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Film / The Assignment (1997)

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While on holiday in Jerusalem in 1986, a Cuban-American naval officer called Annibal Ramirez is detained and roughed up by Israeli intelligence officer Amos (played by Ben Kingsley). Turns out Annibal is the spitting image of 'Carlos the Jackal' Sanchez, the infamous Venezuelan terrorist who has evaded every attempt to kill or capture him. The mistake is (eventually) sorted out but gives Amos an idea. Together with Jack Shaw aka Henry Fields (Donald Sutherland), a CIA operative with his own axe to grind with Carlos, they plan to use Annibal to frame Carlos as a CIA informant, so he will be murdered by his own side.

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Not to be confused with the 2017 action movie by Walter Hill.


This movie has the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Area:
    • A former prison is used for Annibal's one-man Spy School. As a child Annibal had to visit his father in a Cuban prison, so this is a deliberate Mind Screw from his trainers.
    • Annibal meets Carla in a derelict building in the Dead Sea, where the only furniture is a bed — all that's needed for the training he receives there.
  • Adult Fear: Shaw tries various tactics to recruit Annibal, but the one that works involves taking him to see one of Carlos' victims, a young boy the same age as his son disfigured in a terrorist bombing, and introducing the protagonist to her family as a specialist doctor who's The Only One who can fix his problem. Later Annibal realises the whole thing had been faked.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In her very first words, Carla spells out what Carlos' appeal to women is.
    "The thing about Carlos is... he doesn’t lose himself with a woman. A lover is not different to him. He might have a use for them, so he has to seduce them properly, make sure they're so crazy about him that they'll do anything for him. It's not... not pleasure, it's a sick kind of conquest. He'll do anything... he is the perfect lover. He'll do it all, not to please you, but to excite you, to make it dangerous for you. (starts to stroke herself between her thighs) It's very sexy too, to a woman that danger, like he could kill you in a second but instead he makes you come. And it's like he's killed you and there isn't anything left of you and... he makes you be reborn again the way he wants you to be, so there isn't a thought in your brain that he hasn't put there. Not a feeling in your body that he hasn't put there."
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  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: When Annibal talks of leaving the operation, Shaw says he has no problem using Annibal and his family as The Bait to lure out Carlos. Having already attracted the attention of a terrorist he bumped into by coincidence, Annibal can't afford to ignore the threat.
  • Asshole Victim: Annibal sees a father slapping his son for underperforming at baseball. When Annibal tells him to chill out, he gets in Annibal's face and receives a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Shaw has to bail him out of jail to continue the mission.
    Shaw: He was a Baseball Dad — he deserved it!
  • Bait-and-Switch: After seeing Carlos in action in Paris 1974 and Vienna 1975, we cut to 1986 with Carlos apparently planning a terror attack in Jerusalem. This turns out to be our protagonist, Annibal Ramirez, playing tourist while his ship is docked in Haifa.
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  • Based on a True Story: Various points of the real Carlos' history are worked into the movie; his bombing of a Paris cafe, the 1975 OPEC siege in Vienna, and Carlos taking sanctuary behind the Iron Curtain.
  • Beardness Protection Program:
    • Annibal and Shaw wear beards and wigs when meeting in an East Berlin café. The KGB use Facial Recognition Software to remove the beards and match their faces with photos of Carlos and known CIA counterterrorism agent Henry Fields. Of course this was the plan all along, and the fake beards only increase the chance that the computer will give a false positive result for Annibal.
    • Carlos wears a fake mustache and wig for the Paris bombing.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After the Libyan disaster Annibal wants to go home and see his family. Then Amos is killed and Annibal is sent home just when he's motivated to go ahead to make his death mean something.
  • Becoming the Mask: Annibal is trained to think and act like Carlos, so much so that it starts to affect his normal behaviour.
  • Big Fancy House: The East Berlin safehouse used by Carlos and his fellow terrorists. The large grounds make it easy for Annibal to pretend to be leaving or entering as 'Carlos', when he's actually hiding in the surrounding woods.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Carlos is a thrill-seeking sociopathic terrorist, but Amos has Annibal snatched off the street and held for days without charge, and Shaw is a cynical manipulator so obsessed with catching Carlos he's prepared to destroy Annibal's life and let hostages die in Vienna just for revenge.
