The Bad Guys Are Closing In

Let’s continue our journey through movie structure. In case you’ve missed our previous columns on this subject, you can find them right here.

We’re past the midpoint. We’ve just witnessed our protagonist finally gain a foothold in their new world and celebrate that fact; but now the bad guys are closing in, more viciously and stronger than before.

For example, the jealous co-worker screws up our protagonist’s promotion or the antagonist blows up his house or the long-lost father turns out to be a fraud or the friend turns out to be a spy.

Essentially, the antagonist steps up their game, and the protagonist realizes that his goal — which shortly before seemed within their grasp — has been snatched away and seems further from their reach than before.

For example, in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, protagonist Andy has a grand moment after obtaining funds for the prison library of playing opera over the public address system. Shortly thereafter, he lands in solitary confinement and he’s pressured by the prison warden to launder money. In other words, the bad guys step up their game.

The bigger the obstacles we throw in the protagonist’s way, the more pronounced the growth.

This inevitably leads to the crucial end-of-Act II beat known by many names: the black moment, whiff of death, all is lost, etc. – where the hero is at the further possible point from their goal. Since the low point deserves its own post, we’ll go into details on the end of Act II in our next column.

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