Movie Breakdown - Warning Spoilers

As a screenwriter, I've been drawn to story structure and breakdowns.  My family no longer wants to watch movies with me because I shout out different elements in movies.  Ever since I took a screenwriting class last fall (Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff - Fabulous book!) I take movies that I love and break them down.  I'll be listing some of my movie breakdowns here for those who are as obsessed with this as I am.  Leave a comment and we can discuss movies!  I warn you.  There are spoilers here.



Opening scene, pictures of Sam’s daughter, Central Intelligence Report on Charlie Baltimore, a bracelet with key (PLANT), lipstick, writing, a single gun firing, Christmas presents, Charlene Baltimore’s name written over and over again, grenade, then tranquil country town with Christmas parade down Main Street.

Samantha Cain VO, saying she was born only 8 years ago on a beach in NJ, with only a key in her pocket and wounds all over her body. She’s now a 3rd grade teacher, seeing a nice guy, Hal, and has an 8 year old daughter, Caitlyn. Scene with Caitlyn in her tree house with friends… VO about how she woke up pregnant and doesn’t know who the daughter’s father is. (PLANT)

Next scene, party at Sam’s house. As she passing out s’mores, she lightly smacks a boy for trying to steal a cigarette from another guest’s pocket (PLANT) telling the kid if she finds him smoking again they’ll never find the body.

Hal makes a speech, pulls out mistletoe and they kiss, showing how happy and content she is with her life now. VO After 8 years, all traces of her past are lost, she use to hire expensive detectives to find out who she was, but now she’s down to the cheap ones. The woman she was is gone, she kissed her goodnight.

Next scene, seedy hotel with low budget detective (Mitch), (ALLY/MENTOR) pretending to be a cop, scaring the guy in the bed with prostitute. Guy “bribes” Mitch not to arrest him. Next scene “prostitute” is really Mitch’s partner. They’re low budget detectives/hustlers who finally have a lead on Samantha’s past, prior landlord died and still has her stuff. Get on the phone to get her stuff and make more money. (PLAN)

Next scene, Sam is driving drunken party guest home when a deer runs in front of the car and she loses control, smashing into a tree. Sam flies through the windshield and lands in the snow. Guest dies when car catches fire. As Sam gets up from the snow, her face is different, bloodied, has flashbacks of her past. (INCITING INCIDENT?) She goes over to the injured, moaning deer and snaps his neck. Collapses in the snow next to the deer.

Next scene, correction facility, inmate watching television in rec room. On the television, pic of Sam in the parade. Inmate, One-Eyed Jack, (ANTAGONIST) goes wild and screams it’s impossible.

Next scene Sam is lying in the hospital bed having a dream of standing on a cliff (PLANT) in front of a mirror. Sees blood on her face and reflection saying I want a cigarette, but she doesn’t smoke. The image says “See how easy it comes back? I’m coming back. You’re going to love me.”

Next scene is Mitch sitting on the porch with a little boy as he’s showing a toy. Boy’s mom (ex-wife) tells him to come into dinner. Boy doesn’t take gift because mom thinks it’s stolen. (INNER WOUND/DESIRE FOR HIS SON TO LOVE HIM.) Mitch tries to joke and say he doesn’t steal locally. Mitch gets a call from partner after talking to landlady’s son, they have postcards (PLANT) from Sam saying she just got engaged. Addresses and everything. Thinking they’ve hit pay dirt, Mitch tells partner to call Sam and tell her he’s coming to see her. (PLAN) (15 minutes)

Sam is home from hospital preparing dinner with Hal. Caitlyn is doing homework at the table. Suddenly Sam starts to wildly cut vegetables as she’s having a memory flash. She misinterprets it to mean she used to be a chef until she goes too far and tosses a tomato then tosses the knife and “kills” the tomato with tomato and knife landing against the cabinet.

Next scene tied up guy being interrogated by Timothy (VILLAIN), who was supposed to kill Charley/Sam 8 years ago, about Operation Honeymoon. Timothy gets call about One-Eyed Jack breaking out of jail and movement on Charley being alive and that she’ll probably be in touch with the old man in Massachusetts (Nathan)(ALLY). Plan to tap the old man’s phone. (PLAN) Timothy kills guy being interrogated now that he doesn’t need him.

