Our synopses of the movies follow; paragraphing corresponds to the film-theoretic, larger narrative segments—setup, complication, development, and climax. Rope and Source Code have no development section, and All About Eve has two development sections. Epilogs, if any, are included within the climax paragraphs after long dashes. Numbers in parentheses indicate the location of segmentations of at least two viewers as a proportion of the total number of viewers of that movie. The sentences in these synopses do not correspond to the numbered entries in the scenarios, which can be found at http://people.psych.cornell.edu/~jec7/data.htm.
Two young men from the same town—Jack an auto mechanic and David from a wealthy family—are rivals for Sylvia. She likes David but tolerates Jack’s attention. Mary, Jack’s neighbor, is attracted to him but he only thinks of her as a friend. Jack and David enlist when World War I breaks out. They report to training (0.13), initially as rivals but become fast friends and eventually pilots. Mary also enlists (0.25).
In France, Jack and David go on their first air patrol and engage German planes. Both down enemies, but Jack is forced into a controlled crash (0.35), fortunately near Allied lines, and returns to the air station. Later, unbeknownst to Jack and David, Mary drives a medical supply truck and is caught in a French town under a German bombing mission. Jack and David take off in counterattack. Separately, they vanquish the enemy, and Mary cheers Jack’s heroics. Both pilots are given awards of valor (0.45; intermission).
Later, celebrating in Paris, Jack and David become drunk at a cabaret, but the war is escalating, and all pilots are suddenly called to return. Mary is in Paris too, hunts down Jack, dresses as a chorus girl, pries him away from a French woman, and takes him upstairs to sober him up (0.57). Out of uniform she is compromised and sent back to the US by military police. Jack is returned to duty (0.66).
Later, Jack and David study maps, talk about Mary, and have an unresolved dispute about Sylvia just as they need to scramble to get airborne. Jack shoots down a dirigible as David protects him from enemy planes. Jack returns but David must make a forced landing behind enemy lines. A message is delivered that David is dead (0.74) and Jack takes off on a solo mission of revenge. Meanwhile, David escapes, steals a German plane and flies back. After doing damage to the enemy, Jack sees the German plane and engages it, shooting it down (0.87), and David crashes into a French farmhouse. Jack lands nearby and discovers his mistake just before David dies (0.92). -- -- Later, Jack collects David’s gear and returns home to a parade in his honor (0.95), weeps in apology to David’s parents, and reunites with Mary whom he realizes he should have favored all along.
Grand Hotel (1932)
Serially, five hotel guests make phone calls about their distress. Later, upstairs and overlooking an atrium (0.03), Flaemmchen (Flaem, a part-time stenographer) and Preysing (Prey, an industrial magnate) arrange for a later meeting for dictation (0.09). The Baron (desperate for money) meets Kringelein (Kring, a terminally ill accountant who wants to splurge at the end of this life). Flaem, Kring, and the Baron talk (0.14). Flaem and the Baron flirt and agree to meet at the bar the next evening. Meanwhile, Grusinskaya (Gru, a performance-weary Russian ballerina) has checked into the hotel with her entourage, and claims she won’t dance, but is nonetheless cajoled into performing (0.19). The Baron overhears talk of her necklace, which he then plans to steal, and meets outside with his shady creditor (0.21).
Meanwhile, in his room Prey dictates a business letter to Flaem (0.24) and flirts with her. Outside on the balcony (0.28), the Baron moves past Prey and Flaem to Gru’s room to steal her necklace and enters by the window. He takes the necklace, but Gru returns (0.30) and he hides in a closet. He becomes entranced, he emerges, they talk all night and fall in love; he returns the necklace. Elsewhere, Kring and the hotel doctor return from drinking (0.37). Later the next day, Prey (0.40) tries to negotiate a business deal with lawyers, and Flaem leaves for the bar. Meanwhile, with the Baron (0.43), Gru becomes radiant and again wants to dance (0.51).
