We recently spent some time on Point Of Entry. In a sin deserving of a 50 Shades Of Grey whipping, I somehow left out The Matrix. How does one leave out one the great openings in the history of film? Think about it… in the pre-digital, attention deficit disorder era, you used to get 10 pages to impress the reader-production company-screenwriting contest enough to read on and consider your script. Now, you get what, five pages? If that…
Your Point Of Entry has to be a killer. It has to do four things:
- Establish the world.
- Establish tone.
- Establish the protagonist and/or key characters.
- Establish conflict.
I’ve got the full scene on YouTube at the bottom of the post to contrast with the script, which, for space purposes I will have to trim (sacrilege!)
Have you ever looked watched the movie and read the script at the same time? I would recommend it. Beats spending $23,000+ per year at Columbia College Film and Video. Part of self-education is having the energy and desire to use free resources at your disposal. Websites like Simply Scripts, IMSDB, and Drew’s Script-O-Rama are available for you to pick up a script for free. Pop in the DVD, play scene while reading script, see the changes made, see how the pros lay the words down on the page.
This is how your work will improve.
So, without further ado, let’s do this in pieces, starting now:
The entire screen fills with racing columns of numbers.
Shimmering like green-electric rivets, they rush at a 10-
digit phone number in the top corner…
We begin MOVING TOWARD the screen, CLOSING IN as each
digit is matched, one by one, snapping into place like
the wheels of a slot machine.
All right, you’re relieved. Use
the usual exit.
Do you know when we’re going to
Just between you and me, you don’t
believe it, do you? You don’t
believe this guy is the one?
I think Morpheus believes he is.
I know. But what about you?
I think Morpheus knows things that
Yeah, but if he’s wrong —
The final number pops into place —
Did you hear that?
Trace complete. Call origin:
Are you sure this line is clean?
Yeah, course I’m sure.
We MOVE STILL CLOSER, the ELECTRIC HUM of the green
numbers GROWING INTO an OMINOUS ROAR.
I better go.
Yeah. Right. See you on the other side.
The audience doesn’t know it yet but the line was traced. It doesn’t know– SPOILERS!–Cypher is going to betray them all. She heard right, the Agents were on the line. So, that’s teased. We also establish, on the top of page 1, the beginnings of the mythology of THE ONE. We don’t know who they’re even talking about yet, haven’t met Neo or Morpheus, but we’re setting the table right away. Trinity is just a voice, until right here:
INT. CHASE HOTEL – NIGHT
The hotel was abandoned after a fire licked its way
across the polyester carpeting, destroying several rooms
as it spooled soot up the walls and ceiling leaving
patterns of permanent shadow.
We FOLLOW four armed POLICE officers using flashlights as
they creep down the blackened hall and ready themselves
on either side of room 303.
The biggest of them violently kicks in the door —
The other cops pour in behind him, guns thrust before
The room is almost devoid of furniture. There is a fold-
up table and chair with a phone, a modern, and a powerbook
computer. The only light in the room is the glow of the
Sitting there, her hands still on the keyboard, is
TRINITY; a woman in black leather.
This hotel looks like it’s out of a Philip Marlowe novel. Straight Skid Row 1940’s style. But there Trinity is in black latex with the computer. It’s a stark vision. It sets the tone, sets the world. Now comes the antagonist:
EXT. CHASE HOTEL – NIGHT
A black sedan with tinted windows glides in through the
AGENT SMITH and AGENT BROWN get out of the car.
They wear dark suits and sunglasses even at night. They
are also always hardwired; small Secret Service earphones
in one ear, its cord coiling back into their shirt
Lieutenant, you were given
specific orders —
I’m just doing my job. You gimme
that Juris-my dick-tion and you
can cran it up your ass.
The orders were for your protection.
The Lieutenant laughs.
I think we can handle one little
Agent Smith nods to Agent Brown as they start toward the
I sent two units. They’re
bringing her down now.
No, Lieutenant, your men are dead.
Phenomenal teaser. The very core of this world is: what you see is not what is. Trinity is pursued by the law, we know not why. How is this woman, surrounded by five cops with guns, going to somehow escape?
I remember seeing this movie on a IMAX screen, and this next scene defined a new era in action movies. I had never seen anything like it:
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 cuff
and Trinity moves —
It almost doesn’t register, so smooth and fast, inhumanly
The eye blinks and Trinity’s palm. snaps up and the nose
explodes, blood erupting. The cop is dead before he
begins to fall.
And Trinity is moving again —
Seizing a wrist, misdirecting a gun, as a startled cop
A head explodes.
In blind panic, another airs his gun, the barrel, a fixed
black hole —
And FIRES —
Trinity twists out of the way, the bullet missing as she
reverses into a roundhouse kick, knocking the gun away.
The cop begins to scream when a jump kick crushes his
windpipe, killing the scream as he falls to the ground.
She looks at the four bodies.
You look at those words and it’s almost a–so what? Can any screenplay words match the images that accompany them? Especially images like this–the fight sequence that was a game changer. Is that why directors always seem more esteemed, more the auteur, than the screenwriter? The words do the job, we can see it, and now we know–if we hadn’t seen the movie–this may appear to be the world we know, but it most certainly is not. Now we hear from Morpheus, giving Trinity the bad news:
INT. CHASE HOTEL
Trinity is on the phone, pacing. The other end is
Morpheus! The link was traced! I
don’t know how.
I know. Stay calm.
Are there any agents?
You have to focus. There is a
phone. Wells and Laxe. You can
She takes a deep breath, centering herself.
All right —
She drops the phone.
This sets up a chase sequence like we’ve never seen before. We learn that, despite her abilities, the Agents have the same powers and more. Her life is at stake and she has to make it to a phone booth– we don’t know why. Information–feed the audience enough to grab them by the throat and never let go. Feed the reader enough to make them turn pages.
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
moverents 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 EL 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
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.
Motherfucker — that’s impossible!
They stare, slack-jawed, as Agent Brown duplicates the
move exactly, landing, rolling over a shoulder, up onto
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
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
Trinity zeroes 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
Trinity hurtles into the empty night space, her body
leveling into a dive. She falls, arms covering her head
The whole world seems to spin on its axis —
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.
Get up, Trinity. You’re fine.
Get up — just get up!
She stands and limps down the rest of the stairs.
40 foot rooftop jumps…50 foot leaps through windows…the images are spectacular. The words attempt to equal them. The story is the star here, and this chase sequence. Crosscutting between two seemingly otherworldly creatures while the “regular” cops can only look on in wonder. Bad guy pursuing good guy is as old as time. The crosscutting on the page is fairly straight-forward. It’s the world that’s been established in just three pages that is extraordinary. The chase ends with the most amazing effect of all, and some key information that finishes the set up of protagonist, world, tone, and conflict:
Trinity emerges from the shadows of an alley and, at the
end of the block, in a pool of white street light, she
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 u-turns, its
TIRES SCREAMING as it accelerates.
Trinity sees the headlights on 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.
Did you get anything from the
Their next target. The name is
The handset of the pay phone lays on the ground,
separated in the crash like a severed limb.
We’ll need a search running.
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 —
Swallowed by the darkness that becomes —
A computer screen.
“There is no body. Trinity is gone.”–Fully set up the world, the tone, the mystery.
“The next target. The name is Neo.”– Fully set up the protagonist.
Is there another opening five pages like it?