The Wages of Fear Ending, Explained: Why Did Fred Sacrifice Himself?

Helmed by Julien Leclercq, Netflix’s ‘The Wages Of Fear’ is a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 French classic of the same name and based on the 1950 fiction novel ‘Le Salaire de la peur’ by Georges Arnaud. The 2024 release features Alban Lenoir, Ana Girardot, and Franck Gastambide as leads in this action thriller that’s steeped in suspense and high-octane fight sequences.

Leclercq, previously known for his 2021 TV show ‘Ganglands’ and the Olga Kurylenko starrer ‘Sentinelle’ from the same year, is well known for his work within the genre as seen in this feature film which masterfully rediscovers the original with modern tropes. While the film does a sound job of leaving very little unaddressed, some details could leave viewers with a few queries.

The Wages of Fear Plot Synopsis

The action thriller follows brothers Fred and Alex who are tasked by an oil company to join a team of elite professionals and are promised a large sum of money and safe passage back home in return. Their objective is to contain a lethal explosion that endangers the many lives of a refugee camp. However, they only have 24 hours to do so.

With a fortune and the lives of the refugees at stake, the team must transport 2 truckloads of an extremely volatile substance called nitroglycerin, which could trigger a disastrous explosion at the smallest jolt. The substance here will be used to detonate the oil and is the only way to prevent the disaster. The team must travel a long distance and withstand the attacks of rebels scattered across the desert in order to reach their destination and save the day.

The Wages of Fear Ending: What Happens to Alex and His Family?

In the penultimate sequence of events, the last remaining group members, Claire, Alex, and an injured Fred arrive at the oil well with a single truck only to be greeted by the oil company’s security head who has held Alex’s family at gunpoint. She reveals that the only way the explosion can be stopped is if one of them drives the truck filled with nitroglycerin into the oil well, which would be a certain death for the driver. Alex stands with Claire shocked to understand that there was no drilling team to begin with. He fears the fate of his wife and child who he is seeing after a very long time.

The security head explains to him that there will a helicopter arriving to get his family out of there. Using the leverage of his family and the lives at stake she tells him to drive the truck into the well. As Alex slowly backs away in agreement, the security head and her guard are both shot by Fred who somehow manages to get a clear shot from the truck even with his injuries. Alex then runs to secure his family, while Fred watches them reunite. He is filled with tears when he sees his brother finally at his happiest.

Fred here mentally decides that he is to be the one to drive the truck into the fire. With all his injuries Fred moves to the driver’s seat and just as he begins, Claire approaches pleading with him to not do it. But in a heartfelt moment, Fred knows he must. Both teary-eyed, they let go of each other and Fred drives the truck into the well. Alex doesn’t realize until he hears the truck move. Unable to do anything about it, Alex watches from the sidelines as he is filled with deep remorse. His bond with Fred had just reestablished, but he had to let his brother go.

Alex here watches dozens of villagers run out of a gate in sheer joy as Fred’s sacrifice has saved them all. In the distance, a helicopter approaches reaching Alex’s position. It’s the chopper that will take Alex and his family home. The film here implies that the oil company holds up its end of the bargain and provides transportation for them back to France. While the film doesn’t confirm this fact, this ending sequence is supposed to conclude the film on a positive note. However, things could have turned out much differently.

The security head who seemingly lay fatally injured on the sand, thanks to Fred’s gunshot, has security clearance to access the helicopter. Two scenarios are birthed in this situation. The first is that the chopper notices her on the ground and assumes that Alex, his family, and Claire had something to do with it. This would deny them access to the helicopter or in a twist of fate, they would be apprehended by the company officials for murder, leading to an entirely different fiasco for Alex to deal with.

The second scenario that could take place is if the security head survived her injury. The helicopter would take Alex and his family along with the security head back to their base where she would be treated for her gunshot wound. During this time Alex and his family would be questioned about the incidents that took place. Even in this scenario, depending on how Alex presents the details to the company officials, he and his family would need to squeeze their way out of a very sticky situation.

That being said, the movie ends with a different implication. Alex and his family board the chopper to never see the desert again. As they fly over the French shores, they imagine the good life they will live together in safety and security. They will restart their lives and be reinitiated into society as a French family. Alex and his family would remember Fred’s sacrifice for the rest of their days.

