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Save The Cat! Video Tribute 5: True Lies

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , on September 17, 2010 by mediajuicestudios

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT ))

True Lies proves that James Cameron can do comedy.  Maybe its just that Tom Arnold and Arnold Schwartzenneger have great chemistry but a movie with this kind of action AND comedy mixture doesn’t come around too often.  It is definitely one of my “guilty pleasure” movies.  Heck, not really even guilty…I just love watching it when I need to veg out and relax.  It delivers every time (in my opinion.)

As far as “Blake Snyder” beats goes, the first thing you notice after watching it the first time through is how precisely the OPENING IMAGE & FINAL IMAGE follow the Save The Cat! structure.  The location is identical but the characters (Harry & his wife) have arc’d significantly, and are happier off for it.  The setup for this movie is especially fun because as the audience we know what Helen (Harry’s wife) doesn’t know, which is that Harry is a secret agent.  It’s alot of fun to sit back and wonder how long this can go on and just when she will find out.  The CATALYST is fairly obvious…the introduction of the terrorist that Arnold Schwartzenneger and Tom Arnold will be pursuing throughout the movie.  The DEBATE & BREAK INTO TWO then fall nicely in line to reveal who the terrorists are, what their goals are and just how they plan to get away with their plans.

Again, the novelty of this movie is how well the action sequences setup and payoff with consistent doses of comedy throughout.  Bill Paxton’s “car salesman” character is absolutely hilarious and a nice distraction from all the seriousness of chasing terrorists (as is Charlton Heston’s chameo as the chief of Harry’s division).  The THEME of the movie surprisingly has nothing to do with terrorists but everything to do with Harry’s relationship with his wife.  The chases and explosions are just eye candy to take us through the journey of Harry & Helen’s transformation as characters and the transformation and “re-invention” of their marriage.  It comes in at 1 hour 9 minutes in when Helen tells who she thinks are two secret covert agents (Shwartzenneger & Arnold) that she still loves her husband but needs some “adventure” in her life…which is exactly what they give her.

Backing up slightly, the FUN & GAMES of True Lies is truly FUN & GAMES.  We are introduced to several new characters, plot twists and see how Harry uses secret agent techniques (from his job) to spy on his wife.  Again, its just a whole lot of fun.  Beyond being “FUN” the fun & games sections sets up everything in the third act with clockwork precision.  Each beat sets up the next one and pays off perfectly.  One thing I’ve always admired about James Cameron’s films is how cleanly structured they are.  Not necessarily “predictable” but always an enjoyable non-stressed movie watching experience.  STRUCTURE does that and structure is what True Lies does really well.

Now, for the BAD GUYS CLOSE IN beat.  Its unexpected but really the only thing that could bring the two main characters together.  Helen & Harry are captured by the terrorists.  What will happen to them?  How will they escape?  Will their marriage surive this, even if they do?  All those questions are raised with this beat and are answered in the BREAK INTO THREE, FINALE & FINAL IMAGE.  Once again, there’s that Cameron structure.

Now, similarly to the SETUP where we as the audience knew what Helen didn’t know (that her husband was a secret agent) we now once again know something she doesn’t know in the ALL IS LOST beat.  Helen thinks Harry has been killed but he hasn’t.  The next few minutes of the film are tense with this belief that he is dead as well as Harry knowing Helen has been captured.  DARK KNIGHT OF THE SOUL is similar in that we see that Helen is captured and the terrorists have the Nukes.  Seems hopeless until the BREAK INTO THREE when Harry and his partner begin pursuit of the terrorists and Helen.  They get Helen back in the FINALE but that’s not the end. You may have noticed in alot of these tribute videos we have added a non Blake Snyder beat, i.e. the FINAL FIGHT.  Blake mentioned this to me in an email exchange we had while discussing a script I was working on.  Many times after the FINALE, there is still unresolved business that has to be wrapped up…this is the “final fight”.  In True Les its Harry getting his daughter back, who has been captured by the terrorists.  This provides even MORE action & comedy fun.

All in all, True Lies is just a real pleasure to watch…and even more fun to break down the screenplay in Blake Snyder “Save The Cat!” style.

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE “TRUE LIES” TRIBUTE VIDEO ))

all my best,

Jeremy

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