In looking for a genre framework in to which the Bond movies fit we have looked at the relationship and the investigative thrillers. This blog is about the other two main sub-genre – the Political or Conspiracy Thriller and the Action Thriller. I have also included a variation on the Investigative Thriller, the Murder Mystery which applies more to TV than to cinema features.
- The antagonist derives their power from an institution.
Key to any good conspiracy thriller is the power and complexity of the antagonist/s. Knowing what they can and cannot do is essential to the credibility of the narrative.
- The protagonist/s is an innocent, in terms of the nature of the conspiracy and the world in which it takes place, who discovers the conspiracy.
One major difference between this genre and the investigative genre is that the protagonist is an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. They are not a professional investigator e.g. journalist, police officer but a nurse, insurance broker, or clerk.
- The protagonist has to acquire the skills and knowledge to uncover the conspiracy.
One essential element of the plot and character is their need for support from others who know more than they do.
- The plot’s central active question is, ‘Who is behind certain actions?’ but is delayed.
Unlike some thrillers the initial active question is often a false focus, which leads to a bigger problem being revealed in act two.
- The ultimate antagonist is not revealed as being the ultimate antagonist, until the third act of the narrative. This means various other characters have to act as antagonists in the early part of the narrative.
The use of secondary antagonists to drive episodes within the narrative are common.
- Victims are numerous in number, but still limited, there are no huge battles, mass killings, and a direct result of the conspiracy being exposed.
Though the number of deaths in this type of thriller are larger than in the relationship or Investigative thriller, they do not reach the scale of the action thriller. Mass shootouts etc are not part of this narrative.
7. Location changes are limited to those associated with the protagonist.
Though the conspiracy may involve an antagonist in a different location, the main action is restricted to a small number of locations, often interior/domestic, and often within one city.
The Action Thriller
- The protagonist is a victim of the antagonist’s actions.
The threat of death to the protagonist is the starting point of this sub-genre.
- The narrative point of view is widened to become an omnipotent point of view.
The Point of View(POV) is widened to allow for scenes/sequences which are seen from the antagonist’s POV.
- The plot is dominated by action sequences.
The overall structure of the plot is based upon a series of actin sequences broken up by short character scenes, in which a plan of action is formulated.
- Characterisation is reduced in direct relation to the length of the narrative, owing to the demands of the action sequences.
The central characters have limited, if any, character arcs. Their situation changes but they remain fundamentally the same. The dominance of ‘hero’s journey’ type theory in certain quarters has imposed stronger character arcs in the last decade.
- The protagonist has the specific skills to undertake the tasks set them.
The protagonist is very skilled, and appears largely invincible against any foe.
- Victims are numerous, and incidental, to the central dramatic conflict.
The scale of deaths reach their ultimate level in this sub-genre,where mass shoot outs are common, and numerous un-named characters are killed.
7. Locations are numerous
Locations are used to provide the spectacular settings for action, with changes of continents common.
Examples: Die Hard, Speed, The Italian Job, Casino Royale (2006), Red.
In the light of the latter points it is clear Bond films sit within the action genre, but I hope you found the journey through the different sub-genres interesting.
Any comments or questions welcome.
This sub-genre is essentially a variation on the investigative thriller, which works extremely well on television e.g. Miss Marple, Murder She Wrote, Wallander, The Bridge etc but has very limited success in the cinema.
All the key elements of the investigative genre remain in place see ‘What type of Trilller is Bond – part 1.’
However, the protagonist is different
The protagonist remains detached from the other characters, acting mainly as an observer, who even when threatened is not overtly concerned. They do not face any significant moral dilemma, or change significantly in the course of the narrative.
Examples : Murder on the Orient Express, Hound of the Baskervilles.