One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.


I caught a movie trailer the other day and it didn’t quite sit right…

The movie is Gone. In the trailer the heroine, played by Amanda Seyfried, is on the run and trying to elude the police. It doesn’t help that one scene has her walking on a busy sidewalk in the middle of the day. It also doesn’t help that a police cruiser is moving down the same block looking for a 5’4” blue-eyed blond female. No problem. To avoid capture she pulls over hooded jacket. Done! Escape to the next scene.

No, wait a minute! Would this ever work in real life? Did Seyfried only escape because the police were not given the vital information, “Suspect may attempt to conceal her identity with an item of clothing.” Just look at the following two pictures.

Amanda Seyfried in Jennifer's Body

Amanda Seyfried in Red Riding Hood

Even hooded Seyfried looks inconspicuous. I’m not buying a hooded jacket equals and invisible cloak. If you are trying to avoid the police, the last thing you should wear is a jacket that references medieval monks or corner drug dealers. Instead, you should blend in by hiding in the open, possibly like Cary Grant did in North by Northwest.

In the movie Grant is accused of murdering a diplomat in front of the UN Building. Naturally, he takes flight as only a New Yorker can, by mass transit.

Cary Grant securing a train ticket.

Cary Grant on the train.

As you can see, because of the sunglasses, it is nearly impossible to determine if the above pictures are of Grant. At least that is the plot device used to get Grant from New York to the stone heads of Mount Rushmore. I’m pretty sure Grant and director, Alfred Hitchcock, played the moment tongue in cheek for in reality the quickest way to draw attention is to wear sunglasses indoors.

When it comes to creating a believable disguise, I think we can turn to Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. In the movie Ford plays a doctor on the run for killing his wife. Instead of fleeing, he tries to solve his wife’s murder. And because he believes the killer is still in his hometown of Chicago, Ford must make a few physical alterations before he can jump on an elevated train. See if you can pick them out.

Harrison before.

Harrison after.

Actually, this is a picture of Ford’s favorite sidekick. Ford’s disguise in The Fugitive actually involved shaving his beard, dying his hair and wearing workman-like clothes, which I found believable. But still there were times in the movie where people on the street recognized his profile and shouted at the top of the lungs, “Look, it’s Han Solo.”

Speaking of Han Solo, maybe the best way to avoid detection is to not worry about articles clothing but to give the appearance of not being there. For example, take Obi Wan Kenobi from the movie Star Wars. When Obi Wan, Luke Skywalker and their tin can companions pull up to a checkpoint in a levitating vehicle, they don’t even try to disguise themselves. Instead, the Jedi Master uses mind control over the stormtrooper.

STORMTROOPER: (TO LUKE) Let me see your identification.
OBI WAN: (WAVE OF THE HAND) You don’t need to see his identification.
STORMTROOPER: We don’t need to see his identification.
OBI WAN: He can go about his business.
STORMTROOPER: You can go about your business.

Nothing is better for avoiding the authorities than to have a hooded quasi-monk with a masters in thought control. Sir Alec Guinness was so believable as Obi Wan Kenobi he started to develop a mythical sway over the entire cast. Take a look at this photo.

You are becoming very hungry.

Look at the concentration Guinness is putting into quietly convincing the director, George Lucas, to knock off early.

GUINNESS: (WAVE OF THE HAND) You have a done enough for one day.
LUCAS: You know what, I’m done with this day.
GUINNESS: You want to find the nearest happy hour.
LUCAS: Where’s the nearest Chili’s?
GUINNESS: You have a generous heart.
LUCAS: Drinks are on me!!!

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