Scene 10: Breaking in
If you’re reading this, thinking “where’s the heist I was promised?,” I want to point out that we’re only 30 minutes in to a two hour movie. All those times I said that the scenes were short and kept moving quickly, I meant that. (The later scenes are much longer. Once they do all this set-up, they can let the rising action and climax stretch out.)
And if you’re really impatient for it, here’s your heist. (Or the second of three heists: bank, black box, mysterious third heist that I’ll get to.)
Janek works at the Coolidge Institute, which might be take-off of the conservative, California-based think tank, the Hoover Institution. I have no idea what they do at this institute, but whatever it is, their security isn’t so great. After hooking up a microphone and practicing to pick a lock, Marty bullshits an overworked lobby receptionist into buzzing him up.
Once he’s up on Janek’s floor, Marty discovers the lockpicking practice won’t help, since Janek has an electronic keypad lock. Mother and Crease consult with Marty, and it sure sounds complicated--Marty says “yeah” and “okay” more than half-a-dozen times. But it turns out the way to bypass this type of door is just to kick it down. (Sad trombone. Except the sad trombone isn’t played by the person who you think would play it, and is instead played by a talented little Asian girl. Double-switch!)
So we’ve had two obstacles overcome, which means it’s time for a third. If you charted the first two obstacles against how expected they are, you’d find 1) getting past the front desk--totally expected, totally planned for (no consultation necessary, just bullshitting); 2) getting past the office door--expected but different, calls for new skill (brute strength rather than finesse, and some consultation required). So to complete the pattern, obstacle number three should be totally unexpected, involve a radical switch of skill-sets, and call for a lot of consultation.
And since Sneakers is a film that rewards pattern recognition, that’s totally what it is. After Marty grabs the decoy answering machine, Elena walks in. He grabs her (brute strength solution), and, with a running consultation with the boys, then bullshits her about affairs of the human heart (an issue on which he can fake expertise). He claims that he’s a PI working for a shadowy Mrs. Janek who wants Janek’s secrets. Which isn’t total b.s., if you replace “Mrs. Janek” with “NSA agents.”
For an added bonus, Marty adds that Elena and he are just pawns. It’s always fun when you can have a character tell the truth but not have them recognize it as the truth.