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We all know the set up: a huge battle has just taken place. Both sides have endured heavy casualties, and just when we think all of the good guys are going to walk out alive, one of them slumps over. Removing their hand from their abdomen, they reveal that they were hit just five minutes away from retirement, and they're fading fast. The hero(ine) is a wreck, because they really liked this person. In fact, they may have even loved them, if only to increase the dramatic potential of the moment ten fold. After some half choked words from the soon-to-be deceased, our protagonist utters those classic words of futility: "Don't you die on me."
Vulture showcased a particularly effective supercut of this classic dramatic device, and it's every bit as fun as you'd expect it to be. Well, it's as fun as a compilation of death scenes can be, which ultimately depends on two things: whether it's actually a death scene, and which film/performer is using the cliché.
For example, Anthony Hopkins telling Alec Baldwin not to die on him in The Edge and Nicolas Cage telling one of his fellow prisoners not to die on him in Con Air isn't exactly an equal reaction. The reason being that besides the difference in the level of the performance between the two men, Cage's accent in Con Air is hysterically awful. Naturally, it's more convincing when Odin himself uses his dulcet, Welsh tones to will you to live; though an argument can be made for a good case of laughter being used to jump start the human heart.
Then there are the MVP's of this clip reel: the actors and actresses that know how to play that death scene, rather than milk it. As far as the guys represented in this clip go, no one beats Viggo Mortensen telling his trusty steed Hidalgo not to go gently into that good night. And with her simple understatement of grief, Sandra Bullock's scene from Practical Magic clinches the win on the female side of things.
However, there's one example that I think should have been included that was sorely absent. If any of you remember Tropic Thunder like I do, you'll remember Robert Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus giving it his all with his own variant of the scene. Unfortunately the complete scene isn't available online, but you can see and hear the bare basics in the trailer. Set the marker to 0:20, and laugh copiously.
The reason that example works so perfectly is because it's such a perfectly meta example that shows what's wrong with that type of scene, while at the same time exploiting that wrongness in a decent enough proportion to make it funny. The scene takes what has become a joke, and lets itself in on the joke in an effective manner.
While the cliché of "don't you die on me" scenes isn't going to wear away anytime soon, perhaps we can hope that filmmakers will take a cue or two from the best examples on display in this video. Remember: aim to be more like Viggo Mortensen and less like Nic Cage. But if you can't manage either then Robert Downey Jr. is just fine.