Next scene, Sam is ice skating with Caitlyn, but Caitlyn is scared. Caitlyn falls and hurts her arm. Sam turns into Charley, telling Caitlyn to stop being a little baby, life is pain, get used to it. (PLANT)

Back at the house, Sam is upset because Caitlyn broke her arm. Hal finds Sam in the tree house, scared, she doesn’t remember what she said to Caitlyn. (INNER WOUND-She doesn’t know who she really is/INNER WOUND – She was a bad mother for what she did.) Hal touches Sam and she recoils. He tells her he’s not going to hurt her. She tells him it’s not her she’s worried about.

Christmas carols are being sung outside Sam’s door and she opens the door to give singers a treat only to be greeted by One-Eyed Jack. (VILLAIN) He breaks into the house with gun. When Sam sees Caitlyn come down the stairs, she grabs the gun while he’s still holding it and it goes off. Hal charges into the room and is leveled by Jack. Jack blows a hole in the outside wall and trying to get Caitlyn out of harm’s way, Sam throws her out the hole into the snow. Jack goes after Sam and Sam becomes Charley as she’s being beaten up. (Jack tells her he wants his eye back.) (PLANT) Sam/Charley kills Jack. (SET PIECE) When she hears the sirens, Sam screams for Caitlyn and runs outside. Finds Mitch who tells her Caitlyn is safe in his car. Sam collapses.

Next morning Sam is telling an upset Caitlyn that Mitch is going to help her find out some things (CALL TO ACTION/OUTER DESIRE to find out who she really is) Sam gives Caitlyn candles and some matches (PLANT) to light in the window to light her way home. She signs her cast with her phone number telling her to call her anytime. (PLANT) and puts the bracelet around Caitlyn’s teddy bear for luck. (PLANT) (ALL OF THAT FEEDS HER INNER DESIRE TO BE A GOOD MOTHER) Hal tells her the person she used to be, whatever she finds, he’s not scared of it.

Scene change: White House, President angry at Mr. Perkins (CIA) because he lost a member of his team trained in counter-assassination who has now turned up as the bell of the Christmas parade. Mr. Perkins tells the President he thought Charley was dead. President is angry that the Intelligence community dumped this mess on him.

Sam and Mitch are driving. Mitch is singing wrong lyrics to song while Charley looks through the box of things Mitch recovered. Finds a postcard to an old fianc√© they are going to visit. (PLAN) Finds a book from Nathan with a telephone number in it. She calls the number using her cell phone. Nathan (ALLY) is stunned she’s still alive. He tells her not to talk, she’s in danger and they should meet in NJ the next day, Central Train Station. He’ll tell her everything. (PLAN) Unbeknownst to them, phone call was tapped. (PAYOFF FOR VILLAIN – TICKING CLOCK) (CLIMAX ACT I)

ACT II Part 1

Sam and Mitch at hotel that night. Sam is on the phone with Caitlyn (INNER DESIRE TO BE A GOOD MOM) while she writes Charlene Baltimore over and over again on a piece of paper (OUTER DESIRE to find out who she really is). Meanwhile, Mitch is in the other room singing Bad to the Bone using made up lyrics of what he’s doing so he’ll remember them. (PLANT) Sam is frustrated with waiting and curses like Charley would. Mitch calls her on it, telling her she used to be all phewie and now she sounds like she goes into a bar and 10 minutes later sailors come running out. (MENTOR)

She closes the door and eyes the suitcase Mitch got from prior landlord. She rummages through it and finds a hidden compartment with pieces of a weapon which she instinctively knows how to put together. Finds knife. Looks in mirror with knife and she’s Sam. Puts knife away and looks back in mirror and she’s Charley. Charley reaches over and slits her throat before image vanishes. Frustrated she reaches for the gun and accidentally blows a hole in the wall, narrowly missing Mitch. Mitch quits and gives her her money back. Crying and desperate, Sam stops him and tells Mitch she can’t go home until she knows why that man tried to kill her. (OUTER DESIRE/GOAL) She feels like she’s in prison. (INNER WOUND) Angry, he tells her he knows exactly how she feels because he was in prison for 4 years and he’s not going back. (INNER WOUND/GHOST) (Climax 3rd sequence)

As they head home, Mitch tells Sam about how when he was a cop, he stole bonds that had been impounded. Never did one thing right in his life. That takes skill (INNER WOUND – Never does anything right.) Drives past the exit they were supposed to take to go home and asks Sam for the money back. He decides to bring her to the meeting at the train station. (PLAN) (OUTER DESIRE to finally do something right.)