  • Blofeld Ploy: Carlos wonders out loud who revealed his safehouse in Libya, then cheerfully assures an underling that it couldn't be him, because: "We go way back." (shoots him through back of chair)
  • Book-Ends:
    • At the start of the movie, Carlos puts out a cigarette on a spider. At the end of the movie Annibal goes to do the same...but stops.
    • When told that Carlos has 70 hostages in Vienna, Shaw snaps, "Fuck the hostages!" When a wounded Annibal tells Shaw to leave him and go after Carlos, he snaps, "Fuck Carlos!" and carries Shaw to safety.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The first DST agent shot by Annibal; the other is a Cruel and Unusual Death, and another blows up with his car, making it obvious that Annibal has definitely killed them.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Annibal eventually confesses everything to his wife, including his infidelity, then walks out on her to finish the mission, saying in his Carlos voice: "I'm late for work."
  • Camera Sniper:
  • Camping a Crapper: A terrorist takes Annibal into a Heathrow airport restroom to be interrogated by having his head shoved in a toilet bowl. Fortunately Amos sees him being led off and follows, leading to a Mutual Kill.
  • Character Tics: Carlos likes to lower his sunglasses to look at people, a habit that Annibal copies.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Carlos sends a Japanese terrorist to kill Agnieska, ordering him to exfiltrate via London. While at Heathrow airport, he runs into Annibal who, posing as Carlos, asks the terrorist what he's doing there. As Carlos should already know this, the terrorist does an Impostor Exposing Test that Annibal fails.
    • When Annibal is blaming himself for not having bluffed the Trust Password, Shaw tells him there's no way he could have guessed it, and relates an incident where he killed a man who didn't know the correct countersign: "But not as sticky as two summers ago." When Shaw finds himself confronted by two Carlos's, he uses this phrase to establish which one is Annibal.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Agnieska is introduced bringing Carlos the hand grenade he uses to blow up the café.
  • Chekhov's Skill: As part of his spy training, Annibal must enter a mock-up apartment and work out from clues if the woman living there has been cheating on her husband. Later Annibal uses the same technique to establish that Agnieska met someone in the Libyan safehouse before he got there.
  • City of Spies: The climax takes place in East Berlin.
  • Code Name: On starting Spy School Annibal is given the codename 'Miguel', so he asks if 'Jack Shaw' is also a codename. Shaw claims it's his real name, but he is referred to as 'Henry Fields' by his colleagues and the KGB.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: Annibal is still on the grounds of Carlos' safehouse when the KGB launch their assault, so he lays low. But seeing that Carlos is about to escape, he pursues and ends up fighting Carlos hand-to-hand.
    Carlos: (staring) Who are you?
    Annibal: I'm you, motherfucker. (headbutts Carlos)
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Annibal shoots a DST agent who falls screaming off a roof onto several power lines and goes up in a blaze of sparks.
  • Darkest Hour: Annibal is feeling guilty because he killed four agents from his own side. Then Amos gets killed after a terrorist spots Annibal at Heathrow so the operation is suspended by the CIA Director pending review, making it look like it's been All for Nothing.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Annibal's father was a prisoner in a Cuban jail.
  • A Darker Me: The secondary purpose of his training is to bring this out of Annibal, replacing the rules-bound naval officer with someone more like Carlos.
  • Dark Side: Shaw even quotes from The Empire Strikes Back.
    "How do you stand this shit Annibal? I mean they're all so fuckin' constipated. [snip] You don't belong to them. You belong to me. Remember what Darth Vader said to Luke, "Come over to the Dark Side"? Come over, Annibal. You have no idea of the power we have."
  • Disappeared Dad: Carlos' father abandoned his family for a playboy lifestyle, and Amos advises Annibal to use his feelings about his own father (see Dark and Troubled Past) to empathise with Carlos and become him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: When told there might be another two months training (though this might be another psychological ploy), Annibal blows his stack and insists he can take any test they can think up. So that night Amos and Shaw spike his food with LSD. Amos worries they might have gone too far, but they find Annibal the next morning with his feet up on the table, dressed and groomed and ready to go to the next stage.
