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The Cold Light of Day

Author: Scott Wiper & John Petro
Genre: Action/Thriller
Storyline: 9
Dialogue: 8
Characterization: 7
Writer’s Potential: 9

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While on vacation in Spain, a high-strung businessman discovers his father was an American spy and is fored to unravel the conspiracy surrounding his father’s murder.


WILL SHAW, an athletic American in his 30s, waits in the customs line after arriving in Valencia, Spain. He checks e-mail on his Blackberry, then puts on a Bluetooth earpiece and yammers nonstop, even after airport guards tell him to turn of the cell phone. Outside, he meets his mid-20s brother, JOSH, a nerdy artist type. Will’s already back on the phone, while Josh playfully mocks him. When Will finally gets off the phone, they mock-punch each other, then get in a cab. Will mocks Josh’s long college career and inability to commit to relationships, then Will’s back on the phone. He’s alerted that he must be back in New York within three days, not the scheduled week. Josh says their parents won’t be happy, but Will grumbles they should be happy he showed up at all. On a rented sailboat, Will reunites with mother LAURIE and meets Josh’s attractive girlfriend, JESSICA. Swimming in the ocean is Will’s studly, athletic father, MARTIN.

When martin gets up to the boat, they try to top each other with international-flight knowledge; at dinner, they continue this with knowledge of Mediterranean cuisine and fine wines. Will drops the bombshell that he has to leave by Wednesday, which causes an argument. Martin says they’re sailing to Gibraltar — with or without Will. Will gets another phone call, which he sneaks off to take. Later that night, Will kisses his mother goodnight and goes to bed. Through the door, he can see Martin in the aft cabin, drinking cognac and staring out into the night. The next day, they’re sailing — Martin’s a stern skipper, while Will couldn’t care less. He sneaks to check his Blackberry e-mail. Will’s enraged, and sailing-related chaos ensues, leaving Jessica, the least experienced sailor, with a massive gash on her head. Laurie’s an experienced nurse, but she knows they need more advanced supplies than what’s in the first aid kit. Martin blames Will for the accident and throws the Blackberry into the ocean. Martin and Josh rage against Will’s selfishness, so Will dives into the ocean to swim ashore and buy the needed medical supplies.

Unable to remember much of his high school Spanish, Will fumbles through buying the supplies. He runs back to the harbor — and the sailboat has disappeared. Will rushes to the police, begs them to help him look. Nobody really believes him, but they do agree to look with him. They find the sailboat moored in a hidden cove — empty. Will panics as the police captain, PIZARRO, arrives. They board the boat together, and Will discovers a Middle Eastern man, ZAHIR, waiting for them. Pizarro is not surprised. Zahir knows Will’s name, commands him to go with him. A power-boat, piloted by ESMAEEL, pulls up alongside the sailboat. Pizarro and Zahir attempt to force Will onto the power-boat. He manages to break their grip and charges off the sailboat. He steals one of the police cars, and the cops give chase while Zahir and Esmaeel take off.

One of the police cruisers slams into the one Will stole, causing him to crash into a wall. Will staggers out of the car, and just as he’s about to give himself up — Martin appears out of nowhere, destroying the cops with brutal hand-to-hand. One of the cops cracks Will over the head with a baton before Martin takes him out. Will loses consciousness, awakening in a moving car driven by Martin, who’s talking on the phone, telling somebody he needs something back, to meet in 20 minutes. Martin’s arm is broken, but he says he’s dealt with worse. As they enter Barcelona, Martin explains he’s never been a business consultant. He works for the government. Martin drives to an abandoned factory, where he’s stashed a supply of weapons. Will’s baffled. They drive to a plaza, where white-haired CARRACK waits. Will waits in the car while Martin has a heated argument with Carrack — and then is shot and killed by GORMAN. Carrack disappears. Will grabs Martin’s gun and tries to hide and shoot. Gorman comes after him, but Will’s inexperienced. He has to run.

