While it may be a bit of a trope, one plot twist you don’t often see is that of identical twins. Sure, there have been movies in which twins play a part of the plot (like the Schwarzenegger / DeVito film Twins (1988)), but the real plot twists come when it’s revealed that the twins are identical. Mistaken identity is a common theme for the suspense/thriller genre, but what if the mistaken identity is deliberate? What if two people want to switch lives? What if someone wants to be in the two places at the same time? There are many advantages to having an identical twin, but one of the most unique advantages is being able to trick others about your identity. Of course, then you have to ask yourself: which one of the twins is evil? After all, at least one identical twin must be evil. This week’s two films examine the schemes of identical twins.
The Parent Trap
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours
A remake of the 1961 version of this film (which had 3 sequels, if you can believe it), this timeless story is one of twins separated at birth. While this has been done to varying degrees through such films as the Star Wars franchise or the aforementioned Twins, both of these situations are of fraternal twins and not identical ones. Mark Twain’s story The Prince and the Pauper is a tale of two people who look alike, but were not born twins. Nevertheless, they use this to their advantage to see how the other person lives. Such is the case with The Parent Trap: one sister wants to know what it’s like to have a mom, while the other craves the knowledge of growing up with a dad. In either case, it’s easy to swap parents, but the real difficulty comes when you try to bring said parents back together and get them re-married.
As is usually the case with whirlwind weddings, when Nick Parker (Dennis Quaid) and Elizabeth James (Natasha Richardson) get married on the same cruise where they met, they end up divorcing shortly afterwards. However, since they now have twin girls, they decide to each take a child home with them to California and England, respectively. And yet, when the twins, Annie and Hallie (Lindsay Lohan), meet at a summer camp a decade later, they find that they are long-lost sisters and decide to get their parents back together. This involves each of them switching places and going home with the other parent. Elizabeth is the first to find that she has the wrong daughter, while Hallie finds that her long-lost father is now engaged to Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix), who is only there for the money. Now it’s up to the girls to get the engagement broken off while at the same time getting their parents back together.
Length: 130 minutes / 2.17 hours
One of the most difficult tricks in magic is the disappearing and reappearing act. Not only do you have to remove yourself from the stage, but you have to relocate to the new location quick enough to make the audience believe that it couldn’t be done by any other means than magic. While some magicians have different ways of accomplishing this, be it through secret passages or literal smoke and mirrors, others will resort to look-alikes. The problem with doppelgangers is that they might look similar, but often aren’t exact replicas of the one performing the trick. This is why many magicians hire identical twins for their lovely assistants: they look the same and (most of the time) they act the same. Oftentimes, it is difficult to discern which twin is which, and therein lies the magic of being identical.
Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are two rival magicians who worked under the same mentor. While Angier has taken the high road with the stage name “The Great Danton”, Borden decides to show his magic on the streets under the name “The Professor”. When Borden reveals a trick where he seems to magically appear on the other side of the stage instantaneously, Angier’s stage engineer, John Cutter (Michael Caine) suggests that it’s a double, but Angier refuses that’s the case. Of course, he replicates the trick with a doppelganger, which causes Borden to up the ante by re-staging the act with the help of Angier’s estranged assistant, Olivia Wenscombe (Scarlett Johansson). Angier has one last trick up his sleeve: Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). With Tesla’s machine, he masters the illusion, but at what price?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 identical twin identity tricks