Loud noises... Sometimes you make being a ninja so easy.
You've got to do something stealthily. The problem is, the thing you want to do is going to make a lot of noise, and you cannot silence it in any way.
What to do? Drown it out with a bigger
noise. You can create it yourself, or just wait until something loud happens nearby and make your move then.
This follows the same logic as Needle in a Stack of Needles
, Lost In A Crowd
, and I Am Spartacus
, except those are covering up objects and people, not actions.
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Anime and Manga
- Lupin III used a fake construction crew to cover the sound of his other goons breaking into a vault.
- The same trick is used in the first episode of Gunslinger Girl to cover an assault on a terrorist safehouse.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, the Yamainu use the cover of festival fireworks to conceal the noise of exploding their way into the Sonozaki bunker.
- In the anime of Golgo 13, a Mafia boss sends an army of mooks up to the roof when he sees the roof guards missing on the security camera. Meanwhile Duke is Fast Roping down the side of the building; as the mooks empty their guns into the air conditioning room (the only cover on the roof) Duke is using the gunfire to cover his own shots as he guns down the Mafia boss.
- Batman: In "The Malay Penguin", the Penguin rents the theatre next to a museum and hires a lot of tap dancers to stage a rehearsal so the sound and vibration will constantly trip the alarms in the museum.
- Looney's betrayal of Michael O'Sullivan in Road to Perdition is preceded by a big band starting up a rousing rendition of "The Saints Go Marching In."
- Tintin and The Picaros. Tintin turns up at Captain Haddock's hotel room and switches on the radio to high volume. It's playing one of Bianca Castafiore's operettas and as a Running Gag in the series is how much they both loathe her music, Haddock immediately asks Tintin if he's gone mad. Tintin then proceeds to point out the various hidden microphones in the room.
- The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne uses thunder to drown out his banging on the pipes with a rock, to break through them in order to escape.
- Happens in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indiana smashes a hole in the floor of a library in time with a librarian stamping books, glancing over at the librarian to make sure he times his blows right.
- Used straight in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, when one of Lao Che's goons shoots Indy's accomplice when champagne bottles are being popped open.
- Referenced in Mission: Impossible 2: "The generators will cover the sound of Hunt's break in".
- Nyah's theft of the necklace early in the movie involves a similar trick. To cover the sound of her high heels as she runs to the room where the necklace is kept, she only runs while dancers downstairs are dancing, making their own heels-on-floor noise.
- In one of the most famous heists of the Olsen-banden (Olsen's Gang) film series, Olsen and his gang performs a daring break-in of the Royal Opera during a performance of the danish classic, Elverhoj. They have to break through several sealed doors to get where they're going, and carefully time every action to coincide with appropriate musical cover. (Setting off dynamite charges during cymbal clashes, running concrete-drills during woodwind sections, etc.)
- In The Man Who Knew Too Much there is an attempted assassination during a concert, using a cymbal crash to cover the sound of the gunshot.
- In the movie A Shot in the Dark, an attempt at murder is made at a nightclub during a flamenco dance, with the gunshot being timed to coincide with the dancer's boot tap.
- In Entrapment a clock's chimes are used to mask the sounds of breaking in.
- In The Departed, one gangster is shown out in the street, tossing cherry-bombs, apparently for fun. We realize in the next scene that he was covering for the sounds of gunfire.
- In The Great Escape, they do this at least twice. Once, with singing "Twelve days before Christmas". When starting the tunnel and needing to break a thick piece of slate, some of the prisoners pound some stakes into the ground with mallets (for their vegetable gardens that are part of the distraction as well).
- Used straight in the film of Enemy at the Gates in Vasily Zaytzev's Establishing Character Moment where he dispatches five Germans with five shots purposefully timed to coincide with artillery explosions.
- In P2, when the police arrive to check out a 911 call at the eponymous parking garage, the kidnapper blasts Christmas music over the speakers to drown out the heroine's screams for help from the locked trunk of a car.
