Created By: Ajardoor on June 14, 2011 Last Edited By: Koveras on January 1, 2016

Interrogation Flashback

The story is told via a character being pumped for information.

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Trope
When the 'here' in the Framing Device of How We Got Here is under a harsh light and an uncomfortable chair, or when the police are asking a few questions of a material witness and the viewers are treated to a scene from their perspective, that's an Interrogation Flashback.

Third Person Flashback usually goes with this. If several people are being interrogated and they tell conflicting stories, this results in The Rashomon.

A popular way to play with this trope is to have the interrogated character lie, so that the Flashback footage either conflicts with what the interrogated character is saying or turns out to not be what really happened.

Examples

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    Film — Animated 
  • In Hoodwinked, a series of police interrogations conducted at Granny's house segue to corresponding flashbacks. The one constant in every flashback points investigator Nicky Flippers to the mastermind behind the Goodie Recipe thefts.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Big Trouble in Little China starts with Egg Shen being questioned by his (rather unfriendly) lawyer about what happened. Egg Shen starts explaining, which fades into the events that started off the whole situation.
  • Pierre Boulle's The Bridge Over The River Kwai is a story told in the form of a medic from the POW camp giving his report to his superiors about what happened there. The events have driven the medic insane.
  • In Following, the bulk of the film is the writer explaining his story to a police detective. It's soon revealed that he went to the police of his own accord. He made some very unsavory friends and got in over his head, so now he's coming clean before the situation can get any worse.
  • The Imitation Game begins with Alan Turing brought in for questioning about a then-illegal homosexual liaison, but he ends up telling his interrogator about the highly classified work he did during World War II instead.
  • The Korean film Joint Security Area is told largely in flashbacks, with a Framing Device of a UN officer interrogating soldiers involved in a fatal shooting incident at the DMZ.
  • In No Way Out, the Framing Device is Lt. Cmdr Tom Farrell being interrogated by his Soviet handlers.
  • Slumdog Millionaire. Basically, after torturing him didn't work, the police decided to let the hero tell his story to explain how he knew the answers on the Millionaire show.
  • The Usual Suspects is told through eyes of small-time criminal "Verbal" Kint, who is being questioned by the police as the sole English speaking survivor of a drug deal gone bad.
  • The lead of Who Am I turns himself in at the beginning of the movie. His story then unfolds in flashbacks while being interrogated.

    Literature 
  • The framing story of Borders of Infinity is that Miles Vorkosigan is interrogated (or questioned, depending on who you ask) by Simon Illyan, and tells the stories "The Mountains of Mourning", "Labyrinth", and "The Borders of Infinity".
  • The story in Rising Sun unfolds via the interrogation of detective Web, concerning his handling of the murder at the Nakamoto Corporation and his involvement with Connor. It is shown through a series of flashbacks from Web's POV.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Hawaii Five-0: In "Hana Lokomaika'i" note , Chin comes under investigation by Internal Affairs in relation to his knowledge of his brother-in-law's criminal activity. As the viewer learns from flashbacks during the interrogation of Chin, Kono, and McGarrett, Chin's brother-in-law's Start of Darkness was murdering Chin's father.
  • NCIS:
    • (Very) Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was tortured by a terrorist leader in the S7 premiere of the show, as the man sought information about what NCIS was and how it was related to the death of several of the terrorist's agents. The terrorist's questions and a Truth Serum lead DiNozzo to explain about the different members of his group in flashbacks.
    • DiNozzo got hit with this again in the season nine premiere, this time from his own side after he was implicated in the shooting death of another NCIS agent. He was innocent.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" uses an interrogation by Temporal Investigations as a framing device, where Sisko explains why it was absolutely necessary for them to travel back in time to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."
  • The X-Files episode "The Unusual Suspects" opens with Detective Munch from Homicide: Life on the Street interrogaing Byers as to what happened during a shoot-out at a Baltimore warehouse.

