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Interrogation Flashback

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"It all started back in New York six weeks ago."

“Convince me. Tell me every last detail.”
Agent Kujan, The Usual Suspects

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.

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.

Third-Person Flashback usually goes with this. If several people are being interrogated and they tell conflicting stories, this results in The Rashomon. May overlap with Whole Episode Flashback if the flashbacks take up most of the screen time.


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  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Little Deceptions, the story opens with Phantom Thief Blank Slate talking to the royal guard after turning himself in for a series of high-profile thefts around Canterlot, because "She told me to." The rest of the story is him narrating what happened, interspersed with the guards asking questions about how he managed some of his tricks.

    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.
  • The Adventures of 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.

    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.
  • 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 (1987), 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 (2014) turns himself in at the beginning of the movie. His story then unfolds in flashbacks while being interrogated.
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • R.O.T.O.R. is mostly framed by the interrogation of Barret Coldiron by the Houston Police after the apparent death of a police officer at his hand (who really was the titular Killer Robot).
  • The plot of the mystery thriller The Invisible Guest unfolds in flashbacks as the protagonist, who is accused of murder, retells his story to a witness trainer who is there to help him tighten up his case for his court appearance next day.
  • The mid-90s Ellen Degeneres vehicle Mr. Wrong opens with her character inexplicably decked out in a Fairytale Wedding Dress as she is led in to be interrogated in a squalid South of the Border police station. Her recollections make up the bulk of the film.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • These Broken Stars: Between the chapters are snippets of an interview in which Tarver recounts the events of the novel to an Obstructive Bureaucrat. It becomes increasingly clear as the story progresses that Tarver is being less-than-forthright with his interviewer.

    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 gets 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 how the Defiant got thrown back in time to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", leading them to foil an Assassination Attempt against Captain Kirk.
  • The X-Files episode "The Unusual Suspects" opens with Detective Munch from Homicide: Life on the Street interrogating Byers as to what happened during a shoot-out at a Baltimore warehouse.
  • 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.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 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.
  • 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.
  • Every episode of The Black Donnellys is 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.
  • The Farscape episode "The Ugly Truth" consists mostly of four of the main characters being interrogated by a group of aliens about how a spaceship came to be destroyed by fire from a ship they were on. It combines this with "Rashomon"-Style, as all the characters' stories differ in revealing ways.
  • The first season of True Detective is mostly done with this, taking place 17 years after the original case. One interesting element is that it makes use of Unreliable Voiceover rather than Unreliable Narrator, in that what we see on screen is always accurate, it is only the characters that lie. A few times quite blatantly.
  • The series finale of Leverage has Nate in interrogation, recounting the events of a con gone horribly wrong.

    Video Games 
  • Used for a Bait-and-Switch in the Alien game trailer for Aliens: Dark Descent which has a Colonial Marine apparently doing a post-mission debriefing. The end of the trailer reveals the two figures seated across the table from him are corpses, he's dictating into a tape recorder and he's about to be killed by the xenomorphs.
  • 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. 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, a member of The Order of the Seekers of Truth. 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.
  • The story of Persona 5 is told as the protagonist being interrogated by attorney Sae Niijima about their exploits as the leader of the Phantom Thieves.

    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.
  • The Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" takes place during the court marshal hearing of the Planet Express crew for entering the Forbidden Zone, the action flashing back during each character's testimony. At the end, it's revealed that the villain was still pursuing them during the trial.