- The Godfather - when Michael goes to shoot Sollozzo and McCluskey in the restaurant, he waits for a stopping subway to be at its loudest before he shoots.
- The Godfather, Part II - young Vito waits for Don Fanucci in his apartment hallway and shoots him as fireworks go off in the festival outside.
- Sleepers (1996). Gangbangers execute a man on the approach area of an airport, waiting till an airliner comes in to land before opening fire.
- Law Abiding Citizen. Clyde shows his cellmate how to use the remote to turn up the volume on the stereo he's been given, then bloodily stabs him to death with a steakbone under cover of loud rock music and the other prisoners shouting in outrage.
- Colombiana. A SWAT team is raiding the protagonist's apartment and makes an explosive entry; at the same time she uses an explosive charge to blow a hole through a wall to make her escape into the lift shaft.
- Three Days Of The Condor. The chattering of 1970's era teletypes and printers cover the sound of the hit squad with their silenced submachine guns attacking a CIA research station.
- The Good The Bad And The Ugly.
- Three men are sneaking up to Blondie's room as a Confederate army column marches by. Unfortunately the column comes to an abrupt halt just as a spur jingles, alerting Blondie.
- In the prisoner of war camp run by Angel Eyes, he has a band of captured Confederate soldiers play to cover the sound of his men torturing Tuco.
- In a Dutch movie a member of La Résistance disassembles his bunk and uses the parts as improvised tools to break out of a Nazi cell block. Unfortunately the prisoner in the neigbouring cell starts asking about the noise he's making. So the resistance guy calls for a biblical quotation from a deeply religious prisoner, knowing the other prisoners will start shouting at him to shut up and he can proceed under cover of their argument.
- The protagonist of The American is secretly building a custom-made rifle in a small Italian town. At one stage he has to hit a metal disc with a ball hammer, so waits till the church bells start ringing.
- Frank Garcia's Marked Cards and Loaded Dice had a story attributed to John Philip Quinn, a 19th century crooked gambler. One day a man approached Quinn and asked to become a "bottom dealer" for him. As the man dealt out the cards Quinn listened for the distinctive sound of a poorly executed bottom deal. He then told the man that if he would give Quinn a signal when he was about to begin, Quinn would fire off a pistol and distract everyone else in the room from the horrible noise the man made.
- Donna Andrews uses this in Some Like it Hawk. The protagonists have scheduled a lot of very noisy events at the town festival so they can open a squeaky trapdoor without being noticed.
- Marie Brennan's Doppelgänger duology has Mirei, newly restored to her original body by the Fusion Dance of Miryo and Mirage, using the cover of applause to knock out a pair of guards and confront the Primes.
- In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, the main character bases his plan for a concert hall burglary around the musical composition to be played, so that the noisiest parts of the job take place during the noisiest part of the concert.
- Overlaps with We Need a Distraction in Death or Glory. To cover up the sound of most of their team cutting into an ork encampment with a laser torch, they make a huge ruckus at the main gate — with a rocket launcher.
- A variation occurs in The Belgariad when Belgarion has to scare off a demon with the Orb of Aldur. To stop enemies homing in the "sound" that it makes, the effect covers the entire sky above the mountain range the good guys are in making it impossible to zero in on.
- A gang of prisoners attempt to time their shooting and killing of Johnny Powers with the roar of a concorde flying overhead in Public Enemy Number Two. They're only stopped with Nick Diamond's intervention.
- In Marathon Man, Babe is taking a bath in his apartment when the bad guys break in. He's listening anxiously as they quietly walk around, then gets really scared when they turn the radio on, loud, to cover up his screams for help.
- In one of the Sven Hassel novels, a senior SA officer has been arrested in the Night of the Long Knives purge. As he waits in his cell, he isn't alarmed because he thinks he's too important to harm — until he realises that the sound of a revving lorry and motorcycle are masking regular bursts of gunfire, like you'd hear from a firing squad.