Next scene, 10 minutes early for the meeting at train station. Mitch starts singing BAD TO THE BONE. Sings he’s putting keys in left pocket, puts gun in the right. (PLANT) Tim comes up to her in the bar, pretends he doesn’t know her and realizes she doesn’t recognize him. (PLAN) Radios his people to move in on her. Someone comes her way carrying a folded newspaper and she thinks that may be Nathan until she sees the gun in the newspaper. She reacts like Charley, grabs the gun in Mitch’s right pocket (PAYOFF) and shoots right through Mitch’s coat. Mitch grabs the guy’s gun. (PLANT) They run but are surrounded so they head up the stairs, trapping themselves on the 3rd floor. Mitch hands her a gun with a full clip and tells her to just point and shoot, then a grenade drops in front of them. Then he tells her to run for her life. They have nowhere to go. Sam blasts out a window with bullets and they jump as the grenade explodes. As they fall, Sam sprays bullets into the frozen ice below, (PAYOFF) breaking the ice enough for them to safely fall to the water. (SETPIECE)

As they run, Nathan meets them in the parking lot, (ALLY) telling them to get in. (PLAN) Nathan clearly knows Charley and her skills, tells her to shoot out the back window if she needs to and then he pulls out another gun. Mitch asks how many guns he has and Nathan says 3, one in the shoulder, one in the hip and one in the groin, (PLANT) He calls Sam Charlene but she insists she’s Samantha, a 3rd grade schoolteacher in the PTA. Nathan tells her that story was just her cover and when she got amnesia she bought her own cover. She’s really an assassin working for the US government and he trained her, Perkins recruited her. She failed to complete her last mission, taking out Timothy and another weapons dealer. Everyone knows she’s alive now. (TICKING CLOCK)

As Nathan is telling her this, they’re changing into dry clothes that Nathan had in the trunk. Mitch grabs a crowbar (PLAN) and hits Nathan with it, telling Sam it’s a setup. They speed away in the car and leave Nathan. They decide to meet the guy she talks about in her postcard. (PAYOFF/PLAN) They drive to an old farm and find Luke, the guy she thinks she was supposed to marry. He calls her Charley (Not Sam as in the postcard), but Sam doesn’t notice this. Mitch doesn’t trust him, although Sam does. She starts remembering things about Luke and feels safe and wants to talk to him alone. (BAD TO THE BONE starts to play, Mitch sings he’s got a gun and a rifle. (PLANT)) Nathan comes up behind Mitch with a gun. Nathan tells him she was never engaged and that the postcard to her uncle Max was code for the agency, the word engaged means she locked onto her target, which was Luke, the other weapons dealer, that’s why she knew personal things about him. (TICKING CLOCK)

Nathan and Mitch run to Sam telling her to run just as a helicopter comes in low above her. People in helicopter start shooting. She sees Timothy. Luke knocks Sam out with a punch. (SETBACK)

