Follow TV Tropes


Unfolding Plan Montage

Go To

So the Unspoken Plan Guarantee says that if you explain the plan beforehand, it will fail. But what do you do if you want to show the characters forming a plan that works?

One way to circumvent this is to show the plan both in its forming and execution simultaneously: Rather than have two separate scenes (one to lay out The Plan and one to enact it), the scenes are instead edited together as a montage.

For example: We see Alice, Bob, and Charlie as they look over blueprints. Bob explains the plan, and we switch to a voice-over where he explains "and then Alice cuts the power to the building." Meanwhile, Alice flips a switch and the lights go out. Repeated until the plan is complete, or, until the point that the plan goes horribly awry.

A variation will start with an unspoken plan, and the villain will think he has the upper hand, but lo! the heroes have gotten the drop on him! How?! Then the heroes explain their plan while we see them carrying it out in a flashback.

May utilize a Split Screen to follow several people executing the plan at the same time.


    open/close all folders 

  • Used twice in The A-Team: First in the raid to capture the plates convoy at the beginning, then the "misdirection" assault on Los Angeles Harbor at the end. Both also include A-Team montages of the team gathering equipment.
  • Double Subverted in Army of Thieves: A nervous Sebastian is walked through his first robbery by Gwendoline, which is depicted as a voice over atop the actual events. After the team leaves with the loot, the scene suddenly cuts to Sebastian inside their van, asking if it is really going to be that easy, implying the entire sequence was an Imagine Spot, until a perplexed Gwendoline tells him "We already did it", and Sebastian looks down to see his arms full of banknotes. Apparently his brain just needed a few seconds to catch up with what he pulled off.
  • Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey: The main characters face off against the Big Bad, each telling their plans and how they enacted them, resulting in weirdness out-of-flashback as Bill, Ted, and DeNomolos, all have time travel devices.
  • The Butler: The sit-in scene cuts between the preparation and the actual event (with a little butlering on the side).
  • Death Becomes Her: Helen outlines a plan to kill Madeline, but subverted when it turns out to be an Imagine Spot.
  • Django Unchained: Played with in the "raid" scene. At first, it looks like there's a massive raid of Klan members who ride down and circle around the cart to get Django. Cut back to the planning stage where they complain about the plan and how they can't see through the eyeholes in the bags over their heads. Then cut back to the main scene, where the raid continues as planned.
  • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword leans on this trope for practically half its runtime.
  • The LEGO Movie: Seen when the master builders break into Lord Business's tower.
  • The Matrix Reloaded: Three hovercraft crews band together to take down a power station so that Neo can reach the source.
  • The Matrix Resurrections: When Neo and the crew work out how to free Trinity from the Matrix, Sati explains all the things that have to go right while they play out on-screen.
  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Subverted. Ethan, Benji, and Ilsa talk about how to break into the Secure Computer Facility. Benji suggests face-masks (showing how the steps might play out), but Ilsa tears that down by pointing out the extra levels of encryption. Cue Montage!Benji getting shot by the security system and de-masked.
  • Ocean's Eleven: Seen when Rusty explains to Benedict how the money will be transferred.
  • Shaun of the Dead: Shaun and Ed devise plan to collect Shaun's friends, mom, and stepdad, and find safety "until this whole thing blows over." Then the plan changes and a revised montage plays accordingly.
  • Thick As Thieves: Seen when Ripley and Gabriel set up their plan to break into the vault of some Russian jewelers.
  • Thor: The Dark World: Seen when Thor, Jane, etc. break Loki out of prison.
  • The Three Musketeers (2011): Seen when the titular characters break into the Tower of London.
  • Turning Red: Seen when Mei and her friends band together and outline a plan to raise money in order to attend their first-ever concert.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow. In "Betrayal", a crime boss is bragging to his hostage about all the men he has waiting for the Hood when he turns up to rescue her, which is intercut with the Hood taking them down. As he anticipates, the Hood runs out of arrows before he runs out of mooks, but the Spanner in the Works is that the Hood has brought backup.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: At the end of "Halloween", Peralta explains to Captain Holt his plan to steal Holt's medal of valour, while in flashback we see the other members of the squad executing the plan. The same happens in "Halloween II" with Holt, "III" with Amy, and "IV" with Gina. Subverted in "HalloVeen", since we see everyone's plans in action.
  • A ubiquitous occurrence in Burn Notice due to the series continuous voice-over narration. It's also notable that the montage contains the plan going off the rails as often as not.
  • In the Castle episode "Last Action Hero", this is used, when Castle and the cast of in-universe motion picture "The Indestructibles" execute a plan to obtain a piece of evidence.
    • In another episode, "Hunt", with Castle devising a plan with his father to rescue Alexis, it starts out with an Unspoken Plan Guarantee, which then appears to fail (as Castle is caught) then subverted as it is shown in a flashback getting caught was part of the Batman Gambit that allows them to kill the bad guy and escape.
  • Community: In "The First Chang Dynasty", the study group executes an elaborate heist while Jeff explains not one but two plans in voice-over.
  • Played for Laughs in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Bucky explains to Sam how Zemo would hypothetically escape from a prison, playing out like an Imagine Spot. Cue Zemo walking into the garage where they are.
  • Firefly: In "Ariel", Simon proposes a plan to infiltrate a hospital on one of the central worlds, in order to access special diagnostic equipment and loot the profitable pharmaceuticals. The scheme goes as planned until the feds are called.
  • The Heavy Water War. The commandoes change their plan when they realise the original plan would be suicide. They transmit their new plan to London and the people there are shown pouring over maps to see how this new plan will unfold, which is cut between the team simultaneously carrying it out.
  • Laverne & Shirley: Laverne outlines a plan to break into an office and steal back some important papers. As she explains it, we see the plan in action, which they pull off perfectly. Then it turns out it was just a visual depiction of the plan being described. Once they implement the plan it goes awry and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Pretty much Once an Episode of Leverage, the denouement of a plan will feature a series of flashbacks showcasing some detail of the execution that the audience wasn't aware of until then.
  • A voice-over variant in Money Heist. In Episode 11 of Season 1, while going to the bathroom for a break under Oslo's watch, Jacinto finds the tools Pablo gathered as part of Arturo's first plan to escape the Mint attached under the lid of the toilet he went to, alongside a note with instructions for the plan. As Jacinto opts to spend the time Oslo gave him to pick up the tools instead, as part of the instructions' first step, what the entire note reads is spoken in voice-over with Arturo's voice.
  • Ms. Marvel has in the opening episode Kamala explaining to Bruno the plan to attend AvengerCon, showing off both how Kamala imagines things going and her schematics. It doesn't work as planned, as the tree branch she grabs after jumping out her bedroom window goes down with her weight, and having to recover from the fall causes a delay that makes them miss the bus (which Kamala wanted to jump on its roof to make it stop, mind you).
  • Squid Game: In "Stick to the Team", when Oh Il-nam explains his strategy for Tug-of-War, we see all the members of his team preparing in the way he describes.
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • In "Stardust City Rag", as the heroes plan to enter Bjayzl's casino on Freecloud, the scene jumps back and forth between them preparing and then executing their undercover op.
    • In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2", the scene switches between Narek, Rios, Raffi and Elnor discussing how they will gain access to Coppelius Station and being inspected by the andriod guards at the entrance.