Martin’s phone rings — Zahir, asking for someone named “Tom.” Will’s puzzled, hangs up. He finds the police, but Gorman shoots a cop waiting outside the station. Will shoots back; other cops hear his non-silenced gun and think he killed their fellow officer. Will runs to the American consulate. A diplomat named MECKLER talks to Will, tries to calm him down — then leads him straight to Carrack. The two try to shove Will into a car, but Will breaks away from them and manages to get through the consulate gate just as it’s rumbling closed. He buys new clothes at a store, then hops on a bus. Martin’s phone rings, and again it’s Zahir, demanding to speak to “your father.” Will insists he was killed, but Zahir doesn’t believe him. He puts an agitated Laurie on the line to remind Will of the stakes. He gives Will 17 hours to get whatever Martin was supposed to have and bring it to them, or the family dies. Zahir wakes up, and Will checks out the dialed calls. There are a lot of calls to a Diego, plus one that just says C*. Will tries that one, and a robotic voice asks for identification repetitively. He tries Diego’s office and finds it’s a detective agency. He gets the address from the British receptionist. He asks a girl on the bus where to find the office.

Will meets BEATRICE, the receptionist, who tells him Diego is expected back in an hour. Will decides to wait, and he meets LUCIA CALDERA, Diego’s niece and assistant. She speaks passable English. Will asks if she knows a Martin Shaw, but she doesn’t. Will explains that Martin called several times the night before, and that his family was kidnapped and Martin was killed. She tries to check out Diego’s client list, when she finds Beatrice dead in the front office. DIXON, from the consulate, lurks in the shadows. Both Will and Lucia try to fight him and keep from getting shot. Will shoots him dead, but not before Dixon clips Will in the hip, causing a deep but non-lethal wound. As Lucia calls the police and an ambulance, Will notices a photo of Martin and Lucia. He asks her, and she says that’s not Martin Shaw. Will disagrees and tells her he’s dead. Lucia tears up and collapses, but this is a dire situation — Will pulls her away before the police arrive. Lucia stuffs a bunch of files and photos into her bag as they run out. She has a classy sports car, offers to drive Will to a doctor friend to get patched up. The doctor friend, CRISTIANA, is a bartender/med student. She douses the wound wih alcohol, then gives Will the bottle as she heats a spoon over a flame, then jams it over the wound to cauterize it.

Once he’s patched up, Lucia gives Will a file labeled “Tom Keaton.” Will opens it up and sees photos of Martin as Lucia explains they share the same father. They’re baffled. Diego’s still not answering his phone, so Will and Lucia go to his apartment. It’s empty. A travel bag lies on a table, but Diego’s nowhere to be found. They hear footsteps, so they both hide in a closet. Gorman enters with a silenced sub-machine gun. He moves past them and goes upstairs. They hear yelling — Diego’s up there. Will and Lucia follow. Gorman beats down Diego, until Will yells for him to stop, aims the gun at him. Gorman’s surprised, but Carrack’s waiting, a gun trained on Will. While they’re distracted, Diego sends a text message. Carrack gets close enough for him to grab Carrack’s ankle, yanking him to the ground. Gorman fires at him while Diego yells fo Will and Lucia to run; they take his advice, running down the stairwell. It takes quite a bit of effort, but they escape the apartment building unscathed — but with Gorman and Carrack hot on their trails.

The villains end up crashing into several cars, and police arrive before they can get away clean. Carrack flashes his diplomat badge. Will and Lucia hide the car in an empty parking lot. She calls her friend Carlos, who used to work for Spanish intelligence. When she hangs up, she pulls the phone apart, takes out the SIM card, and smashes it. Will’s baffled. They leave the car and take a metro subway train to Carlos. Will asks for the backstory behind how Martin is also her father. Lucia’s explanation is pretty straightforward — he met Lucia’s mother, fell in love but wouldn’t marry her. She didn’t meet Martin until her mother died of cancer and she had to live with Diego. She’s sad — they were her only family. Will says he’s her family.

