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Date: 8/18/03

Subject: Plot Structure

Plot Structure:
The Parallax View


In the film, "The Parallax View"
(,  Reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) becomes an archetypal figure known as a patsy--a person who tries to prevent an assassination but is framed as a lone gunman who committed the assassination.

In the opening scene, Senator Charles Carroll (Bill Joyce), an independent political candidate running for public office, is shot to death by a gunman while speaking to attendees of his campaign fundraiser atop the Seattle Space Needle, a giant structure in Seattle, Washington, that resembles the Eiffel Tower.

Carroll's security officers chase the accused gunman to the roof of the building, and the gunman tumbles off the roof, falling to his death.

In the next scene, a group of United States Government-appointed men sitting in tall, leather chairs behind a long, wooden dais declare that the assassination of Carroll was committed by a lone gunman.

Shortly thereafter, Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss), a TV news reporter who prevented Joe Frady from attending Carroll's tragic fundraiser, tells Joe that witnesses to Carroll's assassination are being murdered and that she believes she's next.

Joe believes she's paranoid and refuses to help her. But, she soon ends up dead, and this makes him curious enough to try to verify her allegations.

So, he investigates the death of one witness to the Carroll assassination and discovers that more than one gunman was involved in the assassination.

He also discovers that the murderers worked for the Parallax Corporation, a company that recruits assassins.

Joe finds one of the company's entrance exams and sees that the questions are geared toward finding homicidal people.

He answers the questions accordingly and applies for work at the Parallax Corporation, which recruits him, testing him first by showing him a short film that has a single message: Family, God, and country are one and the same and must be protected violently.

Later, as part of his undercover investigation, Joe follows an employee from Parallax to the local airport, where the employee plants a suitcase bomb on a plane from a commercial airline.

Joe boards the plane and finds that one of the passengers is a political official: Senator Gillingham (Robert Lieb), a man whose opponent is John Hammond (Jim Davis), a wealthy businessman.

Joe successfully gets the plane to land, and the passengers all safely disembark. The plane then explodes. Joe has saved all the passengers.

He later follows the Parallax employee who planted the bomb to a building owned by John Hammond.

There, Hammond is shot to death while rehearsing for a speech he was to give at his political fundraiser.

Employees from the Parallax Corporation plant a rifle in the rafters above a giant auditorium where Hammond was shot.

Joe then runs for the exit to avoid being blamed for the murder, but the Parallax employees shoot him, killing him.

In the next scene, the group of men from the U.S. Government-appointed commission for the Carroll assassination declares that the Hammond assassination was the work of a lone gunman: Joe Frady.

Thus, Joe has been framed. He is now a patsy. And, it's apparent that he was caught in the crossfire from two political candidates: Senator Gillingham and John Hammond, each of whom hired the Parallax Corporation to kill his political opponent to win an election.

The plot of "The Parallax View" was structured in such a way as to show how patsies are created. They are men who try to stop assassinations but are framed as the murderers who committed them.

In order to learn this immutable fact, we must witness the process in which these men are framed. That is the reason for showing Joe Frady's undercover investigation.

The archetypal figure known as the patsy is also part of the thesis statement of this film.

The thesis is that there is an alternative theory for the view that a lone gunman is responsible for political assassinations.

This theory is the Parallax view--the view that assassinations are a business tool, and that the conspiratorial idea of using assassinations for political gain is necessary to protect family, God, and country.

Screenwriters should study "The Parallax View" as an example of how to merge character and plot.

In this film, character and plot become one through the use of the archetypal patsy.

To define an archetype, a writer must show the process in which a character becomes an archetype.

Remember that each process has a beginning, middle, and end.

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