  • Dodge by Braking: Annibal is in a stolen taxi that's falling apart under the abuse, being pursued by DST gunmen. He drives down a stairway halfway then pulls on the handbrake and ducks — the car behind hits the back of his own, flips over and bursts into flame.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": At the start of his training, Shaw tells Annibal to stop calling him sir because it gives away the fact that he's military.
  • Drink Order: At the Navy ball Annibal orders a white wine and a club soda. Shaw appears and deduces that the soda is for Annibal because he's afraid of In Vino Veritas while ass-kissing his superiors. Annibal informs him that the soda is actually for his wife.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The movie opens with two kids urinating on the cobblestones, then a crane shot pulls up to show a view of 1970's Paris including the Eiffel Tower. Apart from this however the trope is avoided, using Scene Shift Caption instead.
  • Empathic Environment: Annibal goes home to his family on a bright sunny day. That night it's raining and he gets into a shouting match with his wife.
  • External Combustion: We hear a car start before it explodes in a ball of fire.
  • Faking the Dead: The Ramirez family get into their car which explodes into a ball of fire and an Empathy Doll Shot. Carlos gets a newspaper clipping announcing their deaths. After a funeral that Shaw attends, we see Annibal watching his family playing on the beach.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Annibal with both Amos and Shaw.
  • Foil: Carlos is described as a superman compared to rules-bound, Happily Married family man Annibal.
    Amos: Carlos is the opposite, that's what makes him so seductive, you know? He can kill whoever he chooses, ravish whoever he chooses, take whatever he chooses, do whatever he chooses.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Carlos will obviously survive as he was caught in 1994 and is currently serving multiple life sentences in a French jail.
  • Fresh Clue: In the Sherlock Scan exercise, the milk in the fridge is only slightly off, indicating that it's been replaced recently and hasn't been sitting there a week.
  • Friend or Foe
    • Annibal kills four French agents escaping the DST trap in Libya.
    • In the climax, Shaw mistakes Annibal for Carlos and gleefully puts several shots into him.
  • Fruit Cart
    • Annibal deliberately knocks over various objects while fleeing through a Jeruselum marketplace to slow his pursuers down.
    • The DST do a drive-by shooting of the contents of a Libyan market stall.
  • Gallows Humor: As Amos is dying, Annibal jokes that he can't die yet as he never got round to suing him.
  • Gambit Pileup: Annibal gets caught in a trap set by the French DST to catch the real Carlos.
    Shaw: How could we know? It was their operation and they didn't tell us about it. I mean, we sure as shit didn't tell them about you.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Annibal has this problem as his name sounds like "Annabelle". When the Baseball Dad makes a snide comment about it, Annibal has him Talk to the Fist.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar
    Annibal: I have everything I want to eat, right in front of me. (goes down on Agnieska)
  • Going by the Matchbook: During the Sherlock Scan exercise, a matchbook in the rubbish bin tips off Annibal that his fictional wife met someone in a bar.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: And bad people have even better sex. However when Annibal uses the same techniques on his wife, she tells him to stop as he's hurting her.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Carlos smokes, so Annibal has to as well. His wife is not happy.
    Maura: You started smoking again?
  • Hallucinations: For his final test, Amos and Shaw spike Annibal's food with LSD. The subsequent trip includes Talking to Themself (as naval officer, resentful spy trainee, and Annibal-Carlos), Dark and Troubled Past (visiting his father in a Cuban prison as a child) and Adult Fear (Carlos playing baseball with Annibal's son...using a grenade).
  • The Handler: Shaw for Annibal.
  • Handshake Refusal:
    • Annibal is introduced to their Mossad liaison, who turns out to be Amos. Annibal refuses to shake his hand because he's still pissed about what happened in Israel.
    • Played for drama during the Vienna airport scene (see Nothing Up My Sleeve).
