What is interesting about the two movies I saw this week is the way they deviate from the conventional plot. In The Sting et al, seemingly unforseen events occur throught the film, but the heroes turn out to have been in control of these events all along. These movies could be read as a symbol of Providence — God is in control even if we can’t initially see how. But in Mission Impossible III (actually in all three of the Mission Impossible movies), it turns out in the end that the villain — not the hero — was actually in control of the seemingly random events all along. This a pessimistic vision of a kind of dark Providence. More interestingly, in Heist there are real set-backs, though the heroes manage to be successful in spite of them. Here we have a world of real contingency where there seems to be no providence at all: genuinely random things happen of which no one is in control.
In many recent heist movies, there is an elaborate, twist-filled plot which makes it seem that the robbers are facing various set-backs until in the final scene the criminals seeming complications are revealed to have been part of their plan all along. Perhaps the best classic example of this plot is The Sting (Hill, 1973). Recent examples include the Ocean’s Eleven (Soderbergh, 2001) and Inside Man (Lee, 2006).
That writer-director David Mamet knows his film is dealing with (the lack of) Providence is seen in these lines, thrown away in a quiet moment in the middle of the film: “We knew this firefighter, this trooper, who always caried a bible next to his heart. We used to mock him, but that bible stopped a bullet. … Hand of God, that bible stopped a bullet, would of ruined that fucker’s heart. And had he had another bible in front of his face, that man would be alive today.” In Mamet’s world, shit just happens, and even miracles are random and meaningless.