Tony Zhou’s newest video essay reminds us that a Warner Brothers cartoon, Snowpiercer, The Walking Dead, The Matrix, Eyes Wide Shut, Batman Begins, The Untouchables, and many other films have one thing in common: a point where, to quote the films (as the video does, repeatedly), "There’s no turning back." This would commonly be referred to in literature classes as the turning point, the spot in a narrative where the protagonist, the hero whose exploits you’ve been following throughout the story and the figure for whom you root for the most, must make a choice. The choice the character makes will send the narrative in one of several directions. Sometimes, Zhou suggests, the choice a story presents is not that complex; sometimes it’s the equivalent of turning left or right. Zhou uses Snowpiercer as an example of such a choice–a perfect example, indeed, since the characters in this film, imprisoned as they are on a train hurtling around the globe, can only go in one of two directions. In Snowpiercer, the left-right choice represents a dichotomy between two radically different castes or social strata, the ruling class vs. the downtrodden, impoverished class. In Eyes Wide Shut, to take a radically different example, the choice the masked figures offer Tom Cruise’s hapless interloper could affect the life or death of another human, as well as his own sense of himself as a moral being. In The Untouchables, the choice Jim Malone offers Elliot Ness is a choice between bending to the will of bullies or standing up for what he believes is decency. One question a piece like Zhou’s raises is: how common is it that a film offers us such a choice, any more? Is it possible that as cinematic history progresses, it is rarer and rarer that films hinge on gigantic moral questions which are no less gigantic for being represented by a simple choice between "right" or "left"? This ingenious piece does quite a bit of prodding in a very small space: kudos to the much-ballyhooed Tony Zhou for yet another job well done.
WATCH: This New Video Essay Shows the Turning Point in Movies From SNOWPIERCER Back to Looney Tunes