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The Ending Of Netflix's Blackout Explained

"Blackout" is a lean action thriller about a man suffering from post-traumatic amnesia following a car chase where his vehicle was sent flying off the road by a group of masked assailants with machine guns. Starring Josh Duhamel as protagonist John Cain, the film sees our conflicted amnesiac wake up in a hospital in Mexico with an angry drug cartel trying to kill him, a woman who says she's his wife, and the DEA trying to track him down. Thanks to the constantly twisting and turning plot, the film overcomes its noticeable budgetary constraints to craft a fun, entertaining experience.

There are really two narratives going on in the film. The first is Cain trying to escape the hospital where he is, more or less, held prisoner as numerous heavily-armed men continuously try to either kill or badly wound him. Those men are after the information they think Cain has — even though he can't remember it. The other is the series of events that brought him to the Mexican hospital in the first place. He pieces together the backstory as the film progresses, but to make sure everything is perfectly clear, we're going to detail that second narrative chronologically to better contextualize the film's ending.

Along the way, we'll also break down certain themes as they pop up. Without further ado, here is the ending of Netflix's "Blackout" explained.

Daddy issues

John Cain is the child of a military man who witnessed some pretty traumatic things while fighting in a war that doesn't get named but was probably Vietnam given Cain's age in the film. His father's experiences were so traumatic that when Cain decided to enlist in the military himself, his old man almost severed ties with him completely. The first time we hear about his father comes from Anna, as she tries to jog his memory in the hospital. She says that his father is finally getting his European vacation.

This is only partially true, however. In a flashback where Cain has a chat with his father's best friend Ethan McCoy (Nick Nolte), we learn that his father has basically been traveling the world to avoid him. Ethan tells him it's because the thought of something terrible happening to Cain was just too much for his father to handle. Based on their rapport and history together, it's clear that Cain sees Ethan as something of a surrogate dad.

This bond between them is likely why Cain agreed to join the DEA alongside Ethan. It also explains why, despite his amnesia, Cain trusts Ethan almost immediately. However, it also means that Cain is completely blindsided when Ethan decides to double-cross him in the finale of the film. Despite his betrayal, Cain can't bring himself to kill Ethan, which is why he simply shoots him in the arm and leaves.

Going undercover

The first big twist of the film comes when Cain is on the phone with Ethan, which leads to Cain's discovery that he is an undercover DEA agent. For the last five years, he has been infiltrating a powerful cartel in Mexico run by a guy named Eddie (Omar Chaparro). Every three weeks during this time, Ethan would touch base with Ethan and make sure everyone knew what was going on at all times.

We see in a flashback that Eddie and Cain really did form a bond. However, while Eddie seems to believe their bond is real, the true nature of their relationship is never exactly clear to the audience. One would think that if Cain was still checking in with the DEA, then he's probably trustworthy. However, there is the possibility that, as Eddie says, he was playing the DEA the whole time. This is the start of a theme that carries through right to the end of the film — is Cain a "good guy?"

At first, he thinks he's probably a bad guy because criminals count him as family. Then again, he's an undercover DEA agent. On the other hand, Eddie says he already knew what his job was and they were conning them together. That question will carry Cain to the end of the film, and the answer isn't as clear as we'd expect.

General Montejo

The big bad of the film is actually someone we never see confronted, as he is only shown in one flashback. Still, his reputation looms over everything. His name is General Montejo and he controls the army, as Dr. Garza explains. Not only that, but all the cartels in the area answer to him. Cain and Eddie have worked for him in the past and he contracted them to pull one big job for him that would earn them $20 million, but Cain went rogue at the last minute, setting the events of the film in motion.

Based on the flashback revealing Montejo, he seems like a pretty bad guy. As two men drown a guy in a barrel of water, the camera pans over to show Montejo watching without any expression on his face. He then nods approvingly and departs to make a phone call. This is a cold-blooded, emotionless killer that you clearly do not want to make enemies with — which is exactly what Cain did.

