Nick of Time ....Subject: Pacing
"Nick of Time" is a film whose focus is time itself.
In the film, an assassin named Mr. Smith (Christopher Walken)
takes Accountant Gene Watson's (Johnny Depp) daughter, Lynn
(Courtney Chase), as a hostage and gives Gene less than two hours to kill Eleanor Grant (Marsha Mason), the governor of California.
Smith picked Gene at random as an assassin, and Gene must assassinate Governor
Grant in order to save Lynn's life.
"Nick of Time" takes place in real time and uses the campaign speech itinerary of Governor Grant at the Bonaventure Hotel to
pace the events of the film.
The itinerary consists of three main speeches and encompasses the three-stage process that the protagonist, Gene Watson, undergoes while trying to save his daughter, Lynn, and prevent the assassination of Grant.
In the first stage, he must learn that he can't save Lynn without help. In the second stage, he must learn to trust someone. In the third stage, he must learn how to kill to survive.
Shortly after Lynn is taken hostage during the first stage, Gene discovers that the woman he has been told to kill is the governor
He follows the governor's itinerary at the Bonaventure Hotel and goes to a banquet room there. But, he discovers that he has missed her first speech of the day. So, he enters an
elevator where he meets her, but he doesn't kill her.
Instead, he goes to the lobby of the hotel and tries to talk to Huey (Charles S. Dutton), a
shoeshine man, about the kidnapping of Lynn. But, Gene gives up and tries to retrieve her from the van where she's being held at gunpoint by Mr. Smith's assistant, Ms. Jones (Roma Maffia).
Ms. Jones makes it clear to him that she's willing to kill Lynn if he doesn't assassinate the governor.
Gene realizes that Jones is telling the truth, and this realization propels him into stage two
of the process he's undergoing.
In stage two, he actively seeks out help to save his daughter, Lynn's, life. During Governor Eleanor Grant's second speech of the day, he does so by telling the governor's
assistant, Krista Brooks (Gloria Reuben), about the plot to kill the governor and about Lynn being held hostage.
Krista tells Brendan Grant (Peter Strauss), Eleanor's husband,
about the plot. But he's involved and is working with Mr. Smith,
the assassin who organized the plot and entrapped Gene in it.
Mr. Smith then shoots Krista to death and knocks Gene out for trying to warn her.
Clearly, Gene can't get any outside force to stop the assassination
of the governor. He realizes that he must take matters into his own hands.
This realization propels him into stage three of the process of saving Lynn and the governor.
During stage three, he sneaks into the governor's hotel suite. There, he informs her of her
husband's plot to kill her during her last speech of the day.
Unsure if she believes him, she calls out for her security guards, and Gene is forced to flee.
Later, during the last speech of her itinerary, he stops the assassination by shooting at Mr. Smith.
Then Gene retrieves his daughter, Lynn, from the van where she's being held hostage. He
saves her just before Mr. Smith's assistant, Ms. Jones, can kill her. Then he shoots Smith to death.
Gene has saved Lynn and the governor in the nick of time.
Screenwriters should use the film, "Nick of Time," as an example of how to create suspense by placing the events of a script in real time.
To do so successfully, writers must break these events down into
a three-stage process, such as the one depicted in that film.
This process should be part of the main conflict of the film and should be used to develop the character of the protagonist.
In "Nick of Time," the main conflict involves Gene Watson, the protagonist, trying to save his daughter, Lynn's, life without having
to kill the governor.
The actions that Gene takes to resolve this conflict define him as