At the bar Kring and Flaem talk. At a meeting Prey lies to the lawyers about his financial situation and must go to England to cover his now-assured losses. The Baron enters the bar. Flaem and the Baron dance and she notices, and he admits to, his change in affections. Prey enters the bar (0.59), and Prey and Kring (whom we learn is Prey’s accountant, a fact then also revealed to Prey) argue. Later, outside the bar, Prey proposes a well-paid tryst in England to Flaem (0.65), mixed with his business, which she accepts. The Baron holds off his creditor and then sends Gru off to dance, saying he will meet her later at the train station so they can depart together to Italy. In need of money, he proposes a card game to a number of people. Kring, a novice at cards, wins big; the Baron loses. Kring becomes drunk, faints, and the Baron helps take him to his room (0.74). There the Baron steals, but then returns, Kring’s wallet when Kring realizes it is gone (0.76).
Desperate for money, the Baron leaves, meets Flaem on her way to Frey’s room. Meanwhile, Gru returns from a brilliant performance and looks for the Baron. Prey and Flaem are in Prey’s suite, and the Baron enters Prey’s bedroom from the balcony to steal his wallet. Prey catches then strangles him (0.83). Flaem screams, escapes to Kring’s room, and Kring goes to Prey and accuses him of murder. The commotion raises the attention of the hotel guests and staff (0.88). The police arrive, Prey is handcuffed, and they depart. Meanwhile, Kring returns to his room and to Flaem. With his new earnings, they talk about a trip to Paris together and book it. Gru and her entourage leave for the train station. Kring and Flaem also leave. New visitors arrive at the hotel, and the hotel doctor says “Grand Hotel. Always the same. People come. People go. Nothing ever happens.”
Passage to Marseille (1944)
Over Germany, planes of the Free French Air Force bomb a chemical plant. Returning to England over France a bombardier (Matrac) drops a note to his wife and son (0.03). The next day, a reporter is taken to a secret airbase in the south of England to learn about the French air effort. He meets Freycinet, its commander, they talk, and then tour the installation. On the tarmac the reporter is impressed with the bombardier (Matrac), who goes out on another mission. After returning to the command post, Freycinet tells the story of Matrac (and the first-level flashback begins, 0.13). On board the Ville de Nancy and over dinner, Freycinet, Duval (a French officer allied with Vichy), the Captain, and others discuss the progress of the war. They pass through the Panama Canal. Later, they discover five men (including Matrac) in bad shape, afloat in a makeshift boat off Guiana. Duval is suspicious. When the five recover they are interviewed by Duval (0.29), with the Captain and Freycinet present. They later tell Freycinet of their troubles (0.33, and the second nested flashback begins).
Four of them were, for different reasons, in a French prison camp in Guiana and escaped with the help of an old butterfly collector, Gran’père. There, they tell Gran’père of a fifth patriot, Matrac (and the third nested flashback begins). Matrac and his soon-to-be wife run a resistance newspaper in France, whose office is raided. They escape and hide from authorities, but are eventually caught and Matrac is sentenced (the third flashback ends). Back in Guiana (0.56), all wait for his release from solitary and then the five escape by night. The boat is too small for six and Gran’père decides to stay behind (0.70, the second flashback ends).
Back on ship (0.70), the radio operator receives a message of the Munich Armistice; the French have capitulated. The Captain plans to divert to England, and asks Freycinet if Matrac can be trusted (0.73). But Duval and his men take over the ship. A fight ensues and the Captain, Matrac, and the others seize back control, but the radio operator has sent for Vichy/German help. A plane bombs and strafes and the ship folk fire back. Matrac eventually downs the plane near the ship and shoots the survivors, much to the captain’s consternation. Victorious but damaged, the ship sails back to Europe (0.89, the first flashback ends).
Back in England, the reporter and Freycinet wait for the return of the planes on bombing runs over Germany. All land but the one with Matrac. Disabled and with Matrac and others injured, the plane cannot drop a birthday message to Matrac’s son. The plane lands and Matrac has died (0.96). -- -- A cliffside burial and tribute is led by Freycinet (0.98), reading Matrac’s letter.
Brandon watches his friend, Philip, strangle David Kentley. Together, they put his corpse in a living-room chest. Brandon goes to his kitchen and pours champagne to celebrate. Mrs. Wilson, Brandon’s housekeeper, arrives (0.17) and prepares for the upcoming cocktail party, where food will be served on the chest. Kenneth, a high school chum, arrives (0.22), as does Janet (0.25), Kenneth’s former girlfriend but now engaged to David. Mr. Kentley (David’s father) arrives with his sister-in-law, Mrs. Atwater (0.29). Philip plays piano and, finally, Rupert (former teacher of Brandon, Philip, David, and Kenneth) arrives (0.35).
