‘Mercy Road’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Did Tom Save Ruby?

John Curran’s 2023 thriller film introduced us to Tom Roth (Luke Brace), an everyday man having a very bad day. The movie kicked off with him reversing his car. Tom wiped the blood on his face with a piece of cloth, looking all confused and frightened. It seemed like he had committed a crime and was now trying to hide from it. The blood on his knuckles suggested that he’d been in some kind of fight. He called his daughter, Ruby, to ask her not to go home before calling him, but the call went straight to the voicemail. But what were the events that led to his predicament?

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Spoilers Ahead


Where Is Ruby?

Tom hadn’t heard from his daughter for a while, and when he did, it was not all rainbows. Ruby (Martha Kate Morgan) called Tom a day ago, crying and begging him to help her. On his phone, Tom also had a message from Ruby’s teacher, who informed him that his daughter had been missing school for a couple of days. She left a message for Ruby’s mother and her new husband but didn’t hear back. A day before, Tom went to Ruby’s school and learned about some pictures that had been circulating around. Tom left multiple messages for Ruby, telling her that whatever happened wasn’t her fault and it could happen to anyone. However, like all of his messages, this one was left unanswered, too. His ex-wife, Terri (Alex Malone), strongly believed that Ruby was with Tom after someone told her they saw a man putting Ruby inside a truck. However, Tom didn’t know where Ruby was and had been looking for her the entire night. Dario and Sarah, Ruby’s friends, also told Tom the same thing: they hadn’t seen Ruby for a day. They also said that Ruby was freaking out because of some photographs. She feared what would happen to her image if the photos went online.

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Who Kidnaps Ruby?

While Tom was driving around town, looking for his daughter, he received a strange call from a man. At that point, Tom didn’t pay any attention to it and disconnected the call. However, the associate (Toby Jones) got his attention when he called Tom from his daughter’s phone. He told Tom that Ruby was with him, and if he didn’t do what he told him or tried to tell the cops anything about their deal, Ruby would die. To save his daughter’s life, Tom had to comply. The associate called himself a sort of mediator and ordered Tom to keep driving unless he was told otherwise. The person on the call asked him to take responsibility for Bader’s death. In reality, Bader was involved in some shady dealings with some dangerous people, which were interrupted when Tom barged into the house and beat Bader to death. The people were also in the house at that time and took Ruby as collateral. They planned to use Ruby to barter with Tom. Tom was given a 60-minute deadline, after which Ruby would die of asphyxiation.


Why Did Tom Kill Bader?

Tom was an alcoholic and a short-tempered man who often got into petty fights with people. When Terri couldn’t take it any longer, she called it quits on their marriage and took Ruby with her. Later, she married Shane Bader, a man who earned his bread as an insurance agent. After the marriage, Bader became Ruby’s prime custodian, and Tom hated him for that. He blamed Bader for taking his daughter away from him. However, Tom never suspected him to be a pedophile. Bader has had eyes for Ruby ever since Terri married him. Bader was looking for an opportunity, and when he found one, he drugged Ruby and took naked pictures and videos of her. Later, he tried to blackmail Ruby with those pictures. He threatened to release them if she didn’t submit to his demands. Tom came to know about it and, under his impulsiveness, beat Bader to death in his house. The blood we saw on Tom’s hands at the start of the movie belonged to Bader. Unfortunately, Bader was involved with some shady people who kidnapped Ruby to coerce Tom into doing the things they wanted.

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Why Was Terri Killed?

Tom had just 37 minutes left, and in order to save Ruby, he needed to act fast. The associate gave him an impossible task: Tom was to burn Bader’s office, which is located above his garage. This was impossible, as right now, the place was crawling with cops looking for evidence. And if Tom failed to make it on time or burn Bader’s garage, Ruby would die. Unfortunately, Tom was too far away, and there was no way he could reach Bader’s house in time. So, he called Terri and told her everything he had been dealing with for the past couple of hours, including Bader’s shady dealings and Ruby’s abduction. At first, Terri doubted every word that came out of Tom’s mouth, but to save Ruby, she decided to help. Unfortunately, by doing this, Tom went back on what he promised to the associate about not bringing anyone into their situation. By doing this, he endangered his life. Tom managed to earn a favor and swore on Ruby’s life that he would not break their agreement. Terri managed to burn down the garage, but the cops suspected her to be Tom and shot her dead. Since the garage was burned, Tom’s debt to Mr. Bader was paid in full. Unfortunately, Tom brought Terri into his predicament, and now he needed to pay for her life.


Did Tom Save Ruby?

On the Associate’s orders, Tom reached inside a glove compartment and found a gun. It was the same gun Tom had bought eight years ago. So, in order to save Ruby’s life and pay for Terri’s, Tom had to kill himself. The associate told him Ruby’s location and assured him that he would set her free once he had pulled the trigger. Tom was about to kill himself but stopped and raced to the macadamia tree, where Ruby was buried. The associate had buried her in a shallow grave inside a large duffle bag. Fortunately, Tom found Ruby before she ran out of oxygen. However, Tom’s troubles were far from over. In reality, Ruby negotiated her release. Soon, Tom was surrounded by the cops and was told to throw the gun and come out with his hands in the air. He also heard Terri’s voice and suspected that none of this was real. Tom exited the car, holding a gun, and was killed by the police. The movie ended with the associate calling on Tom’s phone again and telling Ruby that he had enjoyed their conversation.

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Shane Bader was in a negotiation with the associate when Tom murdered him. Therefore, the associate abducted his daughter so he could force Tom to negotiate with him. Tom did everything he was asked to but made a blunder when he brought Terri into the situation. Terri burned down the garage but was shot soon after. It was possible that Ruby negotiated her own release and sacrificed her father in order to save her own life. Or there was another possibility that Terri was not shot, and the video that Tom saw was staged. Maybe Terri received a call from the same man and negotiated Ruby’s life for her ex-husband’s.


Final Verdict

Films like Mercy Road are the reason why I will continue to pay for cinemas for years to come. I wasn’t a huge fan of Luke Brace, maybe because the movies I watched of him were all romantic comedies, but after Mercy Road, I had no choice but to admit that the man had it all along. His portrayal of Tom, a regular man pinned against tons of unfortunate events and challenges, is not only convincing but raw and emotional. The entire movie is set inside a speeding sedan that he drives, and it isolates him from the outside world, adding another layer to his character and the story itself. I’m glad I checked out this movie.

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Rishabh Shandilya
Rishabh Shandilya
Rishabh considers himself a superhero who is always at work trying to save the world from boredom. In his leisure time, he loves to watch more movies and play video games and tries to write about them to entertain his readers further. Rishabh likes to call himself a dedicated fan of Haruki Murakami, whose books are an escape from his real being.

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