Black-Tie Infiltration

"Maybe one day I'll wear this to a party I'm actually invited to."

The MacGuffin you need is securely under lock and key in the Trope Co. vault. Lucky for you, they are having a black-tie gala to celebrate the archaeological find of the century. Security will have their hands full dealing with all the guests, so it's time to don your tuxedo/gown, tuck away your tool kit into your Hammerspace Hideaway, and smile pretty for guards checking invitations. You're about to attempt a Black-Tie Infiltration. Hopefully you'll get in Right Under Their Noses.

The defining aspect of this trope is that The Infiltration takes place during a large, formal social event.

Despite the name, the event doesn't need to be a black-tie affair. Any sort of exclusive or "by-invitation-only" event with a sufficiently large number of guests, a dress code, and a need for security would qualify. Often it's an opportunity for the heroes to dress up.

This is a Sub-Trope of The Infiltration, and incorporates Hidden in Plain Sight on the part of the infiltrators. May be an example of Truth in Television since large social events are usually security nightmares, and they rarely, if ever, go off without a hitch. Compare Janitor Impersonation Infiltration, when the infiltrator instead goes as the hired help.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
    • In one episode a teenage assassin tries targets a dignitary who's attending a ceremony at some war graves where his countrymen are buried. At first he appears to be planning to use a rifle to snipe him but at the last minute they find that he's stolen the uniform of one of the students who are presenting the target with bouquets and he's planning a suicidal assassination using a knife (with a bomb for backup).
    • In "Cash Eye", the team do one of these layered in another. Their host thinks they're undercover to prevent his money being stolen by a mysterious Classy Cat-Burglar, but they're actually staging the theft (with Motoko playing the thief) in order to gain access to his safe and check it for laundered money.
  • In K: Return of Kings, Kusanagi and Awashima (who else?), in episode 9, infiltrate JUNGLE's launch party this way. They end up in an Elevator Action Sequence in their formalwear.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Robots, Rodney and Fender infiltrate the Bigweld Ball by pretending to be Count Roderick Von Zipper (formerly Count Velcro) and his valet, respectively.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • National Treasure:
    • In the first film, Ben Gates sneaks into the National Archives during a gala event to steal the Declaration of Independence which is believed to contain a treasure map to a lost Templar Treasure. Combined with a Janitor Impersonation Infiltration in this case: Ben dresses up as a custodian (complete with fake name tag) to get in the service entrance with his burglary gear, wearing a tuxedo under his coveralls.
    • In the second film, Book of Secrets, Ben gatecrashes the President's birthday party at Mount Vernon (after Riley hacks various computers to ensure that the party will be held at that venue) so he can get him alone in a secret area of the estate and convince him to let Ben see the President's Book.
  • Marginally involved in Ocean's Eleven since Danny Ocean makes an appearance at the Fight Night event, a professional boxing match held in a Las Vegas casino and being attended by numerous celebrities and wealthy guests, before excusing himself to join the rest of the crew in the heist.
  • In Jumpin' Jack Flash, Whoopi Goldberg's character breaks into the British Consulate during a party, claiming to be the entertainment (dressed in a spangly gown and lipsyncing to The Supremes). She's really there to hack the computer.
  • In Get Smart, Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 gate-crash a party held at the mansion of a KAOS operative named Ladislav Krstic in order to steal computer records on the attack on CONTROL headquarters. The sequence also features a hilarious tango dance-off scene between 99 and Krstic, and Max and a quite overweight young lady.
  • True Lies uses this trope for bookends.
    • In the Action Prologue Harry Tasker infiltrates a gala hosted by an Arab underworld figure in Switzerland in order to steal Forensic Accounting intelligence from the mark's computer. In homage to the opening of Goldfinger, he sneaks in underwater with a tuxedo under his drysuit.
    • In the epilogue, Harry and Helen are at a similar gala apparently looking to meet up with a contact.
  • Done often in James Bond films.