Brandon prattles on, telling a story about a chest. Rupert notes that Brandon always stammers when excited, and that a chest always turned up in stories that he liked. All serve themselves food and Brandon recounts a story of Philip strangling chickens (0.42). A conversation follows with Brandon and Rupert approving of selective murder, with Mr. Kentley upset at the Nietzschean implications. Mr. Kentley, who is interested in Brandon’s first editions, goes off with Brandon and the others while Kenneth and Janet talk awkwardly. Later, all notice that David hasn’t yet come. Rupert and Mrs. Wilson talk about the oddness of the party (0.56). Rupert then talks to Philip, who is playing the piano practicing for a concert; and Philip later tells Brandon that Rupert is on to something. Later, the guests begin to leave and Brandon gives Mr. Kentley the first editions bound with the rope that strangled David (0.63). Mrs. Wilson clears the chest and almost opens it (0.71).
After all are gone Brandon congratulates himself and Philip. Mrs. Wilson leaves; the phone rings and it’s Rupert, who “forgot” this cigarette case (0.75). Brandon gets a gun. Rupert returns, has a drink, and imagines how the two might have killed David. He then reveals the rope he obtained from Mr. Kentley. After a struggle and with the gun Philip shoots and grazes Rupert’s hand. Rupert looks into the chest and is appalled (0.93), but also by the fact that, after an explanation by Brandon, the two murderers had taken his high-school seminar words about superior beings too literally. Rupert shoots the gun out the window, and they all wait in silence for the police.
All About Eve (1950)
At an awards dinner, Eve Harrington is about to receive an award for best Broadway actress. In a voiceover Addison DeWitt, a theater critic, introduces the main characters, lauding praise on Margo Channing, considering her a true actress. Karen Richards (Margo’s best friend) starts a new voiceover about how they all met Eve (0.04, and the flashback begins). Eve has watched Margo’s every performance, hangs around backstage, and Karen invites her in to the dressing room. Karen announces Eve, and Eve tells Margo, Karen, Lloyd Richards (the playwright and Karen’s husband), the (false) story of her past. Bill Sampson (the director and Margo’s partner) arrives late and needs a ride to the airport to catch a plane to California. Bill and Eve talk about “the theater” while Margo cleans up. Margo and Eve go to the airport and see Bill off (0.20); Eve stays at Margo’s apartment and becomes her assistant (0.22).
Late at night and perhaps a week later, Bill calls Margo to her surprise. During the call she realizes that it is Bill’s birthday and talks about arrangements for a party when he returns. The next day, suspicious of her motivations, Margo confronts Eve who admits that she arranged the call (0.27). Weeks later at Bill’s party, Margo bristles for a verbal fight. Guests arrive (0.31) and Margo becomes drunk (0.35). Upstairs, Eve asks Karen to talk to Lloyd and Bill about understudying Margo (0.38). They both go downstairs for a long collective conversation on the steps about “the theater” with Addison, Bill, and Lloyd. Margo quarrels with everyone and retreats upstairs. Guests leave (0.44).
The next day Margo learns from Addison that Eve is to be her understudy, and she is furious. An altercation breaks out with Lloyd (0.48) and he leaves angrily, leaving Margo and Bill to talk. Bill says he is leaving her. Lloyd, at home with Karen, fumes and goes upstairs. Karen, still on Eve’s side, plots. Margo, Karen, and Lloyd go away for the weekend and, because Karen cut the gas line, they become stranded (0.58). Margo misses her performance and Eve performs well (0.62).
Addison goes to meet Eve after the play, but she is with Bill (the director). She propositions him and he rejects her, saying he is still in love with Margo. Addison has overheard the conversation and, after Bill leaves, he enters and talks to Eve (0.64). He asks questions about her past and reveals that her previous story is a sham (although she doesn’t yet realize that he knows this). Addison writes a glowing review of Eve’s performance, berating Margo. Karen and then Bill rush to Margo to console her. Later (0.69), Lloyd talks to Karen about a new play, one for Eve. Karen becomes irate, but Margo calls and they arrange a dinner for four. At dinner (0.72) Bill announces that he and Margo are getting married. Addison and Eve are also in the restaurant, and Eve sends a note to Karen to meet her in the ladies’ room (0.73). Eve threatens to blackmail Karen (about the cut gas line and arranging critics to be at her understudy performance) if Karen doesn’t convince Lloyd to have her for the lead in his next play. Karen returns to Lloyd, Bill, and Margo, and Margo announces that she is through with ingénue roles and doesn’t want to be in Lloyd’s new play, leaving the role open for Eve. Karen laughs. Eve, Bill, and Lloyd then rehearse the new play (0.82).