Cain and Eddie were supposed to get him a briefcase containing some kind of important information. Before they make the handover, however, Cain transfers the $20 million to his bank account, blows up his own house, and escapes with the briefcase. That's why he is being chased at the start of the film. Thanks to his accident, he has zero idea where the case is or why he was running off with it.

The woman on the beach

The first time Cain wakes up in the hospital without attacking anyone, there are two women looking after him. One is a nurse and the other is someone named Anna (Abbie Cornish), who claims to be his wife. Since he has no idea what's going on or who he is, he's not sure if he can trust her — but there's something about her that he's drawn to.

She knows how to fight and dress his wounds when he's hurt, although he can tell that she's obviously hiding something, which keeps him on guard. Whenever she mentions their relationship, he has visions of a woman on the beach with long dark hair. Her face is obscured, but he's pretty sure Anna isn't her because of her hair color, as Anna is blonde. However, once his memory returns (thanks to a special drug), he recalls that people can dye their hair and realizes that Anna is the woman on the beach.

She also works for the CIA. Not only that, but she had been recruiting Cain and that's partially why she's there. She wants the briefcase too, but not for money or power. Her concerns are American national security and that Cain is safe. This is important because the entire theme of the film hinges on how she feels about Cain and whether or not he accepts that.

You can't stop the crime

During the scene where Cain realizes Anna is who she says she is, she tells him that he wanted to join the CIA because you can't stop the crime, but you can control the criminal. This suggests that during his time undercover he became so disillusioned by the fact that crime will happen no matter how hard you fight it that he wanted to go after it a different way. Instead of going out there and punishing people in the hopes that it won't happen again, you can influence the criminal to take different actions.

If that's true, then the Central Intelligence Agency is probably a more effective place to carry out those goals than the Drug Enforcement Administration since one is about gathering intelligence and maintaining national security while the other is simply about building a case to make arrests. Taking Cain at his word leads us to the answer that he is indeed a good person. He understands the system doesn't quite work as is and wants to be involved on a more granular level to make a difference.

Still, there's a possibility that this was all a con, and he just wanted to pit the cartel and the DEA against each other while he fled the country with $20 million.

Dr. Garza wants out

The hospital Cain finds himself in is crawling with dangerous people, meaning there's almost no one he can trust. This place is so overrun by criminals that he discovers a secret room where naked women sort through drugs while a baby tiger paces around in a cage. However, this isn't the hospital's fault, as it's been taken over by cartels and General Montejo, meaning the staff can't do anything about it.

Cain learns this when his physician, Dr. Garza (Jose Sefami) takes him aside and explains the situation. Basically, the cartels use the hospital for all sorts of things, including patching up their wounded. The staff only wants to help people, but they're constantly being terrorized by these powerful and dangerous drug dealers, making it impossible to do their jobs while preventing them from being able to leave because they have no other work options.

Garza is so fed up with the situation that he has his own secret plans that we only discover once Anna finds the missing briefcase in his office. Her theory is that Garza took the case off of Cain when he was brought in and intended to sell it so he would have enough money to get away. Given the nightmare Garza has been enduring, you can't exactly blame him.

The hospital rises up

Dr. Garza and Cain's nurse aren't the only two employees who are actually trying to take care of people in the hospital. When the situation between Eddie and Cain has just about reached its breaking point, Eddie decides to take extreme measures by gathering up employees and patients and holding them hostage because he knows people were always Cain's weakness — which, by the way, further suggests that Cain is probably a good guy.

Before anyone can get hurt, Eddie agrees to meet with Cain. As Eddie leaves, however, he tells his men to start killing people if he isn't back in ten minutes. When time is up, one henchman taunts the nurse while holding a gun to her head. Dr. Garza comes in with a syringe and injects the villain with something that sends him to the floor. As foam bubbles from the henchman's mouth, the rest of the hostages swarm and begin pummeling him.

The film lingers on this moment for a while, sending us the message that no matter how things turn out with Cain, this hospital is done being terrorized. They are finally standing up to their tormentors and refusing to let fear and threats of violence control them any longer.