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: When Annibal is being questioned by a Libyan customs officer on his first mission.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: While escaping from the DST, Annibal carjacks a taxi, throwing the driver out onto the street where he barely avoids getting hit by another vehicle.
  • High-Dive Escape: Carlos dives from a balcony into the Spree River to escape the KGB. Annibal dives right after him.
  • Identical Stranger: Annibal and Carlos aren't related at all; they're from completely different countries.
  • Impostor Exposing Test: While buying duty free cigarettes at Heathrow Airport, Annibal is approached by a Japanese terrorist that Carlos sent to kill Agnieska.
    Terrorist: (quietly) What are you doing here?
    Annibal: (in Carlos voice) Buying cigarettes. What are you doing here?
    Terrorist: (politely) Excuse me, sir, I only wanted to know where I can get a newspaper?
    Annibal: Libya, quite a tragedy. (leaning close) I told you never to address me in public! Over by the phone booth and wait; I'll come to you. (goes to leave)
    Terrorist: Excuse me, sir. (jams carry bag concealing a gun into Annibal's ribs) I asked... if you knew... where I can get a newspaper. (Oh, Crap! look on Annibal's face) You make the slightest move, and I shoot. And I don't miss.
  • Indy Ploy: Subverted; Annibal is able to fool an ex-girlfriend of Carlos because he's had months to prepare. When he tries to wing it at Heathrow Airport, Reality Ensues.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Annibal points out the idiocy of training in snowy Canada to catch someone who's in the Middle East.
  • Institutional Allegiance Concealment: Annibal is travelling in mufti while on leave in Israel, and ditches his dogtags and ID while being chased by men he assumes are Arab terrorists. Amos doesn't believe that he's a US Navy officer until one of his men finds Annibal's bag, and even then the Israelis hold him for three days until they're absolutely sure he's not Carlos.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Even though he wants to sort out the mess he's made of his home life, Annibal must leave to continue the mission because his family will never be safe as long as Carlos is alive.
  • It's Personal: In 1974 while Shaw was sitting outside a Paris café, he was recognised by Carlos who borrowed a light off him, then proceeded to the balcony above and threw a hand grenade into the crowd. Shaw survived the attack, but was humiliated by having missed one of Europe's most wanted men when he was literally right under his nose.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: When he's snatched off the street by the Israelis, Annibal thinks he's been kidnapped by terrorists so exaggerates his Cuban accent so they won't realise he's an American officer.
  • Karma Houdini: Averted in the long run; Carlos escapes both the CIA and KGB, but is now persona non grata in both East and West. Without a sanctuary, he's eventually captured in 1994.
  • Leave No Man Behind: When Amos is shot, he tells Annibal to leave him to die alone because it will be All for Nothing if Annibal's cover is blown. After being shot Annibal urges Shaw to leave him and chase after Carlos, but Shaw finally puts aside his vendetta and carries Shaw to safety.
  • Lady Drunk: Carla is introduced swigging directly from the bottle, which she then rolls across the floor to Annibal so he can take a drink too. Given that she was betrayed by the man she idolized, is now working for her former enemies, and is about to have sex with a man who is the spitting image of her ex-lover so he can kill Carlos, one imagines she has a lot to drink about.
  • Latex Perfection: Annibal skilfully uses this for the risky first meeting with an ex-lover of Carlos. She enters the safehouse in Libya only to be grabbed by a bald-headed man in a moustache who threatens to kill her (and other things) if she doesn't reveal where Carlos is. Agnieska denies knowing anyone of that name, whereupon the man peels off a latex headpiece and removes his fake moustache to reveal a smiling 'Carlos'. As such mind games are entirely in character for him, she's entirely willing to believe it's done to test her loyalty, instead of a trick to make her less able to see one impersonation behind the other.
  • Latin Lover: Carlos is always shown either in bed with a woman, or with an attractive female terrorist among his entourage.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: Being Happily Married, Annibal isn't as glad as he should be that the next stage of his training involves having sex with a beautiful French ex-lover of Carlos.
    Shaw: Don't think of it as cheating on your wife, think of it as... fucking for your flag.
    Amos: (mock gravitas) When in doubt, close your eyes. Think of England.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Shaw turns up at a US Navy ball and proceeds to push Annibal's buttons, looking for a weakness. Does he resent the Gilded Cage of a career navy officer? Is he attracted by the freedom and power of a spy? His country needed him and he Refused the Call; wouldn't that look bad on his personnel file? None of it works, so Shaw has Annibal brought to the bedside of a boy the same age as his son injured by a bomb that Carlos planted. Annibal later realises the whole thing was just a performance for his benefit.
  • Married to the Job
    Shaw: I don't have any family, I don't have any friends, and I think the only people who mattered to me are the ones that I killed. And you.
  • Mistaken Nationality: An admiral goes on about how good it is that Mexican-American officers are coming up through the ranks, until Maura politely informs him that they are, in fact, Cuban-American.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Gender-inverted; the women are shown fully naked while Carlos or Annibal is the one whose groin is always hidden.
  • Mutual Kill: Amos and the Japanese terrorist shoot each other at the same time.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Annibal after shooting a French agent in the face. It quickly goes From Bad to Worse as the DST keep attacking and he has to kill several more to survive.
    • Annibal sees a man slapping his own son during baseball practise. When the man gets in his face Annibal beats him up, then realises his own son has witnessed this.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Shaw misses Carlos when he's right in front of him in Paris.
    • The protagonists trigger a trap to catch the real Carlos, causing the death of several agents of an allied country.
    • Annibal tries to pose as Carlos when he encounters a terrorist at Heathrow airport. He's quickly exposed and Amos gets killed saving him.
    • Annibal is drowning Carlos in the river when Shaw turns up and shoots Annibal, mistaking him for Carlos despite knowing that Annibal is in the area.
  • No Kill Like Overkill
    • Carlos throws a grenade into a Paris café. The explosion breaks a gas line which blows up the entire building.
    • Annibal shoots a French agent who then falls off the roof onto powerlines which go up in a blaze of sparks, making it really clear to Annibal that he killed the guy.
    • Carlos sends the Japanese terrorist to kill his ex-girlfriend for turning informer. Agnieska is shot in the head as she's leaving a building with her DST guards, then a nearby carbomb blows everyone up.
    • Well aware of his reputation, the KGB assemble a unit of their best men outfitted with full commando gear (presumably an Alpha Group) to detain Carlos. It's not enough.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Annibal has to abandon Amos to die in an airport restroom, rather than compromise the operation. When Annibal is shot in the climax he urges Shaw to leave him and go after Carlos, but Shaw carries him to safety instead, saying Carlos is as good as dead anyway.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Shaw plans to kill Carlos during the hostage exchange at Vienna airport, using a mechanical device that launches a derringer into his hand. But as Shaw reaches out to Carlos, the CIA station chief shouts for him to stop—Carlos instinctively levels his submachine gun at Shaw, so he doesn't dare move. The station chief, unaware of Shaw's intentions, says, "You don't want to have your picture taken shaking his hand."
  • Not Right in the Bed: To avert this trope Carla, an ex-girlfriend of Carlos who is now under Israeli protection, instructs Annibal in Carlos' domineering sexual technique. However Annibal's wife becomes suspicious when he starts using what he's learnt in their lovemaking.
  • Not So Different:
    Annibal: (to Shaw) YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO CARLOS IS? YOU TAKE A GOOD LOOK IN THE FUCKING MIRROR!
  • Not What It Looks Like: Annibal gets snatched off the street in Jerusalem — turns out the Arab men who grabbed him are working for Mossad, and they've mistaken him for Carlos planning his next terrorist act.
  • Oh, Crap!
    • Amos when he's handed Annibal's dogtags and US Navy ID card.
    • Annibal when told he's going to Libya. This is just a few years after the first Gulf of Sidra incident, so for a US naval officer in The '80s it would be like walking into Mordor.
    • "WHO DID YOU MEET WITH?" "The French Secret Service. The DST."
    • Annibal in Heathrow when he's asked for a countersign that he doesn't know.
    • Annibal pretends to leave the Big Fancy House that Carlos has, meet with Shaw (where he's photographed by the KGB) then return to the house, but just hides in the woods outside. Unfortunately the KGB turn up in force before he has a chance to slip away.
    • Shaw empties his gun into the man he thinks is Carlos…and then a second Carlos appears and he realises he might have made a terrible mistake.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Annibal shouts down his wife when she accuses him of infidelity, and beats up another father at baseball practise.
  • The Only One: Justified as a doppelganger to a famous terrorist, who also happens to be an officer of your own country, is not exactly common.
    Shaw: The governments of most of the countries of the Free World have been trying to get Carlos for the past ten years. And they have come up with absolutely nothing. Because there's really only one way to get him. Which is to say there is exactly one person in the whole world, who can get him.
  • Overt Operative: Shaw is recognised by Carlos in Paris; unfortunately Carlos is disguised so Shaw doesn't recognise him until it's too late.
    Shaw: We are both very well known in this business.
  • Papa Bear: When Shaw threatens to let Carlos know where his family is, Annibal threatens to kill him, and slaps aside the pistol that Shaw draws regardless of the danger.
  • Pull the Thread: While in the safehouse in Libya, Annibal notices an unfiltered cigarette in the rubbish bin — Agnieska only smokes filtered cigarettes. On being confronted Agnieska says that she went to the café to buy food and bummed a cigarette off someone there. To her relief 'Carlos' appears to buy this...but he then realises that the nearest café is two blocks away and she would have finished and thrown away the cigarette before then.
  • Refused the Call: When Shaw first approaches Annibal, he's more interested in suing the Israeli government than going on some looney James Bond mission. Shaw proceeds to push every button he can find on Annibal until he finds the one that works.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Shaw is obsessed with catching Carlos after his humiliation in Paris. However after accidentally shooting Annibal he comes to his senses and helps him to safety instead of pursuing Carlos when urged to.
  • Rogue Agent: Shaw is reminded that the CIA is not in the assassination business any more, but is willing to kill Carlos in Vienna regardless.
  • Roofhopping: Annibal escapes from the Libyan safehouse by leaping to a balcony on the opposite side of the street and fleeing across the rooftops. When he gets down to the ground however, he finds the DST haven't given up the chase.
  • Seven Minute Lull:
    • Shaw tries to goad the straight-laced Annibal into this trope.
    Annibal: Excuse me, my wife is waiting for her club soda.
    Shaw: Oh, now there's a fiery retort!
    Annibal: How about 'fuck you', pal?
    Shaw: I believe that if you say it a little louder...
    (band stops playing; Annibal just laughs)
    • There's a Record Needle Scratch on a gramophone player just as the KGB are about to kick down Carlos' door. Everyone freezes until they hear Carlos continue talking inside.
  • Shooting Gallery: Annibal takes part in an exercise that tests both his memory and shooting skills. He walks through a graveyard and when his trainer calls out a name, he turns towards the gravestone engraved with that name, behind which is hiding another man armed with a paintball gun shooting back at him.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: An Invoked Trope. Carla tells Annibal to take off his clothes so she can teach him how Carlos makes love.
    Carla: (looking down) You're smaller than him.
    Annibal: (awkward laugh) Really...
    Carla: (Armor-Piercing Slap) That's what he would have done if I had said something like that. Without a moment's hesitation. What's wrong with you? No eres ni hombre!
    (She goes to slap him again — Annibal hits first knocking Carla across the room.)
    Carla: Shut up! Come to me, come on...kiss where you hit. (Annibal tries to kiss her lips — she turns her face away) Kiss where the blood is. Spread it on my lips so I taste it...
  • Slasher Smile: Carlos grins at Shaw from the café balcony before throwing a grenade into the crowd below.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Annibal proves his identity to Shaw when he says "awfully warm for this time of year", to which Annibal replies "but not as sticky as two summers ago". These are the two halves of a code phrase that was part of an assignment from long ago that his handler mentioned in conversation.
  • Spies in a Van: DST and KGB surveillance teams are shown operating from vans, though the KGB men outside the East Berlin safehouse are crammed into a Lada.