What Did the Oil Company Hide From the Transport Team?

When the mission is being briefed to Fred some key information is left out, and only towards the end of the film do we get to know that everyone in the group is left in the dark. The security head reveals to Fred that there will be a team of drilling experts at the oil well site awaiting their arrival.

When Alex, Claire, and Fred reach there, the company’s true intentions are revealed. The almost suicide mission through the desert badlands would eventually end with one of them driving the truck into the oil well effectively killing the driver.

From the plan’s inception, the company’s intentions were clear. There would be no drilling team, and one member of the transport unit would need to drive the truck into the oil well. This information was forfeited from the crew because it would make it quite impossible to convince the specialists. Considering the amount of money that is at stake coupled with the one-day time limit, adding another death-defying scenario wouldn’t be acceptable for even the most desperate. Hence, this information was only revealed to them right at the end.

Fred’s Sacrifice for His Brother’s Well-Being

Some of the early sequences in the film are flashbacks to Alex and Fred’s earlier relationship. The brothers had a strong bond and would do anything to help each other. When we return to current times, things are drastically different. Alex is apprehended while Fred narrowly escapes being caught by the military. Alex is seen beaten up and bruised in jail brawls where the prison officers themselves bet money on inmate wrestling matches. Though he is imprisoned, his flair for a good fight has not been tarnished, handling each opponent the guards throw at him. Yet through these petty victories, he only seeks the solace of being at home with his family.

His opinion of Fred is naturally distasteful. In his mind, Fred betrayed him when he was caught and a grave sense of despair perpetually overwhelms him. His wife and child, are under constant threat by opposing rebel forces spread throughout the desert outlands of what seems to be a North African country and there is nothing he can do about it. He spends time in his cell with remorseful thoughts of what his life has become and what he has left behind.

Fred on the other hand has been utterly devastated by the incidents that took place when Alex was captured. He hid from the military in hopes that he could stealthily attack them and get a hold of his brother, but there were too many soldiers and Fred was forced to hide in the shadows whilst he watched Alex being taken away. Fred had promised his brother that the job they were on was a simple one and that they wouldn’t get caught. He, of course, was completely wrong. During the events of the film, Fred is still overburdened with the guilt of what he had done. Knowing that Alex jeopardized his family life for a brother’s promise shatters him every day.

When the two are reunited for the oil job. Alex immediately starts assaulting his brother, but guilty Fred does not retaliate. He wants to explain himself and make amends, but Alex is having none of that. Over time, and as they set out on the life-and-death mission, Fred constantly tries to reach out to Alex, but it is difficult.

During the scene in the minefield, Alex finally comes to terms with Fred, understanding that he is truly trying to rekindle the bond they had. When Fred accidentally stands on a mine, Alex tells him that he will not allow his brother to die in the desert. The brothers have a moment as they realize that the mine Fred was standing on is actually a dud. They embrace each other and for a brief instant, it felt like the past was forgotten.

Later on, when Alex and Claire find Fred injured on the side of the road, they immediately bring him to the truck and Alex once again tells his brother that he is not going to lose him like this. The brothers’ bond is slowly but surely rebuilding itself. Towards the end of the film, we get to see major character changes in both brothers. The previously vengeful Alex is now looking out for his brother, and the guilty Fred will do anything to see his brother’s happiness. Their bond is strengthened once again because of all they’ve been through.

In the final sequence, an injured Fred glances at Alex reunited with his family. He sees nothing but bliss at that moment. Fred musters up all the courage in him to make the final sacrifice. He wants to ensure Alex’s happiness and will do anything to achieve it even if it requires his own life. Alex sacrificed his well-being in a jail cell so his brother could escape, and now Fred will sacrifice his own life for the safety, freedom, and well-being of his brother and his family.

As Fred drives the truck into the oil well, Alex is only able to hear the sound of the truck moving. He looks behind but it is too late. His brother is no more. Alex falls to the ground in grief, as Fred’s sacrifice has rippled through the sands and saved not only Alex and his family but hundreds of refugees in the camps. He might have lost a brother that day, but everyone around him received a savior.

Read More: The Wages of Fear: Exploring All Filming Locations