Goodbye Eddie

Whether you have amnesia or not, the second Eddie walks into Cain's room, you can tell this guy is bad news. His luxurious clothing, the smug look on his face, and the authority with which he carries himself all signal to the audience that this man only cares about himself. He continues through the movie barking orders, sacrificing the lives of his men, and doing whatever it takes to achieve his goal.

However, during a conversation with Cain on the roof of the hospital, we get a sense that Eddie is scared. What Cain did put him in the path of General Montejo's wrath and he is terrified of what that means. At the same time, he seems to legitimately care about Cain. He may not trust him fully, but there is a fondness there that he might be slightly uncomfortable with. After all — when the time comes, he doesn't kill Cain.

Until later, that is, when Eddie has become so fed up that he and Cain have a knock-down-drag-out fight in one of the empty hospital rooms. At this point, he is not only terrified — he's furious. He almost doesn't care about where the case is anymore, as he now just wants Cain to pay for what he put him through. Cain walks away from that fight as the victor, but his final test of whether or not he's a good guy is still to come.

The final betrayal

The DEA manages to track Cain's location and they send in a team of agents to secure the location and make sure that Cain and Anna can walk out of those doors safely, which they do. The two get into a car where Ethan and some other agents have been waiting and it's clear that Cain is expecting to ride off into the sunset — but the car isn't moving. In fact, Ethan starts asking questions about the case.

When the driver of the car turns around to take it from Cain, he knows that something isn't right there. The man he sees as a father figure is betraying him. He doesn't want to keep him safe, he wants the case and he's willing to kill him to get it. Adding insult to injury, Anna aims her weapon at Cain as well. Just when you think she's in on Ethan's scheme, she kills everyone else in the car except Cain and Ethan.

At that moment, Cain understands beyond the shadow of a doubt that Anna is on his side and she is the only person he can trust. As they prepare to leave, Cain considers killing Ethan himself. On an emotional level, he'd be justified in doing so. Unlike Eddie — who was fully prepared to kill him — Cain can't bring himself to do it. He spares his life.

The MacGuffin in the case

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock is famous for a plot device he commonly employs in his films called a MacGuffin. While talking to Dick Cavett, Hitchcock described the MacGuffin thusly, "It's always called the thing that the characters on the screen worry about but the audience don't care." In "Blackout," the MacGuffin is the briefcase that everyone is so concerned with getting their hands on.

At no point are the contents of the briefcase revealed to us. We don't even get a scene where someone opens it and a bright light fills their face like in "Pulp Fiction." Anna mentions that something about the information could topple the government. Ethan says a whole bunch of nonsense about how everything in the world is rigged and the stuff in that case proves it. Cain even suggests it has the names of the Illuminati, but he's probably being sarcastic.

In the end, what's in the briefcase doesn't matter in the slightest. It is simply the device that gets the plot rolling. It's what sets Cain on his path to remembering who he is and what his morals are and that's the only purpose the briefcase serves.

Good guys vs. bad guys

Just like the contents of the briefcase, the answer to whether or not Cain is a good guy isn't explicitly answered by the film. At no point does Cain stand up straight, fix his jacket, and proclaim to the heavens, "I am a good person!" Instead, the film leaves that decision up to the audience. However, it does leave the trail of breadcrumbs that we have touched on elsewhere here.

By the end of the film, Cain doesn't really care if he's good or not. All he knows is a drug dealer who claimed to love him like a brother tried to kill him. A man he viewed as a surrogate father was also willing to kill him. If two important people in your life are trying to kill you for seemingly selfish reasons, then who cares if you're good or not, they're clearly bad guys.

There's only one person who has been there for him since he woke up, who has said she loved him and actually meant it while sticking with him to the end. Anna didn't betray him, she never attacked him, and she didn't tell him lies to butter him up so she could get in close to slide a knife between his ribs. When all the blood has been spilled and the dust has settled, the only certainty Cain has is that Anna cares about him. Ultimately, that's good enough for him.