- The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth. A safecracker breaks into an apartment while the owner is away in the country for New Year's Day, and waits till the stroke of midnight before setting off the charge that blows open his safe, covered by the fireworks and general outburst of revelry.
- A Song of Ice and Fire. Olenna Tyrell is trying to coax some treasonable details about King Joffrey from Sansa Stark. Given the ever-present threat of spies, she has The Jester Butterbumps sing loudly to prevent anyone overhearing.
Live Action TV
- The pilot episode of the Mission: Impossible TV series uses fireworks to cover the sounds of the team's escape.
- This is used in Farscape when John is hiding in the walls from the bad guys who can hear his heartbeat and breathing. His shipmates start speaking loudly in various alien languages to give him time to escape.
- A minor Running Gag in The A-Team is that whenever Face and Hannibal were captured, their friends would naturally come to rescue them. When they realized their teammates were close by, they would cover up their noises by singing "You Are My Sunshine."
- Due South: In the episode "Mountie on the Bounty", Fraser and Ray are undercover aboard a freighter ship that has been dumping toxic waste in Lake Michigan. While Ray sneaks off to the hold to investigate, Fraser draws the attention of the ship's crew by singing "Barrett's Privateers". By the second chorus everyone else in joining in, making it easier for Ray to move around unencumbered.
- Whodunnit? (UK): In "A Bad Habit", the thief uses a chisel to break the sacred sceptre free from its brackets on the wall; timing his blows to coincide with the striking of the abbey clock.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "The Initiative" vampire Spike attacks Willow in her dorm room, turning up her CD player so the students outside can't hear her screaming.
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 requires you to synch an explosion with background thunder.
- You can set it off anytime, but then fight your way through the horde of enemies who then arrive.
- In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, you can get away with making noise if the ambient sounds of the environment are loud enough.
- One of the first puzzles in Zork: Grand Inquisitor requires you to turn the propaganda-spewing speakers' volume to maximum, so that you can steal something from a shop without the owner hearing the alarm bell.
- One of the final puzzles in Still Life 2 requires you to turn on a large fan while you sneak up on the villain.
- One of the main story assassinations in Assassins Creed II could be accomplished using Ezio's pistol, if you timed your shot with the fireworks going off in the area.
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Similar to the Assassins Creed II example, a storyline mission sees you providing sniper fire support at night with a huge thunderstorm right overhead as the rest of your fireteam sneaks into an enemy camp. In order to avoid alerting the guards to your shots, you time them to coincide with the sounds of the storm.
- In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the sound of some pyrotechnics and a gun going off are masked by the concert going outside.
- You can use this to your advantage in Hitman. If someone's firing guns for another reason (like to celebrate a wedding), you can kill someone and use their gunfire to mask the sound of yours.
- In Sniper Elite and Sniper Elite V2, you're encouraged to make use of this to take out enemies without giving yourself away. Being that you're infiltrating Berlin in the last days of WWII, this means that in addition to using regular loud noises like thunder and planes flying overhead, you can fire while dropped bombs explode nearby or while flak erupts across the sky.
- In a King of the Hill episode, Strickland and the other local propane shops start an illegal price-fixing racket and Hank is forced by the Feds to wear a wire during one of their meetings so that the team assigned to catch them could have proof. So how does Hank keep from getting Strickland shut down? He gets the freaking Orange County Choppers to rev their engines outside the store in order to cover up his explanation of the situation to Buck.
- Car stereo thieves sometimes intentionally trigger a nearby car alarm to mask the sound of breaking glass.
- There's an Urban Legend about a college campus that had a tradition of students screaming for a few minutes during finals week to let their stress out before they went back to studying, and a student having been murdered during the Scream one year because her screaming was masked by everyone else's. (Even without encouraging students to scream at a specific time, some campuses could be noisy enough to drown out a cry for help. That said, it's still a legend.)