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Article: Gallipoli (Story Structure/Breakdown)

Gallipoli (Story Structure/Breakdown)

Gallipoli (Story Structure/Breakdown)

Screenplay written by David Williamson
Based on a story by Peter Weir

Point of Attack | Opening Image

Screen Text: Australia, May 1915.
18-year-old prize-winning sprinter Archy Hamilton prepares for an early morning run to clock his race time. Uncle Jack, his trainer, engages Archy in reciting his training mantra: "What are your legs? Springs. Steel springs. What are they going to do? Hurl me down the track. How fast can you run? As fast as a leopard. How fast are you going to run? As fast as a leopard. Well, let's see you do it!" 

THE SET UP - While working on his family's cattle station, Archy accepts a challenge proposed by his friend Zac - who believes Archy can beat fellow stockman Les McCann in a race, with Archy on foot and Les taking a different route on horseback. Les demands Archy runs barefoot. In response, Archy demands Les rides bareback. Archie wins the race, but his feet are badly injured from traversing the brambles and rocks across the open ground. This sequence reveals Archy's stamina, stubbornness, determination, strength, and speed. 

GOAL & STAKES REVEALED ("ARCHY") - Archy tells his Uncle Jack that he wants to sign up to fight in World War I. Uncle Jack does not support Archy's desire, fearing Archy may be killed.

THEME REVEALED - Uncle Jack reads a bedtime story to the younger Hamilton children (Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book") about a boy who is forced to leave what he loves about his boyhood behind, in order to become a man. The chapter ends with the line "Now, I will go to men". The same evening, Achy, reads a newspaper printed with a map indicating where Australians are fighting in Turkey He traces the lines of the map with his finger. Thus, the theme of the film is revealed: Each of the young men must come of age, inevitably leaving their childhood behind, and experiencing the world (war) mapped out for them as adult men.

GOAL & STAKES REVEALED ("FRANK") - Sprinter and railway worker Frank Dunne, and his co-workers and friends Snowy, Barney and Billy read a newspaper article about troops in Gallipoli. Billy and Snowy resolve to sign up and join the war effort. Frank is determined not to go. He doesn't want to get himself shot. Frank's goal is to "not stay here". The four young men jump a train out of town, abandoning their railway jobs.

Inciting Incident | Catalyst

Frank and Archy both enter an amateur athlete's foot race. Archy wins, even with his feet damaged. Frank loses the money that he bet on himself. At the event site, Archy attempts to sign up with the Light Horse Brigade, but Les McCann reveals Archy's true age and the recruiters do not accept Archy because he is not twenty-one. 

A now financially strapped Frank, and a rejected and disappointed Archy, jump a train together with the intent to get to Perth, where Frank is from, and where Archy can again try to join the Light Horse - only to wake up and find themselves in an uncoupled train car stranded in the desert. Archy sets out to cross 50 miles of desert on foot, instead of waiting two weeks for the next train. Frank protests that they might die (like men from the Burke & Wills Expedition), but relents and joins him.

Call to Action (and Debate)

During their trek, Archy attempts to convince Frank to join the Army. Frank refuses and claims "it's not our war, it's an Englishman's war".

With clouds blocking the sun for guidance, Frank and Archy get lost, end up walking in circles, and find only a dry water hole. At the point of despair, they find camel tracks. Following them they reach an isolated camel driver who provides food, water, and directions. The lone camel driver is unaware that WWI exists, leading to a discussion of the war, where Frank reiterates his refusal to be a part of it, and Archy reveals he does not know who started the war or why, but feels an obligation to fight.

Frank and Archie make it to a home of a family, who assist them. The family support Archy's decision to join up and go to war and belittle Frank for not going. Both the young men are attracted to the family's daughter and try to impress her. The next day, Frank decides to join the Light Horse alongside Archy.

In Perth, at Frank's family's home, Archy gives Frank a quick lesson in horse riding. Frank doctors a birth certificate for Archy and creates fake facial hair to make Archy appear older. Frank's father attempts to talk Frank out of going to war, and reminds Frank that it was the English who killed Frank's grandfather.

