The inner conflict should not end too early. Once when a producer was quickly summing up the problems he had with my script, we got to the third act and he said, “It’s very exciting, but after a certain point it all runs downhill.” I asked him to explain, but he couldn’t, since he considered the point self-evident. I thought he was crazy. Was he saying I didn’t have enough conflict? There’s no way: It was an over-the-top, one-man-against-an-army-of-crazies finale. How does that roll downhill?
I think that now, years later, I’ve finally figured out what he was saying. My hero hadn't run out of exterior conflict; my hero had run out of dilemma. He still had a lot of bad guys to be defeated, but he no longer had internal tension caused by those actions.
Once I figured this out, it was an easy fix: I had to send my good guy into the final confrontation still seeking the temptation the bad guy had offered. I had to push the good guy’s final rejection of that temptation as late as possible, right at the heart of the climax. The hero’s dilemma should be exacerbated by the conflict, and vice versa, until the last moment, when the resolution of the dilemma and the resolution of the conflict should happen at about the same time.
- In any movie where it might be all in the hero’s head, the inner struggle and outer struggle automatically end at the same time, such as in The Babadook and Groundhog Day.
- The hero of How to Train Your Dragon reconciles with his father during the heat of battle.
- Die Hard is very tidy: Willis wins his wife back by shooting the bad guy dead.
On first viewing of Get Out, the viewer is not super aware of Chris’s inner journey, though we can tell it’s there: He’s trying to forgive himself for doing nothing when he mother was dying in the street from an accident. We see Missy elicit this information from him while hypnotizing him, and we see him admit his feeling of guilt to Rose later, but then, since the outer journey is so exciting, we don’t really think about the inner journey very much.
But Peele is doing a lot of subtle work to make sure we feel Chris’s inner journey on a subconscious level, even if we don’t think about it. Only when you listen to the DVD commentary is all this work made explicit.
We can’t know this on first viewing, but Chris’s inner journey begins when he hits a deer on the way to see Rose’s parents. He insists on getting out to see if the deer is alright, but finds it dead. He then insists on calling the police, despite the fact that doing so often ends poorly for black men. To Chris, the deer is his mom, and he’s still trying to save her.
Later, when Chris has his bizarre encounter with Georgina, and sees her cry, he suspects that she may be a victim in some way, which also makes him think of his mom.
Later, when Chris is held captive in the basement, there’s a huge buck head on the wall. According to Peele, this represents Chris’s dad. It shouldn’t have been up to Chris to make sure his mom was okay, it should have been up to his dad, who “wasn’t in the picture.” Chris escapes and kills Rose’s dad by stabbing him with the points of the buck’s head. He is not only displacing Rose’s father as the dominant male in the house, he’s replacing his own dad. His mom is the deer and he is the rescuing buck his dad couldn’t be. As Peele says:
- The buck is of course not only a used not only to describe strong black men in the past, but is a symbol, the male version of the doe that he hits.
In the end, it doesn’t work. She wakes up, still controlled by the grandma, tries to take over the car, crashes it, and presumably dies in the crash. But still Chris tried, and trying finally allowed him to forgive himself for not trying to save his own mother. As Peele says:
- When he went back for Georgina, he made the only decision that would free his soul.
The 40 Year Old Virgin
YES, he flies through the billboard and admits the titular problem at the last possible minute.
YES. Pretty much. She has no time to process her decision to break from the company until after she kills the thing.
YES. It is only after she’s been at Oxford for a while that forgives herself and put the affair in the proper context.
YES. The same moment.
YES. Afterwards, he realizes that he’s got to go ride the west saving others.
YES. he comes shooting out of the closet.
The Bourne Identity
YES. he finally figures out who he really is as he confronts the bad guy.
YES. Shortly before, but it’s okay that the final confrontation with Strasser “rolls downhill”.
YES. The same moment.
YES. basically, it never really ends. He’s still conflicted, even though it’s over.
Do the Right Thing
YES. The same time.
YES. She finally tells her Nai Nai one piece of truth, that she didn’t get the fellowship. They bond as much as they can without the truth of the diagnosis coming out.
NO. Quite a bit before. The last 15 minutes of this movie “roll downhill” a little bit, as Mickey solves his problems out of the ring well before the last fight.
YES. At the same time.
YES. to the degree that he has an inner struggle. He finally trusts that Gerard trusts him, and his inner journey comes full circle.
YES. Chris chooses to try to save Georgina and thus makes his peace with his mom’s death. He fails to save her, but “saves” Walter just in time for Walter to kill Rose and himself.
YES. The same time.
How to Train Your Dragon
YES. He reconciles with his father in the middle of the final battle.
In a Lonely Place
YES. after he is cleared, the real internal crisis comes.
YES. Afterwards, when he finally decides who he is.
YES. She accepts her name, but then lies about where she’s from at a college party, then drinks herself into oblivion and wakes up at the hospital.
YES. after Smalls is dead, they hash out their relationship issues with Nathan Arizona.
NO. it ends earlier, and it ends offscreen. They want us to believe that he’s buidling up to a school shooting, so they don’t show us that he’s dealt everything and moved on. We just figure that out when we see the play.
YES. The victory seems to assure King that he made the right decision in turning back.
YES. It never climaxes. He’s still freaked out at the end.
The Silence of the Lambs
YES. Symbolically: girl who’s about to be skinned stops screaming.
YES. He resolves his inner struggle at the final moment in order to succeed.
Well, shortly before. He finally finds his self-respect, then gets killed.