    Video Games 
  • The DmC: Devil May Cry level where you break into Mundus' skyscraper and work your way up to the top features this, with the recently saved Kat narrating and providing chalk drawings.
  • Parodied in episode one of Tales from the Borderlands. When our heroes have to sneak into a bandit base in order to steal back a Briefcase Full of Money, a quick-time event takes the form of Rhys forming one of these. Even if you successfully complete it, it turns out Rhys was just imagining his plan and explaining it to no one, since they had already successfully made their way to the entrance without him.
    Rhys: My way would have worked...
    • Later played straight in Episode 4
  • The Star Trek Online mission Quark's Lucky 7 plays out this way with cutscenes where a character receives an explanation of their role in the plan to steal the Sword of Kahless from T'Ketnote followed by a section of gameplay where the player takes control of the character for their part.

    Web Video 
  • The Art of Theatrical Ushery: Ronnell and Gervey go through the steps to take out an obnoxious theater-goer, intercut with the plan actually carrying out.

    Western Animation 
  • In one Gravity Falls short, Dipper explains his (ridiculous) plan to sneak into the movies while the rest of the family enacts it in a montage. Overlaps with Unreliable Narrator when he describes things like "Grunkle Stan will use his lockpicking skills to sneak in" while we see Stan smashing the lock with a rock.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes:
    • "One Last Score" features one as Ginger and KO plot a heist to steal a rare candy that has temporary Fountain of Youth effects.
    • "Dark Plaza" features one, describing the resistance against P.O.I.N.T's occupation of Lakewood Plaza Turbo sneaking through the plaza to activate its secret defense system.
  • Ratchet & Clank uses this for the infiltration of the Deplanetizer at the end of the movie. The plan recital only covers up to the Starcracker Defense Chamber sabotage, after which the plan goes awry when Captain Qwark prevents Ratchet from leaving the station (and Dr. Nefarious after that). The audience never gets to learn what the plan was past that point, regarding Ratchet exiting the station before the other Rangers pull the station into Umbris.
  • Rick and Morty: The episode "One Crew Over The Crewcoos Morty" uses several of these. Natural, since the whole episode parodies heist movie tropes.
  • Done brilliantly in an episode of Storm Hawks involving the team's infiltration of a Cyclonian base. Bonus points for the "Action" scene suddenly showing the team's uniforms turning into disguises once Finn asks "what if they get spotted?" and Aero points out they'll be wearing disguises.
  • This forms the bulk of the Wander over Yonder episode "The Epic Quest of Unfathomable Difficulty", as an old man tells Wander and Sylvia how to find the all-knowing Galactic Guru.


Video Example(s):


Rescue plan montage

This sequence cuts back and forth between the team going over their infiltration/rescue plan and the execution of said plan. Their planning talk doubles as narration for the action parts, and sometimes they narrate from *within* the action.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / UnfoldingPlanMontage

Media sources: