In The Dark Forest, p. 298, Cixin Liu's character, Rey Diaz, described a dead man's switch.

Rey Diaz brought down his left hand and covered the cradle with his sleeve. "I was taught this wonderful idea not by an expert in nuclear strategy but by an American film. In it, a man has one of those gadgets that sends out a continuous signal, but if his heart stops beating, the signal is terminated. Another man has a bomb strapped to him that's impossible to remove, and if the bomb doesn't receive the signal, it'll explode. So even though this hapless fool doesn't like the first guy, he has to do everything he can to protect him. . . .I like watching American blockbusters."

What is the American movie that this passage refers to?

  • 1
    Goodness, there are so many films with this plot. lol. Dredd, No Contest, Spawn, who knows how many, especially if Cixin Liu misremembered any detail or things like gender were lost in translation. Only the fact that someone could possibly get the answer directly from Liu is preventing this from being too broad.
    – Adamant
    Jun 7, 2019 at 3:32
  • 1
    Well, it would have to be a movie distributed before Cixin Liu's book was published in 2015. Jun 7, 2019 at 4:39
  • 4
    @InvisibleTrihedron that's just the translation. The original was published in 2008.
    – muru
    Jun 7, 2019 at 6:02
  • 1
    could be any number of films - the only way to know for certain will be to ask the author: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeadMansSwitch
    – NKCampbell
    Aug 13, 2019 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


This could be Saw III, an American blockbuster released in 2006.

The relevant part of the Wikipedia plot summary:

Dr. Lynn Denlon is abducted from the hospital where she works, and brought to the bedridden John Kramer [i.e., the killer known as "Jigsaw"]. His apprentice, Amanda Young, locks a shotgun collar around Lynn's neck that is connected to John's heart rate monitor, and will detonate if John dies or Lynn moves out of range. She is instructed by Amanda to keep him alive until another victim has completed his game.

  • This answer matches Liu's description in all but one respect: The person with the strapped-on bomb is male in Liu's novel but female in Saw III. But no closer candidate has been proposed. In the absence of further evidence, I'm agreeing with this answer. Thanks, Buzz. Feb 23, 2020 at 18:13

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