    Video Games 
  • In Alpha Protocol, about every third mission you flash forward to Mike Thorton being questioned by Halbech CEO Henry Leland on his actions during the mission.
  • Played with in Assassin's Creed I. Desmond is being interrogated not for his own memories, but for his ancestral ones, using the Animus system that gives him flashbacks of Altair's life.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops begins with the main character, Alex Mason, waking up in an interrogation/torture chamber, strapped to a chair and hooked up to an electric shock device. Over an intercom (and behind a panel obscuring his details), the interrogator questions Mason's involvement in various CIA plots during the Cold War era. Each mission in the game is presented as a flashback, told by Mason to the interrogator.
  • The entire plot of Dragon Age II is one big flashback of Varric, who is being interrogated by Cassandra Pentaghast. Notably, he does lapse into the Tall Tale territory a few times, before being snapped back on track by Cassandra.
  • Andrew Plotkin's Interactive Fiction piece, Spider And Web, is told through interrogation flashbacks.
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction starts as a flashback of Victor Coste while being interrogated by armed Black Arrow contractors.

Zero Context Examples


Will go under Information Desk and Flashbacks and Chronology.
Community Feedback Replies: 65
  • June 14, 2011
    Rolf
    Typically Third Person Flashback is used for this trope.
  • June 14, 2011
    jaytee
    Andrew Plotkin's Interactive Fiction piece, Spider And Web, is told through interrogation flashbacks.
  • June 14, 2011
    Allronix
    The X Files episode "The Unusual Suspects" opens with Detective Munch from Homicide Life On The Street interrogaing Byers as to what happened during a shoot-out at a Baltimore warehouse.
  • June 14, 2011
    Jordan
    Slumdog Millionaire. Basically, after torturing him didn't work, the police decided to let the hero tell his story to explain how he knew the answers on the Millionaire show.
  • June 15, 2011
    MetaFour
  • June 15, 2011
    Koveras
    The entire Dragon Age II is one big flashback of Varric, who is being interrogated by Cassandra Pentaghast.
  • June 15, 2011
    Nibbles2
    The first Assassins Creed game involves Desmond being interrogated inside the Animus, a device that gives him flashbacks of his ancestors' lives, allowing him to relive the memories of Altair's life.
  • June 15, 2011
    SilentReverence
    NCIS (Very) Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was tortured by a terrorist leader in the S7 premiere of the show, as the man sought information about what NCIS was and how it was related to the death of several of the terrorist's agents. The terrorist's questions and a Truth Serum lead DiNozzo to explain about the different members of his group in flashbacks,
  • June 16, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • Big Trouble In Little China starts with Egg Shen being questioned by his (rather unfriendly) lawyer about what happened. Egg Shen starts explaining, which fades into the events that started off the whole situation.
  • June 20, 2011
    Ajardoor
    Bump.
  • June 25, 2011
    Ajardoor
    Bump.
  • June 29, 2011
    Ajardoor
    Bump.
  • July 8, 2011
    Ajardoor
    Bump.
  • July 8, 2011
    GoopsWorld
    the Mothman episode of Lost Tapes
  • July 8, 2011
    Unknown Troper
    Film
  • July 8, 2011
    MiinU
    Film

    • The story in Rising Sun unfolds via the interrogation of detective Web (Wesley Snipes), concerning his handling of the murder at the Nakamoto Corporation and his involvent with Connor (Sean Connery). It is shown through a series of flashbacks from Web's POV.
  • August 9, 2011
    SilentReverence
    Augustian bump of August.
  • August 9, 2011
    kjnoren
    Literature:
    • The framing story of Borders of Infinity is that Miles Vorkosigan is interrogated (or questioned, depending on who you ask) by Simon Illyan, and tells the stories "The Mountains of Mourning", "Labyrinth", and "The Borders of Infinity".
    • All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman.
  • August 9, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • August 9, 2011
    JoeG
    If several people are being interrogated and they tell conflicting stories, this results in The Rashomon.
  • March 13, 2012
    SilentReverence
    Ping
  • December 12, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^^^ Joe Haldeman becomes a blue-link if you use the proper namespace. (Though I'd hope for more than a Zero Context Example here).
  • December 13, 2012
    Shnakepup
    The Black Ops example is zero context, so here's a description you can use:

    • Call Of Duty Black Ops begins with the main character, Alex Mason, waking up in an interrogation/torture chamber, strapped to a chair and hooked up to an electric shock device. Over an intercom (and behind a panel obscuring his details), the interrogator questions Mason's involvement in various CIA plots during the Cold War era. Each mission in the game is presented as a flashback, told by Mason to the interrogator.
  • December 13, 2012
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    Zero Context Examples are not allowed on the wiki and must be either fleshed out or removed before launch.