At sunset, they enter a small park, where Lucia introduces Will to paranoid CARLOS. Carlos knows the Shaw name. He’s disheartened to hear about Martin and Diego. They go to a hidden café, where Carlos explains the situation. Carlos talks about ideological extremists and the notion that some Americans feel that, with support for the war on terror waning, another attack must take place. Martin was attempting to deliver enriched uranium to terrorists to make this happen. Neither Will nor Lucia want to hear this. Zahir calls Will, who insists on seeing his family alive before they make any kind of deal. Zahir agrees, as long as Will comes alone. Zahir and Esmaeel show Will the family and Jessica. Will tries to get away from them and hears Esmaeel exclaiming in Hebrew. Zahir admits they’re Israeli agents posing as Arab extremists They take him to a cave for some torture, interrogating him about “Tom“‘s whereabouts and the location of the uranium suitcase. They leave him naked and passed out. With a burst of adrenaline, Will smashes the only light source, then grabs the gun and runs through the city’s underground catacombs. He steals a homeless man’s coat and can of change, then takes a cab to a club where Lucia told him to meet.

Will and Lucia realize Martin intended to introduce the family to Lucia in Gibraltar, which are not the actions of a traitor. They also assume that Carrack and Gorman have the suitcase. Máximo, the owner of the club and another intelligence expert, tells them they’d be keeping track of every movement Will and Lucia make, as much as possible. Wanting to lure them, Lucia has Máximo ring up some drinks using her credit card. As expected, Gorman shows up. Will searches Gorman and finds two sets of car keys. He realizes one is a rental and assumes this is where the suitcase of uranium is being hidden. They force Gorman to give the location of the car. He tells them where, then tries to kill them both, but Will barely manages to kill him first. Will calls Zahir to meet up. Will and Lucia go to the car, but Carrack’s waiting and tries to ram them with their other car. He fails, and Will manages to pin him between two cars. He shoots him, but Carrack isn’t dead. Carrack explains that Martin didn’t know a thing about their real plans — until yesterday. Guilty, Carrack shoots himself.

Will and Lucia go to meet Zahir and Esmaeel. They exchange the suitcase for Laurie, Josh, and Jessica. Zahir reveals himself to be an honorable man. He assures Will that he will have trouble as a result of the chaos of the past few days, gives Will a card that will clear up any trouble he has. Will thanks Zahir, then introduces Lucia to his family.


While imperfect, this is a great action script with a fantastic premise and an intricate but (mostly) rational plot. The action sequences, especially, are written vividly, giving the entire script a breathless, edge-of-your-seat thrill that will, hopefully, translate to the screen.

The writers struggle with the characters, who take a backseat to the plot. Will begins as a self-absorbed businessman with no interest in his family. They half-heartedly try to show how, through meeting Lucia and becoming involved in the craziness of this story, he realizes the importance of family, but this arc doesn’t shine through at all. Strengthening it would make both Will and Lucia a bit more compelling. However, this problem is overshadowed by the brilliant conceit of having the lead male and female end up as half-siblings, to avoid the usual extraneous romantic subplot that has become such a frustrating cliché in action movies. They also do a great job of showing Will’s frustration and disorientation as he’s thrust into the world of espionage without a clue what’s happening — it’s a Bourne Identity-style twist executed in a more relatable “regular Joe turned accidental hero” way, not unlike North by Northwest.

The taut and complex plot allows for a satisfying and unambiguous resolution. Far-fetched but not implausible, the writers do a great job of revealing pieces of the story at just the right moment. The only real problem here is Carlos, who spews backstory like nobody’s business. I’m sure there’s a more interesting way for Will and Lucia to find out all that information without having someone sit them down and explain it to them, in detail. Of course, there are the usual action-movie logical fallacies (e.g., Will goes from a novice to a guy who can fire two to the chest from a distance, in the dark, through a car window), but they aren’t as numerous or ridiculous as they could be.

It’s a very solid effort with a few minor problems.

A story like this will definitely bring in the action fans. Since it lacks an unnecessary (and often unbelievable) romantic subplot, women dragged to the movie by their boyfriends might actually appreciate the sibling relationship presented as a refreshing change of pace. Its “ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances” storyline and the espionage plot might also appeal to audiences who like their movies to have a little more than mindless action.

Posted by D. B. Bates on October 24, 2008 2:35 PM  |   | Print-Friendly  | Professional Script Coverage

Comments (1)

On December 19, 2011 at 5:11 PM, Dk wrote...

Good analysis, but i thought they were in Madrid not Barcelona because they shot in Madrid.



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