Following the post I wrote about the “Blake Snider Beat Sheet” aka “BS2″ on how to structure a screenplay, lets analyse one of my favourite movies: Die Hard. I saw it again a few weeks ago pencil and paper in hand trying to find how writers Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza structured the story and how accurate is the “BS2″ in this film. The result is very impressive. Lets have a look:
OPENING IMAGE (1 min) Inside economy class a businessman advice the man sat next to him “the secret to survive traveling is taking the shoes off after each flight”. He also notice the guy is carrying a gun. “Relax, I’m a NY cop” replies John McClane with a smile.
THEME STATED (5 min) Survival is the theme of the film and McClane’s mission.
SET UP (1-10 min) There is christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza where Holly Genaro (John’s wife) works. She and Johns are on the verge of divorce. In this party we also met Mr Takagi and Ellis. Both co workers of Holly. A few minutes after Holly introduces Johns to her coworkers and boss they have an argue. Holly gets upset and leaves the room while Johns frustrated decide to get his shoes off to relax and calm down.
THE CATALYST (14 min) A mystery trucks arrives. A dozen of what it looks like terrorist enter the building killing the lobby guards. They are lead by Hans Gruber and his right hand Karl.
DEBATE (12-25min) Alerted with the gunshot McClane grub his gun and storm out of the room to assess the situation. Gruber ask Takagi for the combination of the vault. Despite of the fancy manners they are nor terrorists, the are thieves and they are after the money. Takagi refuses and gets killed. McClane is watching, what’s he gonna do now? “Think think” says to himself!
BREAK INTO TWO – ACT 2 (25min) McClane chose try to get help so he pulls the fire alarm. The police send patrol to check Nakatomi Plaza. Sergeant Powell gets to the scene and everything looks alright. He calls the station saying probably was a false alarm. Gruber send a bad guy to check the floor were the fire alarm was activated. After a gunfire and fight McClane kills the first baddie.
B STORY (30min) What makes us care about McClane character is that he is not represented as a invencible superhero. He tries to reach for help first before realise he is gonna have to stop the bad guys alone. McClane throw a body through the window and start shooting Powell’s patrol to finally get the police attention. Reporter Richard Thornburg and Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson show up too.
FUN AND GAMES (30-55min) McClane kill a bad guy and send the body through the elevator with the message Ho-Ho-Ho. Gruber is perturbed but Karl is furious. The mans dead was his brother. He’s chased and say the classic “Come out to the coast! We’ll get together, have a few laughs”
MIDPOINT (55min) McClane kill 3 more bad guys, stealing a walkie talkie and Han’s Detonators. Using the radio he talks to Powell giving him more information of the situation inside Nakatomi.
BAD GUYS CLOSE IN (55-75min) Pressure builds up, and at minute 75 the police storm inside the building. McClaine try his best talking to Powell to stop the intervention but Chief Dwayne T Robinson thinks he’s a bad guy too. McClane stuff the elevator with explosives and blow an entire floor forcing the retreat of the police team. Ellis afraid of the situation decide to deal with Hans and promise give him McClane. Ellis get shot and now the bad guys and the cops knows who McClane is.
ALL IS LOST (75min) McClane bumps into Hans that pretend to be one of the hostages to save his life. This is a important moment between the bad guy and the hero. After a small talk more bad guys get to the scene and almost kill McClane that manage to escape. Hans recover his detonators and the plan now still on. Just in time the FBI arrives.
DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL (75-85) McClane is exausted and bloodied. A and B stories cross when McClane ask Powel to tell his wife that he is sorry. He believe he might not be alive for much longer. Powel in return confess how he shot a kid by mistake when he was younger. An accident he never could overcome and the reason he can’t hold a gun anymore.
BREAK INTO THREE – ACT 3 (85min) The bad guys open the vault and Hans thanks to the news discover that Holly is McClane’s wife. So he takes her as a personal hostage. When Holly is now in serious danger McClane doesn’t have other option that keep fighting and try to rescue her. With or without police help.
FINALE (85-110min) McClane rescue the hostage on the roof, and kill Karl on a memory one to one fight sequence. Then he appears at the vault to rescue his wife. “Hi Honey” he says when he face the last two bad guys. McClane outsmart them and kill them. He finally rescue the girl.
FINAL IMAGE (110min) Outside the building McClane finally mets Powel. In a last twist of the story Karl repairs trying to shoot McClane, but he gets shot first by Powel who overcomes his fear to defend his new friend. Everybody is happy and the story finish with the tune “Let it Snow”
Its very impressive how accurate this film fits the BS2. After this I analyse the Black Swan (2010), Rebel Without a Cause (1955) The Firm (1993) and Mystic River (2003) with almost the same result. Try it! Pick your favourite Hollywood movie and check if you can find and identify all the beats from the BS2!
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