The suitcase - Is it his soul? Another symbol? One thing's for sure we want to see in that box.
Also this: The bar at my local theatre (headed there this afternoon)
To really get your mileage with a MacGuffin, it must be plausible, but it should serve as a catalyst. It gets the story going, and it shows up at times to give it a boost, but we don't dwell on it. Characters don't spend whole scenes analyzing it. Cynical Rick doesn't question why the heck Charles De Gaulle would sign those papers or why anyone would care. We don't see into the suitcase. Some of my favorite macguffins come courtesy of J.J. Abrams - various Rimabauldi artifacts. Even why they're stuck on the island is a MacGuffin. It provides a structure to tell a story and build characters, but don't look too closely or you might see the smoke and mirrors. Incidentally, I think this is why some people got so frustrated with Lost.
For better or worse, building an entire series around a MacGuffin can backfire when people expect a profound revelation at the end. I'd learned my lesson with Alias.
The show was never about Rimbauldi and his prophecies. It was about Sydney and her relationships. The rest was MacGuffins.
So when my Critique Partner and I were discussing Alcatraz the other day and he said, "I think I'll keep watching to see what the mystery is," I reminded him it was going to be a MacGuffin. But there you have it, four episodes in and the show has him hooked on the promise of the mystery, on the promise of the MacGuffin.
So my advice about using MacGuffins:
1. Make it interesting, but don't dwell on it.
2. Use it to enhance your characterization and relationship building.
3. Don't be surprised or offended when someone is upset that your MacGuffin didn't pay off. It's probably going to happen and that's ok.
What other MacGuffins come to mind when you think about movies, television, or books? Do you like them or do they frustrate you?