student of films..i salute hollywood for what they do and what they have done for the last 100 years.....they do have all our attention and all our curiosity!!!! Argo dont fuck yourself but fuck others in Oscar..!

  • http://www.shouldiseeit.net Mike Ward

    Surprised no one brought up the massive historical inaccuracies from Best Picture winner The King's Speech from just a couple years ago. Frankly, the omissions and alterations to the truth are far more problematic to me than creating essentially one climactic scene for heightened dramatic effect. Brad's question is a great one. But to criticize Argo for taking liberties requires a peeling back of the curtain of many other Oscar frontrunners and eventual winners from our not-so-distant past.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/DavidG/ David Gaillardetz

    I think a lot of it was a good addition. I mean, I think the tension emphasizes what the hostages were going through, but there were two parts I struggled with that snapped me out of the film: the phone-ringing scene and the runway car chase scene. They are trite and overused in Hollywood. I thought the rest was well-done and understandable that added to the tension in a more accessible way, but those two bits I could have done without.

  • Marie Jespersen

    I really feel that the ending was unnecessary. A good director can build tension through the body-language of his actors. If they had walked through the airport constantly looking out for danger, it could have made it more exciting.

  • Harold

    Are you trying to create some zero dark thirty backlash, haha?

  • ItaliaNorge

    How a bad ending can ruin a movie. The entire movie claim to be based on real story, and from the start we see real footage mixed with fictional scenes. The '70s look, atmosphere, everything is quite accurate and make you feel to see a real thing. Then the end is a bullshit is followed by another in a spiral chain to the limit of the ridiculous... The most hilarious part are when the last guards manage to phone call Hollywood but they don't call the airport control tower to stop the plane... They smash a glass door ( they work near by and they have no keys? ) . They smash everything on the way out ( no keys?) take police cars and run to stop a plane that get over 170 miles per hour on the take off.. what kind of car they have? They drive behind the engines at full power with no consequences... those engine make a plane of over 400.000 lb to reach 170 miles/h .. can you imagine where they can blow a car ?
    By the way, how 2 cars and a jeep can to stop a plane taking off without killing every one? Only in a movie you can be so stupid...