    Thank you, Shnakepup for fleshing out COD.
  • December 13, 2012
    StarSword
    NCIS:
    • DiNozzo got hit with this again in the season nine premiere, this time from his own side after he was implicated in the shooting death of another NCIS agent. He was innocent.
  • February 15, 2013
    Met
    Pierre Boulle's The Bridge Over The River Kwai is a story told in the form of a medic from the POW camp giving his report to his superiors about what happened there. The events have driven the medic insane.
  • February 15, 2013
    MiinU
  • February 15, 2013
    MetaFour
    • In Following, the bulk of the film is the writer explaining his story to a police detective. It's soon revealed that he went to the police of his own accord. He made some very unsavory friends and got in over his head, so now he's coming clean before the situation can get any worse.
  • February 16, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^How about this:

    • In Alpha Protocol, about every third mission you flash forward to Mike Thorton being questioned by Halbech CEO Henry Leland on his actions during the mission.
  • February 16, 2013
    MiinU
    ^@StarSword - That works.

    So does anyone know how the Call of Duty example fits, and can flesh that one out? 'cuz I've never played any of the games.
  • October 29, 2013
    MiinU
    bump.
  • October 30, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • A series of police interrogations conducted at Granny's house segue to corresponding flashbacks in Kanbar Animation's Hoodwinked. The one constant in every flashback points investigator Nicky Flippers to the mastermind behind the Goodie Recipe thefts.
  • October 30, 2013
    chicagomel
    I know CSI did this at least once, but can someone recall what ep? i forgot.
  • October 31, 2013
    troacctid
    Couldn't it just be Interrogation Flashback? Rolls off the tongue better.
  • October 31, 2013
    kjnoren
    ^ I like it, but it's a little ambiguous: is it a flashback triggered by interrogation, or a flashback of an interrogation?

    Interrogation Triggered Flashback? Flashback From Interrogation?
  • October 31, 2013
    Ominae
    In Splinter Cell: Conviction, the game starts as a flashback of Victor Coste while being interrogated by armed Black Arrow contractors.
  • October 31, 2013
    gallium
    The Korean film Joint Security Area is told largely in flashbacks, with a Framing Device of a UN officer interrogating soldiers involved in a fatal shooting incident at the DMZ.
  • October 31, 2013
    Arivne
  • June 26, 2015
    Ominae
    The title suggested by Arivne is a good one.
  • June 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    I'm with Arivne and Ominae; troacctid is onto something.
  • June 26, 2015
    randomsurfer
    The Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" uses an interrogation by Temporal Investigations as a framing device, where Sisko explains why it was absolutely necessary for them to travel back in time to the Star Trek The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."
  • June 26, 2015
    Koveras
    I've updated the write-up, since it's obviously become Up For Grabs.
  • June 26, 2015
    calmestofdoves
    Film:

    Live Action TV:

    • Hawaii Five 0: In "Hana Lokomaika'i" note , Chin comes under investigation by Internal Affairs in relation to his knowledge of his brother-in-law's criminal activity. As the viewer learns from flashbacks during the interrogation of Chin, Kono, and McGarrett, Chin's brother-in-law's Start Of Darkness was murdering Chin's father.
  • June 26, 2015
    Dalillama
    The Usual Suspects is told through eyes of small-time criminal "Verbal" Kint, who is being questioned by the police as the sole English speaking survivor of a drug deal gone bad.
  • June 26, 2015
    calmestofdoves
    Tweaked the description a bit to tone down the All Blue Entry issue.

    I'm not sure what's actually meant by "the Audience Surrogate may be the one to beat or drug the hero, leading to a screwy flashback." Does one of the examples in the draft fit that description?

    Also, do you think that being interrogated on the witness stand in a courtroom rather than in a police interview room (or government holding cell or kidnapper lair or what have you) should count? Because if so, there's an Elementary example that fits.

