There are a hundred ways to measure what makes a great movie, but nothing speaks more highly about a film than how closely you can read it. In his feature, Deadshirt Editor-In-Chief Dylan Roth explores one of his favorite films by demonstrating just how much there is to talk about, writing at length about Every Five Minutes of runtime.
Written and Directed by Brad Bird
(c) 2004 Disney/Pixar
Lava-Lit Dinner (40:22-41:20)
Bob, dressed in a sharp suit and his domino mask, arrives early to a dining room deep in the heart of Nomanisan’s volcano. The dining room’s longest wall looks like a glowing yellow flow of hardened magma, which is bright enough to light up the whole room. Bob is the first to arrive, and when the glowing wall parts in the middle to become a hallway, Bob follows his super-spy instincts and ducks back into the vestibule from which he arrived, watching from a distance as two shadowy figures converse. One of them is unmistakably Mirage, and the other appears to be her employer, who first appeared (similarly obscured) in the previous scene. When Mirage walks to the vestibule to greet him, Bob appears to be just stepping off of the elevator.
Bob hiding outside of the dining room is the first (and really only) sign that he doesn’t completely trust his hosts, the “top secret branch of the government” that is paying him a large sum of money to do the thing he most loves doing. Does a part of him sense that this is too good to be true? If so, he doesn’t give that idea much thought—from here on out, he’s in the palm of their hands.
Mirage, poured into a slick black dress, is playing right into Bob’s 007 fantasy—flirtatious, mysterious, possibly available. The two dine on locally-sourced fruit and discuss their absent, anonymous employer.
Mirage’s arc is one of the more interesting subplots in The Incredibles. It’s likely that she’s sent to wine and dine Mr. Incredible to keep him distracted, to assuage the suspicions that we get a glimpse of in the beginning of this sequence. But the more the two of them are on screen together, the more it seems that Mirage’s interest in Bob is genuine, which is unfortunate for her as he is both a married man and her employer/boyfriend’s arch-nemesis.
There are signs later on in the film to imply that Mirage and Mr. Incredible might have become physically involved, which would have to have occurred at the night of the dinner. I, for one, find this unlikely, because A) as selfish as Bob is, I don’t think he’s going to cheat on his wife, and if he does it makes him a lot less redeemable as a character; B) Mirage is entertaining Bob on instructions from Syndrome, who I doubt would want his girlfriend to have sex with his mortal enemy even as part of a complex revenge plot; and C) this whole Volcano is wired for sound and vision, so even if Mirage decided to mix things up with Bob behind Syndrome’s back it’s very unlikely that even she, clever as she is, could have gotten away with it.
And how about D) it’s a family film and we should probably all get our heads out of the gutter. There’s undoubtedly a great deal of subtext about infidelity in the second act of The Incredibles, but promoting that subtext to actual text is an unnecessary leap that does a disservice to the characters and actually makes the film less fun to watch.
Life’s Incredible Again (41:21-42:48)
This sequence is described in two short paragraphs in the screenplay, but is a solid minute and a half in the final film, and backed by Michael Giacchino’s lively original score. For most of the film, Giacchino is channeling John Barry’s classic James Bond scores, mirroring Mr. Incredible’s own superspy fixation. But here, in a montage highlighting Bob’s upswing out of depression and improved family life, the music is unrestrained cheerful jazz. On the soundtrack, this sequence’s score is entitled “Life’s Incredible Again,” and you could remove it from the film completely and get that same feeling.
Bob’s recovery montage is effective in that it’s the first time that the audience sees Bob enjoying his life out of costume. Now that he’s had a chance to do what he loves and escape his dreary office job, every part of his life is brighter, and everyone in it is benefiting from it. Helen was warm toward Bob even when they were at odds earlier in the film, but Bob’s improved outlook and renewed self-confidence is definitely working for her, and a fire is lit under their relationship even before Bob works his way back to his pre-retirement body.
Equally important are the shots of Bob enjoying time with his kids, who he’s only had two miserable scenes with up to this point. No longer depressed and exhausted after work every day, Bob is returning home with the energy and enthusiasm a supportive and attentive parent needs. Dash, the bubbly younger child, is getting more active attention, playing with toy cards and even exercising their superpowers to play long-distance catch (forecasting a third-act action sequence). With baby Jack-Jack, just being there is enough. For Violet, the introverted teenager, too much time with one of her parents could be like literally torture, but there’s still a sweet moment in which Bob sneaks past Violet’s broody defenses to give her a little kiss on the nose.
And then, of course, there’s the engine that drives the sequence, Bob’s physical transformation—because no film is complete without a training montage. Understandably displeased with his physical performance in the battle against the Omnidroid, Bob uses what used to be his working hours pumping hilarious amounts of iron at a nearby train yard, gradually shaping himself from an intimidating but flabby man-mountain to something closer to the lean, agile body he had back in the Golden Age. By the time the sequence is over, Bob is at close to his old weight, and apart from his receding hairline and some lines on his face, looks very much like his old self.
It’s a sunny and optimistic sequence seconds, with Bob reclaiming his life and finding joy where he used to see only disappointment, but there’s a dark side, too—as much as Bob is feeling more like his true self, he’s still perpetuating a lie to his wife and kids. He’s pretending that he still works at Insuracare, in fact that he’s thriving—as indicated by his buying not one but two new cars for the family. Bob lived a double life for years as Mr. Incredible, but this is the first time (as far as the audience is told) that he’s kept a secret identity of sorts from Helen. At the moment, what she doesn’t know doesn’t hurt her, but it will, pretty damn bad, when the truth comes out.
Next Week: Edna Mode