Con Air (Story Structure/Breakdown)
Written by Scott Rosenberg
Directed by Simon West
OPENING VISUAL - Images of Army Rangers fighting in Desert Storm.
Point of Attack
U.S. Army Ranger Cameron Poe is discharged from the service and returns home to his pregnant wife Trisha. That evening a group of men attack Poe and he accidentally kills one of them in self-defense. He pleads guilty to manslaughter and is sentenced to 7 to 10 years in prison.
SET-UP - Upon his parole, Poe "hitches a ride" on a plane (called "The Jailbird"), which is transporting high-risk inmates to a new maximum-security prison in Alabama. Among the inmates are Poe's friend and cellmate, diabetic Baby-O, Billy Bedlam, Diamond Dog, Johnny-23, Pinball, and criminal mastermind Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom. The guards onboard include Guard Sally Bishop and Guard Falzon. U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin, who is in charge of the transport operation, meets with DEA Agents Duncan Malloy and Willie Sims. Agent Sims goes undercover as an inmate on the flight to get info on drug kingpin Francisco Cindino. Agent Sims smuggles a weapon on board against Larkins instructions.
First Turning Point | Plot Point 1
(also encompasses the Inciting Incident and Call-to-Action)
Once the plane is inflight, Pinball sets another inmate on fire as a distraction while Cyrus and Diamond Dog get free of their restraints and take control of the plane.
SUCCESS & FAILURE - Poe stops Johnny-23 from assaulting Guard Bishop. Using the weapon he smuggled onboard, Agent Sims attempts to take control of the plane. Poe tries to save the Agent, but Cyrus shoots and kills Sims. Cyrus reveals the plan is for the plane to land in Carson City for an exchange of convicts, including Cindino. The exchange will be 6 inmates off and 10 on - but three of the inmates who are meant to get off the plane in Carson City were killed during the takeover of the aircraft. Poe volunteers to be one of the replacements, so he can alert authorities on the ground. But when Cyrus gags, bags, and restrains the "exchange inmates", Poe chooses to stay on board to help Guard Bishop and Baby-O. Poe instead plants a recording taken from Agent Sims' body onto one of the Carson City "exchange inmates" (who is actually Guard Falzon). Upon landing in Carson City, the inmates (disguised as prison guards) load in the new transfer convicts, which include drug kingpin Cindino, Swamp Thing (who will pilot the hijacked plane), and serial killer Garland Greene. Pinball slips away and plants The Jailbird's tracking transponder on a tourist aircraft. While inspecting Cyrus 's vacated cell, Larkin finds evidence of the plane hijacking. Meanwhile, the planted recording on Guard Falzon is discovered as the prison bus is leaving the airport. Cyrus kills a U.S. Marshall who has been ordered to stall the disguised inmates. Pinball attempts to get back on the plane as it is taking off but gets sucked into the wheel well. Poe learns that The Jailbird will land at Lerner Airfield and rendezvous with a waiting plane, arranged by Cindino, to fly the convicts to a non-extradition country. After the discovery of the recording planted on Guard Falzon, Larkin realizes Poe is an ally on the plane. While dislodging Pinball's body from the landing gear, Poe writes a note to Larkin on Pinball 's shirt, and pitches him out of the plane. DEA Malloy orders helicopters to shoot down the plane. Larkin receives the "message" from Poe and informs Malloy, who is in one of the choppers, but Malloy ignores the information. Larkin then orders National Guard and law enforcement to close-in on Lerner Airfield, as he steals Agent Malloy's sports car and races to the location.
Billy Bedlam finds Poe's personal belongings in the plane's cargo hold, and realizes he's been helping law enforcement. The two men fight, and Poe kills Bedlam.
DESCENT - Tracking the Jailbird's transponder (which is actually attached to a Scenic Tours aircraft), the choppers almost shoot down the tourist plane before realizing the truth. Malloy and the helos are then forced to fly toward Lerner Airfield, located 300 miles away. Larkin arrives at Lerner Airfield shortly before The Jailbird crash lands off the runway and gets stuck in the sand. Poe saves the lives of the guards by warning Cyrus and Diamond Dog that Cindino has a reputation for betrayal, and they may need the guards alive as leverage. Baby-O has gone into diabetic shock without his medication, so Poe searches the airfield for a syringe to inject Baby-O's insulin. Considering Poe's advice, Cyrus has the inmates begin digging the plane out of the sand in case Cindino's plane does not arrive. Johnny-23 spots the National Guard convoy approaching and alerts Cyrus. Meanwhile, Garland Greene wanders off and meets a little girl. Poe discovers Cindino's hidden getaway plane, and is forced to fight and knock out his crew when they try to shoot him. Poe is confronted by Larkin, who informs him that he got his "message". Poe tells Larkin that he must return to the plane to help his friend Baby-O and Guard Bishop. Cindino boards the hidden cartel plane and attempts to take off. Larkin brings a crane down on the tail wing, forcing the plane to crash into fuel tanks. Realizing he has been betrayed, Cyrus lights the fuel and burns Cindino to death. The inmates acquire guns from The Jailbird's weapon's hold and ambush the incoming convoy, significantly injuring them and destroying their vehicles. Meanwhile, Johnny-23 attacks Guard Bishop again. Larkin hotwires a dozer and helps move the remaining convoy to safety. Garland Greene restrains from hurting the little girl, and returns to the plane. Poe acquires a syringe and makes it back to The Jailbird, where he lashes a rope to the aircraft and a concrete barrier, and saves Guard Bishop from Johnny-23. Agent Malloy 's choppers land just as The Jailbird breaks free of the rope and takes flight. Larkin and Malloy reboard the choppers and go after the plane.
Crisis Point | Second Turning Point | Plot Point 2
Cyrus and Diamond Dog discover Poe has been assisting authorities. Cyrus shoots Baby-O.
REFLECTION & ENLIGHTENMENT - Knowing Baby-O will die without medical assistance, Poe tells him "I'm going to show you God does exist."
RUN UP TO THE CLIMAX - Larkin and Malloy's choppers fire on The Jailbird. Poe fights off other inmates and gets shot in the arm in order to storm the cockpit, and demand Swamp Thing land the plane. Poe contacts Larkin via radio and informs him he has the plane and to stop firing at the aircraft. The Jailbird crash-lands on the Las Vegas Strip. Johnny-23 is killed, law enforcement takes most of the remaining escaped prisoners into custody, and Baby-O is transported to the hospital.
Climax | Final Confrontation
Swamp Thing, Diamond Dog, and Cyrus steal a fire truck and escape. Poe and Larkin commandeer police motorcycles, chase after them, and jump onto the fire truck. Diamond Dog and Cyrus are killed, and Larkin forces the truck to crash.
Resolution | Denouement
Poe tells Larkin he is one of three men he now trusts. Poe then reunites with his wife, and meets his daughter.
FINAL IMAGE - Garland Greene is introduced as the new shooter about to roll the dice at a gambling table in a Las Vegas casino.