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In the ending of the movie, the plan seemed to centre on the main character following the terrorist's van, then losing sight of it in the street and accidentally following the wrong van.

Have I missed something? How could the terrorists possibly have predicted this would happen?

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the terrorist plot was to make the main character do the terrorist act; therefore leaving no traces. –  oers Jul 5 '12 at 21:06
    
Yes, how was this plan to be implemented? It seems to be that the key part of the plan was that the main character lost sight of the van he was following and then accidentally followed the terrorist one instead. How could they predict that? –  Stefan Jul 6 '12 at 8:30
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2 Answers 2

The terrorist's van carried not only the bomb, but the son of Michael Faraday. When he saw the bomb and the boy together, together with the remembered conversation from Oliver Lang about how Faraday's dead wife's friends would pay, he was lead to believe the bombing target was the FBI building. He followed the van because he saw the bomb placed aboard, knew the target, and that the bombing would be imminent.

His chase was interrupted by Oliver's crashing into him (because the van lead Faraday right into the alley where the "accident" could occur), and a fight ensued in the warehouse, where (off-screen) the bomb was transferred from the van to Michael Faraday's car. When Faraday escaped the warehouse and continued on to the FBI building, he encountered a different van from the same company on its daily delivery run to the FBI building. He would not have known about the daily delivery, but since the company was used by Lang and his co-conspirators, Oliver certainly did (remember during the fight he screams "Do you really think we'd leave anything to chance!?!"). Counting on the mistaken identity, and Michael's crazed chase to save his son, everything carries into the FBI building. Faraday still believed, passionately, his son and the bomb were now in the FBI garage, in the van.

He was wrong on both counts, the son was with the terrorist's wife and the bomb was in his own car. We see this milliseconds before the blast. Delivery and execution of the bombing complete, the terrorists go away scot-free with a patsy to boot.

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But what would have happened if he did not see another one of the delivery vans or it was going somewhere else or he noticed it was different (due a damage make or something)? –  Stefan Jul 8 '12 at 1:03
    
Also, what would have happened if he had not noticed the van being loaded up or phoned the police rather than following it? –  Stefan Jul 8 '12 at 1:05
    
Faraday couldn't convince his FBI friend there was a bomb until he rushed the garage; the mission was imminent and police would waste time. A panicked man following a van with his hostage son is not going to overthink, looking for exclusionary detail. It was heading in the direction of the FBI building and was easily assumed to be the right one. All tourist towns have traffic byways locals use to avoid clogged tourist traffic. I assume traffic to the FBI building is funneled one best way locals would know. He had an FBI agent wife, it is likely he knew it, as would the delivery driver. –  wbogacz Jul 8 '12 at 17:26
    
So if he had seen a van going somewhere else or noticed it was different somehow (due to a dent or something) then the plan would just have failed? –  Stefan Jul 8 '12 at 18:14
    
No offense; I'm done. The movie plot was convincing enough to me. –  wbogacz Jul 8 '12 at 18:49
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As you surmise, the answer is that the ending could only work in a screenwriter's mind. Otherwise we have to imagine that the entire elaborate terrorist plot depended on a college professor being able to evade armed FBI guards and make a stunt-driver's dive through closing garage doors into the basement of the FBI building. Even though the film was made before 9/11, these assumptions are totally absurd. This insult to the viewer's intelligence ruined what was otherwise a pretty good film

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Yeah, I was hoping I had missed something but it does not look like it :-( –  Stefan May 2 at 8:27
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