  • Spot the Imposter: While passing through Heathrow Airport, Annibal is approached by a Japanese terrorist who knows Carlos. Annibal makes the mistake of posing as Carlos instead of himself, but realizes too late he's been given a codephrase to which he doesn't know the countersign. Afterwards Shaw mentions a similar incident where he killed a contact who didn't have the countersign, and later uses this story to tell the difference between Annibal and Carlos in the climax.
  • Spy's Suspicious Spouse: Justified; her husband really is cheating on her. She assumes his altered behavior is due to stress because from working in submarines (Annibal's cover story for being out of contact for so long).
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!
    Carlos: You want to go? Let's go. (tying shoes) I want to be interrogated. (throws bra in mook's face) I demand—(picks up SMG hidden under clothes and opens fire) TO BE INTERROGATEEEED!
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Before he goes into Libya, Amos gives Annibal some advice.
    "When you look in the mirror, I don't want you to find Annibal Ramirez: find Carlos. Cause if you find Carlos that's what everyone else will find too. And if you find Carlos and anything goes wrong, he's the only one who can get you out of it, because he's the best at what he does."
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: While being chased on foot by DST agents driving a car, Annibal drops a live grenade onto the pavement and lets them drive over it.
  • Training from Hell: The training is designed to push Annibal to his limit both physically and psychologically — not only to teach Annibal how to survive when he doesn't have the massive support structure of the US Navy behind him, but to force him out of his comfort zone and into the mindset of a wanted terrorist.
  • Training Montage: Though the improvement takes a while.
  • Trust Password: "But not as sticky as two summers ago."
  • Tuxedo and Martini: When turning down the assignment, Annibal suggests to Shaw that James Bond would be a more appropriate recruit. In the next scene, Annibal and his wife go to a Navy ball and run into Shaw wearing a tux.
  • Uriah Gambit: The Plan is to frame Carlos as a paid informant for the CIA, so he will be killed by the KGB.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Played with; Annibal is given exercises to improve his memory, driving, situational analysis and shooting skills, but the plan itself is only explained to him once he's reached a certain level of proficiency. Meanwhile he's fed porridge (and nothing else) until he's sick of it and losing weight. He has Amos blowing cigar smoke in his face, and Shaw trying to run him over with remote-controlled snowmobiles. Turns out the purpose is to Teach Him Anger; not only his own but that of his target — Carlos grew up eating the same porridge and tells everyone he meets how much he hated it and the smell of his father's cigars. He was also underfed as a child and clumsy at sports, feelings that Annibal can now empathise with.
  • We Need a Distraction: Seen when the KGB Alpha Group is assaulting Carlos' lair.
    • As the commandos are climbing the walls, their boss turns up at the gate as if for a routine visit. As he leaves his car and goes over to the gatehouse, a commando shoots the guard with a silenced pistol and the KGB boss continues inside without breaking stride.
    • A KGB commando raps on the window. As the terrorists inside grab their guns and turn to the window to fire, other commandos hiding by the door shoot them In the Back.
    • On being confronted by the KGB who order him to get dressed and come with them for interrogation, Carlos does so while contemptuously throwing ladies underwear in their faces...then grabbing a submachine gun hidden under the clothes.
  • White Shirt of Death:
    • Annibal spends most of the Chase Scene in a blood-splattered white shirt after he Boom Headshots a man at point-blank range.
    • Carlos later shoots a minion he believes is an informer, with the exit wound appearing on a white undershirt.
  • Woman Scorned: Carla is helping the Israelis kill Carlos because her former lover set her up to be killed by carrying a bomb onto an airplane.
  • You Can Never Leave: Having put so much work into Annibal, Shaw is not going to let him walk away from the mission. He's even willing to use Annibal's family as The Bait to lure Carlos if that's what it takes.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame:
    Shaw: The French made it perfect for us. The KGB now think you're Carlos. They took the bait!
    Amos: Policemen wind up killing other policemen. It happens. I'd rather have you here feeling guilty about them then to know that there's some meeting in Paris with them all sitting around feeling guilty about you.
    Shaw: You did what you had to do, and it worked. Carlos himself couldn't have done any better.
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