Welcome to June and the series: 30 Days of Screenplays.
Why 30 screenplays in 30 days?
Because whether you are a novice just starting to learn the craft of screenwriting or someone who has been writing for many years, you should be reading scripts.
There is a certain type of knowledge and understanding about screenwriting you can only get from reading scripts, giving you an innate sense of pace, feel, tone, style, how to approach writing scenes, how create flow, and so forth.
So each day this month, I will provide background on and access to a notable movie script.
Today is Day 9 and the featured screenplay is for the movie The Matrix (1999). You may PDF version of the script here.
Background: The screenplay was written by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.
Plot summary: A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.
Tagline: The Fight for the Future Begins
Awards: National Film Registry in 2012.
Trivia: The Wachowski Brothers harbored their vision for five and a half years, working through 14 drafts of the screenplay. The final concepts took up 500 storyboards.
I’d like to note two things. First what great scene description. Here is an early action sequence from the script:
INT. CHASE HOTEL The Big Cop flicks out his cuffs, the other cops holding a bead. They've done this a hundred times, they know they've got her, until the Big Cop reaches with the cuffs and Trinity moves -- It almost doesn't register, so smooth and fast, inhumanly fast. The eye blinks and Trinity's palm snaps up and his nose explodes, blood erupting. Her leg kicks with the force of a wrecking ball and he flies back, a two-hundred-fifty pound sack of limp meat and bone that slams into the cop farthest from her. Trinity moves again, BULLETS RAKING the WALLS, flashlights sweeping with panic as the remaining cops try to stop a leather-clad ghost. A GUN still in the cop's hand is snatched, twisted and FIRED. There is a final violent exchange of GUNFIRE and when it's over, Trinity is the only one standing. A flashlight rocks slowly to a stop. TRINITY Shit. EXT. CHASE HOTEL Agent Brown enters the hotel while Agent Smith heads for the alley. ---- INT. HALL She bursts out of the room as Agent Brown enters the hall, leading another unit of police. Trinity races to the opposite end, exiting through a broken window onto the fire escape. EXT. FIRE ESCAPE In the alley below, Trinity sees Agent Smith staring at her. She can only go up. EXT. ROOF On the roof, Trinity is running as Agent Brown rises over the parapet, leading the cops in pursuit. Trinity begins to jump from one roof to the next, her movements so clean, gliding in and out of each jump, contrasted to the wild jumps of the cops. Agent Brown, however, has the same unnatural grace. The metal SCREAM of an elevated TRAIN is heard and Trinity turns to it, racing for the back of the building. The edge falls away into a wide back alley. The next building is over 40 feet away but Trinity's face is perfectly calm, staring at some point beyond the other roof. The cops slow, realizing they are about to see something ugly as Trinity drives at the edge, launching herself into the air. From above, the ground seems to flow beneath her as she hangs in flight -- Then hitting, somersaulting up, still running hard. COP Mutherfucker -- that's impossible! They stare, slack-jawed, as Agent Brown duplicates the move exactly, landing, rolling over a shoulder up onto one knee. Just below the building are the RUMBLING TRACKS of riveted steel. The TRAIN SCREECHES beneath her, a RATTLING blur of gray metal. Trinity jumps, landing easily. She looks back just as Agent Brown hurls through the air barely reaching the last car -- Agent Brown stands, yanking out a gun. Trinity is running hard as BULLETS WHISTLE past her head. Ahead she sees her only chance, 50 feet beyond the point where the train has begun to turn, there is -- A window; a yellow glow in the midst of a dark brick building. Trinity zeros in on it, running as hard as she can, her speed compounded by the train. The SCREAM of the STEEL rises as she nears the edge where the train rocks into the turn. Trinity hurtles into the empty night space, her body leveling into a dive. She falls, arms covering her head as -- HER POV The whole world seems to spin on its axis -- BACK TO SCENE And she crashes with an EXPLOSION of GLASS and WOOD, then falls onto a back stairwell, tumbling, bouncing down stairs bleeding, broken -- But still alive. Through the smashed window, she glimpses Agent Brown, still on the train, his tie and coat whipping in the wind; stone-faced, he touches his ear piece as the train slides him past the window. Trinity tries to move. Everything hurts. TRINITY Get up, Trinity. You're fine. Get up -- just get up! She stands and limps down the rest of the stairs. Trinity emerges from the shadows of an alley and, at the end of the block, in a pool of white street light, she sees it. The telephone booth. Obviously hurt, she starts down the concrete walk, focusing in completely, her pace quickening, as the PHONE begins to RING. Across the street, a garbage truck suddenly turns U-turns, its TIRES SCREAMING as it accelerates. Trinity sees the headlights of the truck arcing at the telephone booth as if taking aim. Gritting through the pain, she races the truck -- Slamming into the booth, the headlights blindingly bright, bearing down on the box of Plexiglas just as -- She answers the phone. There is a frozen instant of silence before the hulking mass of dark metal lurches up onto the sidewalk -- Barreling through the booth, bulldozing it into a brick wall, SMASHING it to PLEXIGLAS PULP. After a moment, a black loafer steps down from the cab of the garbage truck. Agent Smith inspects the wreckage. There is no body. Trinity is gone. His jaw sets as he grinds his molars in frustration. AGENT JONES walks up behind him. AGENT JONES Then the informant is real. AGENT SMITH Does that surprise you? It was inevitable. AGENT JONES He'll be contacting us again. AGENT SMITH Expect it. Did you get anything from the room? AGENT JONES Their next target. The name is Neo. The handset of the pay phone lays on the ground, separated in the crash like a severed limb. AGENT SMITH We'll need a search running. AGENT JONES It's already begun. We are SUCKED TOWARDS the mouthpiece of the phone, CLOSER and CLOSER, until the smooth gray plastic spreads out like a horizon and the small holes widen until we FALL THROUGH one --
And we’re off and running into the next scene. So many strong verbs in this sequence. Here are some of them:
snaps, explodes, erupting, kicks, flies, slams, raking, snatched, twisted, fired.
And that’s just from the first few paragraphs. How about descriptors:
force of a wrecking ball, limp meat and bone, flashlights sweeping with panic, try to stop a leather-clad ghost
Reading this script drives home how important good scene description can be, especially strong verbs and vivid descriptors, with a goal to make the read as entertaining as possible.
The second thing is character archetypes as The Matrix is yet another movie which slots right into the paradigm:
Nemesis: Agent Smith, Machines
Mentor: Morpheus, Oracle
That is about as clean as it gets when it comes to the five primary character archetypes.
What’s your take on The Matrix? Stop by comments and post your thoughts.
To see all of the posts in the 30 Days of Screenplays series, go here.
This series and use of screenplays is for educational purposes only!