    • In Goldfinger we see a shot of a duck swimming across a pond - but it's not a duck, it's Bond with a duck decoy attached to the top of his wetsuit. Once he gets on land he strips off his wetsuit revealing a perfectly dry, perfectly pressed tuxedo which he uses to blend in to the party going on.
    • In Quantum of Solace Bond sneaks in backstage by swiping a tux from a castmember's locker during a performance of Tosca because a group of Nebulous Evil Organization members are using it as cover for a meeting. He smokes them out by intruding on their radio conversation, letting MI-6 identify them.
  • Inglourious Basterds: Three of the surviving soldiers masquerade as cameramen to get into the big movie opening in order to assassinate Hitler. It might have worked, if only they hadn't run into Colonel Landa...
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Holmes, Watson and Simza have to attend a white tie ball being held at a peace conference in order to thwart Moriarty's scheme.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The League of Shadows does this during Bruce's birthday party in Batman Begins. Ra's al Ghul doesn't even attempt to disguise himself; he gives Mrs. Delane his name and asks to see Bruce.
    • In The Dark Knight Rises Selina Kyle infiltrates Wayne Manor (to steal a pearl necklace and Bruce Wayne's fingerprints) by posing as one of the wait staff during a formal memorial dinner for Harvey Dent. Selina gets caught in the act, but makes her escape by pulling the apron and white lapels off her outfit—leaving her in a Little Black Dress—and blending in with the guests.
  • Mission: Impossible Film Series:
    • The original Mission: Impossible opens with the team breaking into a social event in Germany to steal intelligence. Turns out the information they were after was bait to smoke out The Mole, who saw it coming and pinned it on Ethan.
    • Mission: Impossible III has Hunt's team infiltrate an event at an Italian palace in order to abduct an arms dealer IMF has been after for a while who killed one of Ethan's proteges.
    • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol has Hunt's team pulling off one of these during a party thrown by a telecommunications entrepreneur who owns a satellite capable of firing a missile. While Brandt and Dunn infiltrate the server room to take the satellite offline, Carter attends the party as a Honey Trap to get the entrepreneur to reveal the satellite code.
    • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation has Hunt and Dunn infiltrate a high-society performance of Turandot to try and foil the Syndicate's assassination of the Chancellor of Austria at the same event. They foil the three snipers by killing one and then shooting the chancellor nonfatally themselves, but the Syndicate plant a bomb in the Chancellor's limo and blow him up on his way to the hospital.
  • In Unknown (2011), the assassins assume secret identities to be part of a biotechnology summit at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin where they manage to steal secret data from a laptop of speaker Professor Bressler.
  • In The Avengers (2012), Loki takes on the illusion of a tuxedo-wearing partygoer to infiltrate the museum gala and obtain the eye of a museum official to bypass the security system around a meteorite of rare metal.
  • Wild Wild West. U.S. Government agents Jim West and Artemus Gordon infiltrate a post-Civil War Southern costume ball dressed as an armed cowboy and a French mountain man, respectively. Problem: the other attendees are white racist former slave owners, and Jim West is black.
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective: Ace attends a high class party thrown by one of the Miami Dolphins who he suspects of having kidnapped the team mascot. While everyone else is enjoying the party, he sneaks off to check the player's new water tank to see if the mascot is there. (It turns out to contain the player's new pet shark.)
  • In In the Line of Fire, Mitch Leary makes a series of generous campaign contributions to the American president's re-election campaign under a phony name, until he gets invited to a campaign dinner held in a luxury hotel. This campaign dinner provides him with the perfect opportunity to assassinate the president.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: The villain throws a party with his conspirators to celebrate his solution to over-population: mass-murder. Eggsy infiltrates it to hack into the villain's network and stop his plan.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne infiltrates a party at Lex Luthor’s house to steal data. In turn he has his stolen data stolen from him by Wonder Woman, who was there for the same thing. Notably Bruce had legitimately been invited to the event, he just took advantage of the invitation.