Later, Addison and Eve are in New Haven for the out-of-town opening. They verbally tussle (0.84), and Addison reveals all the lies she has told and tells Eve that he is now in control of her life. Eve performs well and (end of the flashback, 0.93) the story reverts to the award ceremony. Eve gives a short speech, thanking all of her “friends” and promising to return to the theater after a stint in Hollywood (thus escaping Addison). She is congratulated by many but doesn’t go to the after-party. -- -- Addison drives her to her apartment building, Eve enters her apartment and discovers a young woman, Phoebe, there (0.96). Phoebe (like Eve at the beginning) is awestruck and wants to become a famous actress. Addison returns to deliver Eve’s award which she had left in the car. Phoebe takes the award, puts on Eve’s robe, and bows before her reflection in many mirrors.
Ordinary People (1980)
Conrad and other students sing at high-school choir practice. Later, at night he awakens in cold sweats. Perhaps at the same time Beth and Calvin, his parents, watch a community theater production, talk some with friends, and drive home. Calvin looks in on Conrad and they discuss the idea of him seeing a therapist. Next morning, Conrad skips breakfast and is picked up for school by three friends. Along the way he has a vision of a graveyard. Conrad is listless in class, alone outside at lunch, and finally calls the therapist (Berger). He is unfocused at swimming practice (0.11), and that night has several more bad dreams. He sees Berger (0.12) and talks about “self-control”. At dinner he tells his parents that he saw the therapist. Calvin is pleased, Beth not so much. The next day after choir Jeanine (who stands in front of Conrad) tells him she admires his tenor voice. Later (0.20), Beth comes home and stares into Buck’s undisturbed room (Buck was Conrad’s older brother, who died). She sits down and looks at his many trophies and pictures. Conrad arrives home, and he and Beth surprise each other but without really making contact. Later, at a cocktail/birthday party, Calvin tells a friend that Conrad is seeing a therapist, which Beth overhears. On their way home Beth is outraged, pleading for family privacy (0.26).
Conrad returns to Berger and talks about his “feelings” and quitting swimming. Later, he meets Karen (who was in hospital with him) at a soda shop and they talk. Karen seems upbeat but she is not seeing a therapist. They promise to stay in touch. Later (0.33), Conrad sits at home in the backyard; Beth joins him. They talk, but disagree over Buck having wanted a dog, and Conrad barks at Beth. Beth goes inside, then Conrad. He almost apologizes but Beth is called away to the phone. Beth laughs and, in a flashback, Conrad remembers how warm she was when Buck was alive. Conrad then sees Berger, and says he didn’t know how to feel when Buck died (0.36). Meanwhile, Calvin returns home on the train having thoughts of joyous tumult when the kids were younger but also of Conrad trying to kill himself. Conrad quits the swim team (0.41), then sees Berger and “feels lousy” (0.43). At home, Conrad’s grandparents visit and they try to take pictures. Beth and Conrad have difficulty standing next to one another, and Conrad lashes out (0.48). After choir Jeanine reinforces her appreciation of Conrad’s voice. They talk and walk to her bus; he sings walking home. In his bedroom he tries to call Karen, who isn’t there, then calls Jeanine asking for a bowling date. Later, Calvin and Conrad bring home a Christmas tree and set it up. Beth enters upset that she had to learn that Conrad quit the swim team from a friend. All explode in anger. Conrad goes upstairs; eventually Calvin follows and they talk (0.60).
Later, Conrad and Berger talk about forgiveness and limitations. Later still, Calvin is running, falls, and thinks. Next, he goes and talks to Berger. Afterwards, Calvin goes home and sits in his car in the garage. Beth comes, they talk about a detail from Buck’s funeral, and hug. Later, they meet at a shopping mall. Beth discusses getting away for Christmas without Conrad; Calvin is not convinced and wants family therapy, but demurs. They decide to go see her brother and sister-in-law in Texas. Later (0.69), Conrad and Jeanine go bowling and she throws gutter balls. They sit in a booth and she asks him about trying to kill himself. He starts to answer but is disrupted by his friends entering the bowling alley. Jeanine laughs nervously, and apologizes on their way home. Meanwhile, Beth and Calvin land in Texas and golf with her relatives. Conrad attends a swim meet, stays after, meeting his former teammates. He is insulted by one and slugs him. The fight is broken up, Conrad retreats to his car, and rebuffs his former best friend. Conrad returns to his grandmother’s house (0.78).