Next scene, Sam is stripped to her slip and is tied to a water wheel as she wakes up. She recognizes Timothy from the bar. He’s talking to Luke. Luke still doesn’t trust that her amnesia is genuine. He’s going to get her to talk by dunking her in cold water as torture. (SETBACK) When she is dunked, she sees Nathan already dead in the water right in front of her. (PLANT) Can’t reach him because her hands are tied. Luke and Timothy think she’s either going to be dead or tell them everything. Timothy asks if she remembers anything at all, i.e. best night of her life. (PLANT, although it happens so quick you almost miss it.) Then Timothy leaves and she’s alone with Luke. Crying she tells Luke nobody knows about her. When Luke says she was one hell of a spy, Sam turns into Charley and tells him to watch his back, she’s not done yet. He says Goodnight and dunks her. Starts having flashbacks where she remembers Timothy ordering her kill by One-Eyed Jack. Timothy warns Jack not to make the mistake of playing doctor with her because it nearly killed him. (PLANT) We see Jack on the edge of the cliff with an unconscious Charley getting ready to drug her. She wakes up and stabs him in the eye with the syringe and then jumps off the cliff, (PAYOFF) getting shot in the process, and plunges into the water. Flashback ends and she emerges from water while still tied to the water wheel. Sam is now Charley and says she’ll let Luke keep the use of his legs if he let’s her go. He continues with questions. Then she says, “I let you touch me cowboy, I need a bath.” (PLAN) Luke dunks her. She twists free of the ropes, grabs Nathans gun hidden in his groin (PAYOFF) and comes out of the water shooting Luke. Luke calls her Samantha for the first time and she says, “Who’s Samantha.” Then asks where Mitch is. Mitch is naked, bleeding and in a basement. He hears shooting above and is terrified. Then Charley opens the door and frees him. (SAMANTHA IS NOW COMPLETELY TRANSFORMED INTO CHARLEY) (MIDPOINT CLIMAX)

ACT II Part 2

(Enter into the New World AGAIN)

At a new fancy hotel, Charley cuts and dyes her hair blond and then puts on makeup. Her clothes are different, drinks, cusses and she’s completely transformed into Charley. (COMPLETELY CHANGES THE GAME because now they’re not dealing with a schoolteacher, they’re dealing with an assassin.) Mitch and Sam/Charley’s relationship changes too because he’s not helping her, he’s basically tagging along as far as she’s concerned. He doesn’t quite buy that she’s a trained killer or that Samantha never really existed because her personality had to come from somewhere. He notices she’s tossed the picture of Hal and Caitlyn in the trash.

Charley calls Perkins and tells him she completed her assignment, killed Luke, and wants to come in but on her terms. They are unable to get a trace on the call. We then see Timothy (VILLAIN) sitting in a chair in the office downstairs. Perkins asks if he heard the conversation. Timothy says that if she got to Luke, then she may know about Operation Honeymoon and that old targets have become Perkins’ new best friend. (GAME CHANGER/TWIST/LOSS OF ALLY) They know she’s armed because she took weapons from Luke’s farm. They have 24 hours to find her and kill her. (TICKING CLOCK)

Charley has Mitch calls his assistant and tells her he doesn’t trust Charley and he wants her to meet him (Upon Charley’s request because she doesn’t trust Perkins. Testing him.)

Call was probably traced and when Mitch calls back at midnight with details, they’ll send someone to kill Mitch if they really want Charley dead. Mitch doesn’t want anything to do with that and they go back to the hotel. When Charley makes a pass at him, Mitch calls her on it, (CHARACTER CHANGING. Showing a moral side to him.) telling her she’s just trying to exorcise a ghost. He tells her he likes that school teacher and when she comes back to give him a call. While she’s at it she should call her kid because it’s 2 days before Christmas.

Charley leaves and is met on the street by a guy who wants her to get into the alley and she knows that Perkins wants her dead. (SETBACK) Mitch shows up to “save” her life. Charley takes out the guy with the guy while Mitch hits the ground. Mitch calls her on the fact that Charley suddenly keeps talking in terms of “I” instead of “we” as if she doesn’t need him anymore. She decides she doesn’t need him so she tosses him out of the car while it’s moving and then comes back because she realizes she a passport so she can leave the country. She remembers the key she had on the bracelet she gave Caitlyn goes to a safe deposit box (PAYOFF) with cash and passports in it. She needs him to get it for her. (PLAN)

They head back to her house to get the bracelet/key. Mitch stays out in the car while Charley goes into the house. She tells him to honk if there’s trouble. While she walks into the house she sees her ice skates by the door and kicks them aside. (PLANT) Upstairs, she finds the teddy bear and hears Christmas carols at the church across the street. Looks into her scope of her gun and sees Caitlyn across the street at the church with other kids. She’s crying and we see Charley’s reaction, a shudder and sympathy. (HER INNER WOUND) But then Mitch sees a car coming and honks the horn and she’s Charley again. Mitch takes off and is chased by the car. Charley puts ice skates on and starts shooting as she skates across the lake at the car tailing Mitch. (SET PIECE) Hits villain’s car and in comes onto the ice. She shoots and kills the drivers in the car.