    Literature 
  • In Grandmaster of Theft, Cassidy's scheme during The Grandmaster's Gala Grift is to convince the mark to host a gala specifically so she can perform an infiltration.
  • Journey to Chaos": In the third book there's a big event at Roalt Castle called the "Mana Mutation Summit". It will be attended by heads of state from all over the world and preventing an infiltration is one of the reasons that the castle's queen is stressed on before it begins. She makes numerous magical and mundane security measures but unfortunately for her, the infiltrator is not one for subtlety.
  • Played with in House of Shards by Walter Jon Williams. It's not an actual infiltration, because burglary isn't actually illegal in this 'verse, as long as you do it with sufficient style. So Drake and his rival openly attend the grand opening of the new, ritzy resort hotel. But otherwise, the trope is played straight. They mingle with nobility and celebrities while planning how to steal the incredibly valuable MacGuffin locked in the hotel vault.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Apocalypse Rising", Captain Sisko, Commander Worf, Chief O'Brien, and a temporarily human Odo were cosmetically altered to appear Klingon so they could infiltrate the overnight reverie taking place before the ceremony to induct all the invitees into the Order of the Bat'leth. The goal is to assassinate Gowron, leader of the Klingon High Council who was suspected of being a Changeling. Ultimately, it was revealed the Changeling was impersonating General Martok, and was killed at the event.
  • In the Firefly episode "Shindig", Mal and Kaylee infiltrate a ball on Persephone, with Kaylee—correction, Miss Kaywinnit Lee Frye—playing the role of a debutante so that Mal can get in touch with an aristocratic contact for a smuggling job.
    Kaylee: These girls have the most beautiful dresses. (gestures at her dress) And so do I! How about that?
    Mal: Yeah, well, just be careful. We cheated Badger out of good money to buy that frippery, and you're supposed to make me look respectable.
  • A Fringe episode involves a Black Tie Infiltration job by Olivia and a man who, because of experiments performed on him as a child, can read minds, attending such an event in order to snuff out the Villain of the Week before they can commit more assassinations.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • The third episode has Skye infiltrating a party she managed to wrangle her own invitation to(with the intention of dropping a bug that'll disarm the security system momentarily and allow some more combat orientated agents in).
    • In "Face My Enemy", Coulson and May pose as husband and wife to infiltrate a black-tie fundraiser where the star item is a painting with alien writing on the back.
  • Leverage uses this one in many episodes, such as "The First David Job". Basically, if their mark is a high-society figure, it's a good bet that infiltrating a party will be a major part of that episode's con. Usually, Sophie poses as a guest in order to get information from the mark or just distract them, Nathan poses as a guest to keep an eye on events and give orders as necessary, and Eliot poses as a janitor or other staff so he can leap in if the situation becomes violent. Parker, who does most of the breaking-in, may or may not pose as one of the wait staff. Hardison, the Mission Control, is the one team member least likely to show his face at these parties.
  • In the short lived TV series Black Tie Affair the main character markets himself as a suave private investigator who is accomplished in this sort of thing. In truth the series follows his first case and he runs his PI business out of a used record shop he owns. The only "black tie" infiltration he actually does is when he's in disguise as a waiter.
  • Doctor Who: In "Rise of the Cybermen", the Doctor and Rose discuss performing this trope to get into a party at the Alternate Universe version of the Tyler residence, but instead infiltrate as catering staff. Rose wishes they had used the titles Queen Victoria bestowed on them in "Tooth and Claw", though the Doctor maintains that they'll learn more information from the kitchen end of things.
  • In the Castle episode "The Limey", while investigating arms traffickers, Beckett infiltrates a gala at the British consulate alongside a detective inspector from Scotland Yard. She remarks that it must be easy for him being among his own people, and he comments that "my people are the ones serving the drinks."
  • In the Daredevil season 2 episode "Regrets Only," Matt and Elektra infiltrate a Yakuza gala to access a vault containing a logbook.
  • Person of Interest. With a hero popularly known as the Man in the Suit this had to come up, though even John Reese needs some education in the finer points by Harold Finch. The episode "Provenance" is one good example, where Reese and Finch go to a charity event to catch a Classy Cat-Burglar, with Reese wearing the handmade Italian suit that Finch bought him in the previous episode.

    Theatre 
  • This one's Older Than Steam. William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has Romeo and his friends sneaking into a masquerade ball at the Capulets' castle. In this case the infiltration itself is the point: the Montague-affiliated Romeo et al. think it'll be fun to take advantage of the rival Capulet family.