First Turning Point | Plot Point 1

At the recruiting site, Frank fails the horse-riding requirement, while Archy succeeds and joins the Light Horse. Archy ships off to training camp in Egypt, along with Major Barton. Frank meets up with his three friends Barney, Billy and Snowy, and all four join the infantry. When arriving at their ship to depart, one of the men cries out "Come on boys, we're late!" - emphasizing the idea of time and punctuality, as well as the concept of fate and how it can shape one's life.

SUCCESS & FAILURE - In Cairo, Frank, Billy, Barney & Snowed enjoy free time away from training. While playing a game of rugby against British troops, Billy and Frank stop to contemplate the pyramids near base camp. Billy enlightens Frank about the use of the pyramids, stating they are "Man's first attempt to beat death." During a training exercise, Frank once again meets up with Archy. They race one another to the pyramids, and carve their names in the rock (a symbolic reference to Billy's earlier statement that the pyramids are man's first attempt to beat death).


Major Barton allows Frank to transfer to the Light Horse to serve alongside Archy (as their assignment will not require horses, and Frank's speed may come in handy as a runner).

DESCENT - Frank and Archy arrive in Turkey to shelling and gunfire. Archy's response is one of excitement. Frank's response is apprehension. The men are pinned down in trenches along the shore for weeks by the Turks. A plan is sent in motion for the infantry and Light Horse to separately attack the Turks as diversions for British troops to safely land at Suvla Bay. Major Barton resists the plan, fearing certain death for his men, but is overridden. The plan promises a bombardment of the enemy before the infantry and Light Horse go over the top of the trenches and charge the enemy. Barney, Billy and Snowy who have arrived in Turkey with the Infantry, prepare for the push (Battle of Lone Pine).

Crisis Point | Second Turning Point | Plot Point 2

Sitting atop a cliffside, which is populated by crosses, Archy and Frank hear the Infantry make their charge along with the sound of gunfire. The wounded Infantry men return. Only Billy has survived. Barney has been killed and Snowy is mortally wounded. Frank promises to take Snowy's diary to his parents. 

REFLECTION & ENLIGHTENMENT - The next day the Light Horse are ordered to charge the Nek (Battle of the Nek). Archie is selected to be a communications runner instead of participating in the push. He asks to remain in the fight and implores Major Barton to elect Frank as a runner instead, since it's Archy's "fault" that Frank is in the war. Major Barton relents and allows Frank to be the communications runner.

Even though the promised pre-attack bombardment does not occur, Major Barton is ordered to send his men. The first wave of men are mowed down by gunfire. The men prepare for the second wave, and Archy sees Les McCann crying and saying a prayer. Les is ordered to charge and is killed almost instantly by enemy gunfire. The prospect of death becomes real for Archy. 

RUN UP TO THE CLIMAX - When the communication lines are cut, Major Barton sends Frank to convey the message to Colonel Robertson that the attack is futile and must be halted. Frank delivers the message to Colonel Robinson, who denies the request. Frank sprints back to Major Barton with the message, and suggests the Major go above Colonel Robinson's rank. Major Barton then sends Frank to deliver a message to General Gardiner, and implores Frank to "go like the wind" to stop the assault and save the men.

Climax | Final Confrontation

Frank traverses a maze of terrain and is shot at, but avoids being wounded, eventually reaching General Gardiner, who advises that he is reconsidering and to hold the assault. Frank knows he must reach Major Barton before the cable lines are repaired and races back toward the front line. Before Frank can reach his destination, the communication lines are restored, and Major Barton receives the order from Colonel Robinson that his men must charge the enemy.

Knowing they are facing certain death, Archy tearfully recites his training mantra to himself: "What are your legs? Springs. Steel springs. What are they going to do? Hurl me down the track. How fast can you run? As fast as a leopard. How fast are you going to run? As fast as a leopard. Then, let's see you do it!" 

Major Barton blows the whistle to commence the charge, and the men go up over the trenches. The charging troops are instantly met with gunfire and killed. Frank, hearing the sound, screams in anguish. As Archy charges over the trench, he drops his gun and runs as fast as he can toward the enemy, until he is shot in the chest.

Resolution | Final Image

The image freezes on Archy just as he is shot in the chest - head tilted back, chest arched - the image mimics a sprinter crossing the finish line in a race.

Get the Movie: Digital Film (AppleTV)