He phones Karen and is told that she committed suicide. Conrad is distraught, goes into the bathroom, looks at the scars on his slit wrists, but finally grabs his coat and runs outside. As he runs he relives fragments of the boating accident, which he survived but Buck didn’t. He goes to Berger (0.81), they talk, and Conrad finally realizes that Buck’s death was not his fault (0.87). Later, Conrad is outside Jeanine’s house early in the morning. She sees him, goes out, they talk and then go in for breakfast in her house. Meanwhile, Beth and Calvin are golfing with her relatives. They explode in anger over Conrad. Returning home on the plane, Calvin remembers good times with Beth and wonders what happened. Home in their living room, Conrad joins them. He hugs his mother but she can’t hug him back. Calvin notices (0.93). That night Calvin is downstairs crying. Beth goes down to see him. He says he doesn’t think he can love her anymore. She goes upstairs, cries, packs, and leaves by taxi. The next morning Conrad finds Calvin in the back yard and they talk.
Source Code (2011)
Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, awakens on a train to Chicago sitting across from Christina Warren, who recognizes him as someone else, Sean Fentress. He scurries around the train, sees Fentress’s face in the bathroom mirror, is puzzled, and sits back down as the train explodes (0.07). Colter awakens in a dark pod and looks at Goodwin through a small window and is told by her that he is on a mission to find the bomber of the train. Back on the train (0.12), always reliving the same six minutes, Colter (as Fentress) is more comfortable with Christina, and scans the passengers. In the bathroom he finds the bomb, takes off a cell-phone trigger, goes back to the train car, and interviews passengers with phones. The train explodes (0.19), Colter is back in the pod, and talks to Goodwin about what he knows. Goodwin and her boss, Rutledge, send him back (0.21) with the mission to find the terrorist who planted the bomb. Colter and Christina scan passengers together, he kisses her, defuses the bomb, and they exit the train together at a stop to follow a suspect. Colter sees the train explode (indicating a second trigger that he missed). He fights the suspect and falls under an oncoming train, taking him back to the pod (0.33).
The connection with Goodwin is poor and Colter is freezing, but connection is finally made. Rutledge explains that a second, and dirty, bomb set by the same terrorist will explode in Chicago, and that he (Colter as Fentress) needs to find the terrorist. To help him, Goodwin says there is a gun upstairs in the rail car in the conductor’s closet. Back on the train (0.42), he breaks into the closet but is tasered by the conductor and handcuffed to a luggage rack. Explosion (0.46) and he is back in the pod. He is sent back to the train, but not before he sees an Army insignia that may help explain his circumstances. On the train he sketches it from memory, a woman passenger recognizes the insignia (0.48), and Colter infers Rutledge’s location and tries to call him (0.52). Meanwhile Colter (as Fentress) had asked Cristina to find out about Captain Colter Stevens. Christina tells him that Stevens is dead. Colter faints (0.54) and he’s back in the pod. He then goes back and forth—train to pod to train—several times. Eventually, he finds the bomber and follows him to his van and sees the second bomb (0.69). Christina has followed him and the distraction allows the bomber to shoot them both, killing them. Colter is back in the pod, and tells Goodwin about the bomber. TV coverage (0.74) shows the bomber being arrested, but Colter wants to go back one last time to save the people (and Christina) on the train (0.80).
Against Rutledge’s wishes, Goodwin sends him back. Colter defuses the bathroom bomb (both triggers), catches the terrorist, handcuffs him to the same rack, and calls the police about the second bomb. As the 6-min interval elapses for the final time, nothing happens (0.95). Goodwin looks into the pod and sees Colter’s body is missing below the chest. -- -- Meanwhile, Colter and Christina leave the train, go to the Chicago Bubble (where Colter is reflected as Fentress). Back at the lab, the reality of Goodwin and Rutledge is that the bomber was captured without the help of Source Code, but Goodwin receives an email from Colter that this is not the case, and that Source Code works better than anyone thought.