Film / A Simple Plan

A Simple Plan is a 1998 Neo-Noir thriller film directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda. It is based on the novel of the same name by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay.

Hank Mitchell (Paxton) and his pregnant wife, Sarah (Fonda), live in rural Minnesota. Hank, one of the town's few college graduates, works in a feed mill, while his wife is a librarian. Hank's brother, Jacob (Thornton), is a dim-witted but good-hearted fellow. The story begins with Hank, Jacob, and Jacob's friend, Lou (Briscoe), chasing a fox into the woods, where they find a crashed airplane. The pilot is dead and the only cargo is a bag full of unmarked bills totaling $4.4 million. The three decide to take the money and hide it for six months, enough time to see if anyone is looking for it. Of course, this simple plan unravels over that time, and everyone comes to regret ever finding the money.

This film provides examples of

  • The Alcoholic: Lou, the drunken friend who kickstarts the conflict.
  • Black Comedy: At some points.
  • Cain and Abel : Hanks kills Jacob after they discuss it as something necessary.
  • Cassandra Truth: Hank confesses, but as Sarah predicted, he's not believed because he's an upstanding member of the community.
  • Dirty Cop: It turns out the alleged FBI agent Baxter is after the money too.
  • Downer Ending: Hank kills Jacob because the latter doesn't want to live with the guilt of his and his brother's crimes. Dually, Hank learns from real FBI agents that the money from the plane is marked, meaning he can't use any of it without the FBI learning he stole it; subsequently, Hank burns the money - much to his wife's chagrin. Ultimately, taking the money cost him the life of his brother, caused the deaths of five other people, and cursed him with the guilt of sins to which he can't confess without jeapordizing the future of his wife and daughter.
  • Down on the Farm: Hank lives on rural Minnesota and is one of the few college graduates of his town. Jacob wants to buy a farm with his share, but Hank thinks he is being ridiculous as neither of them know anything about farming.
  • Expy: Gary Cole as Agent Baxter is Lucas Buck in a different branch of law enforcement.
  • FBI Agent: Agent Baxter shows up when the local sheriff seeks out help from the Bureau. Hank is debriefed by Renkins and Freemont later.
  • The Film of the Book: An adaptation of the novel of the same name by Scott Smith.
  • Gold Fever: Two brothers find a downed airplane with a dead pilot and 4.4 million dollars and attempt to keep the feds from finding the money. Greed and crime ensue.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Jacob eventually begins to crack.
  • He Knows Too Much: The old man on the snowmobile who untimely comes across the protagonists.
  • Hot Librarian: Sarah is a librarian played by Bridget Fonda.
  • Lady Macbeth: Sarah plays this role for Hank.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Hank suffocates a man who knows too much and makes it look like an accidental death.
  • Plethora of Mistakes
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The dead pilot who was carrying the 4.4 million dollars.
  • Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story: The money is marked and has to be burnt.
  • A Simple Plan: Played straight, what starts as a plan to split up a huge sack of money found in the woods ends up leaving a trail of bodies including two of the three guys who found the money, and at the end of it all, the money is marked anyway, and has to be burnt.
  • Snow Means Death: Among several other things. Death and snowy landscapes are seamlessly mixed.
  • Thicker Than Water: Hank is very protective of Jacob. But it's ultimately subverted.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sheriff Carl Jenkins assumes that Neil Baxter is an FBI agent without asking to see his badge. This is lampshaded comically as Hank searches for ammunition to the sheriff's gun amongst his disorganized desk.
  • Wham Line: Jacob has a couple of these lines to Hank through out the movie
    • Revealing to Hank that their Father losing the farm was not because he as a bad business man, but because he was paying for Hank's college
    • Telling Hank that their father's death was really a suicide.