Meanwhile, Caitlyn is kidnapped by Timothy inside the church. (STAKE HIGHER – NEW MODE OF ATTACK BY VILLAIN) As Charley and Mitch leave town in a stolen vehicle, Mitch looks through the glove compartment and sees a phone bill (PLANT) and Christmas card. He tells her that he thinks Sam wasn’t such a big act. Charley just probably forgot to hate herself so much. They get a call from Timothy telling them that he has Caitlyn and he wants her location. (He called the cell number written on the cast. – PAYOFF) He tells her he’ll call a Holiday Inn in 10 minutes because he wants to use a land line. They go to the phone company and have the telephone company trace the call he makes to the Holiday Inn. (PAYOFF) When Timothy calls he tells Charley he wants a simple trade, Charley for Caitlyn. He threatens to hurt Caitlyn if she messes with him. (Ups STAKES – Now it’s personal. - TICKING CLOCK) At gunpoint she tells the telephone operator to give her the trace. While she checks, Mitch asks how she knows so much about Timothy and Charley admits they’d “bumped pelvises”. They learn the call was made from Niagara Falls and Charley realizes that is Operation Honeymoon. (Sequence CLIMAX)

(New plan) They go to Niagara Falls and find the place where Operation Honeymoon is. Charley sees Perkins get out of a helicopter and meet with Timothy. With just Timothy they had a chance.

When Perkins sees Caitlyn sleeping in the bed, he tells Timothy they’re monsters. Timothy said the plan will carry on and they’ll find the “loose ends” crashed in a ravine a few miles away. (VILLAIN’s PLAN) Perkins tells him he’s not a complete ogre and puts a doll on the bed next to Caitlyn.

Mitch and Charley make a plan to go in and get Caitlyn and Charley sets up Mitch with a radio, telling him which frequency the guards will be using. (PLANT) As soon as he sees her come out with Caitlyn, he’s to give her cover fire. (PLAN) Before she goes, she looks at Mitch and says, “They’re going to blow my head off. This is the last time I’ll ever be pretty.” He touches her face and she kisses him “good-bye”. (A tender moment between two people who were at odds but bonded throughout the story.)

Charley finds Caitlyn and begins to run, but Mitch is caught by Timothy. Charley is in the middle of the yard with Caitlyn in her arms when all the lights go on. (FAILED PLAN) She starts shooting and slides down a coal shoot to a basement in one of the buildings. The shooting has hit a gas barrel. Timothy says he’s going to throw down a match and she has 30 seconds to think about it. Looks at Caitlyn, the gas and the doll. (PLANT) Next scene, both Mitch and her are captured. Perkins tells Charley that although Timothy was on the hit list 8 years ago, Congress blinded them oversees and he was forced to use any eyes and ears he could. Charley realizes that Perkins motivation in working with Timothy is to fake a terrorist act, i.e. Operation Honeymoon, kill 4000 people and then blame it on the Muslims to scare money out of Congress for CIA funding. Perkins bids Charley goodnight and Timothy puts her in a big restaurant size freezer. As they take Mitch away, he tells Charley he’ll be waiting for her to come rescue him. (PLANT)

In the freezer she asks Timothy about the tanker and he tells her it’s a chemical bomb. She begs him not to hurt Caitlyn. He tells her she’s going to die and they’ll find they’re bodies in PA everyone will think she’s a crazy mommy who killed her kid in a blizzard. She tells him to look at Caitlyn’s eyes. She’s his daughter. (PAYOFF/REVEAL)

They bring Caitlyn into the freezer and he looks at her eyes. He’s unaffected though and walks away. Charley turns into Sam when she’s talking to Caitlyn, telling her they’ll be like the bears and sleep. Before Timothy closes the door Charley whispers that it’s not over, he’s going to die screaming and she’s going to watch. (PLANT) Timothy turns the temperature down and locks them inside. (TICKING CLOCK)

Charley tries to dig a little hole in the floor by the door. She takes the doll and Caitlyn’s retainer, piercing a whole in the plastic and dripping gas onto the floor and out the door. Tries to create a spark with a crow bar, but it doesn’t work and she begins to cry. (ALL IS LOST) Caitlyn tells her not to cry and pulls out the matches Sam gave her out of her cast. (PAYOFF) She cries and tells Caitlyn she loves her.