    ETA: The Rising Sun example really doesn't benefit from putting the actors' names in parentheses.
  • June 26, 2015
    Koveras
    ^ Not sure if any examples fit, maybe one of the zero-context ones does. That sentence comes from the mind of the OP, so I have no idea what it meant, either. I think the interrogator in such a framing story is always the Audience Surrogate, anyway, as long they are honestly trying to find out what happened (which is the same motivation as the audience).
  • June 26, 2015
    calmestofdoves
    Cut the incomprehensible line and added pothole to Unreliable Voiceover. I had never actually seen that page before, but somehow I just knew we had to have something called that.
  • June 27, 2015
    calmestofdoves
    Thanks for adding the examples! I went ahead and alphabetized them.
  • June 28, 2015
    eroock
    Not sure if alphabetizing is the way to go here. Me, I would like to see The Usual Suspects topping the film examples for being such a prime example.
  • June 28, 2015
    lakingsif
    The alternate opening of The Avengers 2012 would have revealed that it was this to Agent Hill, and The Sting of Iron Man 3 shows that it's Tony's memory.
  • June 29, 2015
    TonyG
    The Adventuresof Ichabod And Mr Toad: During Toad's trial, Toad's horse Cyrill is put on the witness stand, and as he tells the story (in rhyme) of how Toad got the stolen motorcar, the scene then plays out onscreen.
  • June 29, 2015
    calmestofdoves
    ^^ lakingsif, that Iron Man 3 example is definitely not this trope as having a conversation with your friend is not an interrogation. We already have supertrope Framing Device for, well, Framing Devices — this is specifically for interrogations.
  • June 29, 2015
    Kartoonkid95
    • In the Family Matters episode "Words Hurt", Steve is put under a sleep-induced hypnosis so he can tell the Winslows why he's been sleepwalking and attacking Carl the past few nights, and a flashback plays as he tells them.
  • June 29, 2015
    calmestofdoves
    Live Action TV
    • Agents Of Shield: We find out the first inklings of how Coulson was brought back to life when Reina kidnaps him and sticks him in a memory-aiding device while asking him questions about what happened.
  • June 29, 2015
    NESBoy
    • The premise of Nintendo Power's promo video for Star Fox 64 is that agents working for Nintendo's competitors at the time kidnap two Nintendo employees and interrogate them for information regarding the game. Gameplay footage is shown while the employees talk about the game.
  • July 16, 2015
    laurence
  • July 20, 2015
    eroock
    Film:
    • The titular hacker of Who Am I turns himself in at the beginning of the movie. His story then unfolds in flashbacks while being interrogated.
  • December 28, 2015
    eroock
  • December 28, 2015
    GiorgioDaneri
    • The original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is told this way. The hero is in a police station retelling the events that led to him screaming neurotically in the middle of the highway.
  • December 30, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    I think this happens in a number of Murdoch Mysteries episodes, but offhand I can only summon this one:

    • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Love and Human Remains", a pair of mummified corpses turn up at a construction site and Murdoch repeatedly interviews several now-elderly people, including the daughter of the couple who once owned the land and their three indentured child servants. Later interviews prompt sepia-toned flashbacks in Murdoch's attempt to reconstruct events from decades earlier.
  • December 30, 2015
    BKelly95
    Live Action Television
    • Every episode of The Black Donnellys was told in flashback by an associate of the Donnellys, Joey "Ice Cream", as he's interrogated in prison. He's actually a bit of an Unreliable Narrator since he tends to inject himself into scenes where he couldn't have been present.
  • January 1, 2016
    MetaFour
    • Rashomon has two nested layers of framing devices. The first layer involves a woodcutter and a priest explaining a recent trial to a third man (and by extension, the audience). The second layer is the trial itself, where three witnesses to a crime give very contradictory explanations of what happened.
  • January 1, 2016
    gallium
    A 4 1/2 year old YKTTW. Not bad.

    The example listed above for The Bridge on the River Kwai applies to the novel only, BTW. And the example as listed above doesn't have a namespace. The only article we have on the wiki is for the David Lean film, which doesn't use this framing device.

    Live-Action Film

    • Black Mass is told in flashbacks by two of Whitey Bulger's Mooks as they're being interrogated. The ending reveals that they're only doing so after Bulger was exposed as an FBI informant.
    • Murder My Sweet, the film adaptation of Raymond Chandler novel Farewell My Lovely, is told by Philip Marlowe in flashback, as Marlowe, who has bandages over his eyes, is being interrogated by the cops. The flashbacks tell the whole story, including why Marlowe is wearing the bandages.
  • January 1, 2016
    gallium
    Might want to see if How We Got Here, of which this is a subtrope, has any examples that will fit.
  • January 1, 2016
    DrNoPuma
    Western Animation:

    • The Batman The Animated Series episode "P.O.V." is told this way. After they botch the capture of a criminal, Lieutenant Hackle chews out three police officers, until Commissioner Gordon convinces Hackle to let the 3 tell their side of the story. And so, the experienced Renee Montoya, the new recruit Wilkes, and the Jerkass Harvey Bullock each tell of the frightful events that happened that night.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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