    Video Games 
  • Several examples from the Hitman franchise:
    • The embassy level in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin uses this trope. Agent 47 has to secure a black tie and infiltrate a party at an embassy, posing as either a waiter or a guest.
    • Hitman: Contracts:
      • "The Meat King's Party", in which a wealthy meat magnate throws a party in one of his abattoirs to celebrate his recent acquittal. 47 must assassinate both the magnate and his lawyer.
      • "Beldingford Manor", in which the Beldingford family are hosting numerous guests at their expansive manor for several days. 47 must assassinate two of the Beldingfords.
    • Hitman: Blood Money:
      • "You Better Watch Out", in which Lorne de Havilland, an Expy of either Hugh Hefner or Larry Flynt, throws a formal Christmas party in a stand-in for the Playboy mansion. 47 must assassinate both de Havilland and a senator's son in attendance.
      • "Til Death Do Us Part", in which 47 must assassinate two guests at a Mississipi wedding.
      • "A Dance with the Devil", in which 47 must assassinate two guests at an elaborate costume party in Las Vegas.
  • One of the levels in Super Scribblenauts involves one of these. You have to give Maxwell a fancy suit so he can infiltrate a ball, followed by bits of spy gear to steal some intelligence and make his escape.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the Mass Effect 2 DLC "Kasumi: Stolen Memory", Shepard helps the eponymous thief steal a personal item from a crime lord who's throwing a party.
    • Mass Effect 3's "Citadel" DLC at one point has Shepard, a party member, and Maya Brooks infiltrate a social event at a Citadel casino in order to gather intelligence on the group trying to assassinate Shepard.
  • In the Dragon Age II DLC "Mark of the Assassin", Hawke is persuaded by a visiting Qunari spy to participate in a major heist at the estate of an Orlesian Duke throwing The Grand Hunt and an accompanying party. Since the Hawke family has reclaimed their noble titles by then, they obtain a formal invitation to the event, then manage to sneak away from the party and into the Duke's vaults while other guests are distracted.
  • In the first Syphon Filter game, Gabriel Logan's group in The Agency infiltrate an exposition to discover more information on the titular series' virus MacGuffin.
  • The main story quest "Diplomatic Immunity" in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sees you entering the Thalmor embassy during a party the ambassador throws for the local nobles and moneybags. You go there under fake identity and invitation with a mission to retrieve important documents from the ambassador's quarters, made more difficult by the fact that you can't bring any of your gear with you (at least, until you meet with your liaison inside the embassy who can smuggle in some items for you).
  • The Star Trek Online mission "Empress Sela" has the Starfleet Player Character acting as part of a diplomatic envoy to the Romulan Star Empire, ostensibly to patch up diplomatic relations after the Federation recognizes the political sovereignty of the Romulan Republic splinter state. The player's real objective is to gather intelligence, so they sneak out of the reception gala and downstairs to where Sela is hiding war materiel for a naval attack against Vulcan. Why she's storing her weapons one floor down from where she's hosting Federation military personnel is left unexplained.
  • The spy player in SpyParty infiltrates a high-class cocktail party to complete missions such as planting a bug on the ambassador and contacting a double agent.
  • In Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, the Italy chapters have Nate, Sully, and Sam infiltrating a black market auction at a fancy estate so that they can steal an antique cross bearing the image of St. Dismas the penitent thief.

    Web Original 
  • Arc 2 of Running with Rats features the band of rebels that the main character joined infiltrating a benefit party.
  • The RWBY Volume 2 episode "Dance Dance Infiltration" has Cinder use the Beacon Academy dance as a diversion to infiltrate the communications tower. She then escapes Ruby's pursuit by changing clothes and hiding among the dancers.

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series has a parody. Harvey's having a dream where he's working with a James Bond Expy. He and the spy recreate the "pull off a drysuit to reveal a tux" scene, only to discover they're a bit overdressed for the party they infiltrating and put on mascot costumes.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In an attempt to speak with the Earth King about the war with the Fire Nation, the Gaang infiltrate a party the king is holding for his pet bear. Aang and Sokka go as waiters (though when Aang's cover is blown he starts using his airbending to put on a distracting show), while Katara and Toph go as upper-crust guests (Toph is the heir of a very rich Earth Kingdom family, and raised as such, she just has to remember to act like it). It fails completely due to the Dai Li already knowing who they are.
  • In Family Guy, Peter, Cleveland and Quagmire rob the Pewterschmidt mansion by getting in this way during a black-tie party.

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