Meanwhile, Mitch is tied up in the next building and is bluffing about the FEDS coming. Timothy tells him that the tanker is set to blow up right in the center of town in 25 minutes (TICKING CLOCK)

Charley lights the match and blows out the door. It also blows up the upstairs sending Mitch flying out the window and across the yard into the tree. (SET PIECE and completely unbelievable one.) He lands in the snow. Everyone else in the yard is running to deal with the fire. As Charley and Caitlyn escape, they’re attacked by guards and Charley “eliminates” them. But not before she tells Caitlyn to run. Mitch sees Caitlyn hide in the tool box on the tanker. (TICKING CLOCK)

Timothy sets the plan in motion. Mitch and Charley make a plan to take out the guards while Mitch retrieves Caitlyn from the tanker. Charley doesn’t think they can do it, but Mitch convinces her she can. He whispers to himself. “Do one thing right.” (INNER DESIRE) Then he heads toward the Tanker. As he’s trying to reach Caitlyn, Charley covers him but he gets shot at by the guards and Charley sees him go down.

The tanker takes off and Charley goes after them, taking out a guard in a moving car and then stealing the car. She catches up to the tanker and takes out the driver. She drives the tanker out of the city so 4000 people won’t be killed. She’s on a road heading for the border when the breaks give out on the tanker. Big SET PIECE as the tanker crashes through a wall, lands on it’s side and slides toward the bridge. Big SET PIECE fight scene with Timothy, where he falls into the icy water below and she gets stabbed, but they both get up. Bleeding Charley/Sam rescues Caitlyn as she’s being shot at by people in the helicopter.

When Caitlyn is freed, Charley/Sam collapses. She tries to get Caitlyn to run, but she comes back. Caitlyn cries and tells her to stop being a baby, life is pain and you just get used to it. (PAYOFF – She says the same thing to her mother that Charley said to her when she broke her arm skating.) Charley/Sam gets up and runs to the tanker, using the radio to beg for help for her 8 year old daughter. BAD TO THE BONE music starts playing and we see Mitch, bloodied and battered come to life hearing Sam’s voice over the radio. He’d stowed away in a guard’s car that was in the back of one of trucks Timothy’s agents were using. Mitch hits the gas and bursts out of the back of the truck and heads for the tanker. Charley and Caitlyn get in the car, but Timothy has managed to get into the helicopter and is shooting at them. She shoots him and he falls from the helicopter screaming. (PAYOFF)

They race for the border as the clock is ticking on the bomb and then the bridge blows up right behind them. (HUGE SET PIECE) Across the border, Mitch drives as far as he can and then stops. He’s bloodied and tired but he saved them. He tells Caitlyn that she has her mother’s eyes. Charley is now Sam again, holding her daughter in her lap. But she shows Mitch the safe deposit box key and tells him to hold on because now they’re rich.

Next scene, Sam is driving. ( She’s physically transformed back into Sam, not just emotionally.) She’s talking on the phone with the President who is thanking her for her service. He’s trying to coax her back to work for the government but she declines, saying she has papers to grade. She does have a favor to ask. (RESOLUTION - PLANT).

Next scene, Mitch is on the Larry King show. His ex-wife and son are watching while Larry King tells the audience that Mitch was singled out by the President for his role in indicting Perkins on 6 counts of high treason. We see his ex-wife’s face in shock while his son watches. (RESOLUTION)

Closing scene. Sam, Hal, and Caitlyn are having a pleasant picnic in the country. She tosses the knife and smiles at Cal. She’s completely happy in her life.

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