Author: Peter A. Dowling
Writer’s Potential: 8
Logline:When the daughter of an American diplomat witnesses a murder in Berlin, the diplomat must unravel an elaborate conspiracy and fight for his life to save his family.
Synopsis:Angola. U.S. Ambassador JANE MARSHALL (37, no-nonsense) negotiates with businessman/terrorist FENIBO SAVIMBI. In order to apply pressure, she lays out an elaborate scheme that uses Fenibo’s operation to smuggle guns and launder money. Fenibo relents and is willing to deal. Marshall gets into a car, protected by (among others) Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Agent MIKE SHEPARD. As they drive along a dusty road, Shepard notices a dead body up ahead. He stops and examines it — it’s Fenibo. Panicked, Shepard prepares to run back to the car to protect Marshall, but he’s too late. Two men with a rocket launcher fire at the car, destroying it.
Berlin, 18 months later. BRENT FORBES (36, good-looking, alert and intelligent) races recklessly through the streets as he talks on the phone with his secretary, GRACE. His driving catches the attention of motorcycle cops, who chase him along the roads until Brent hits the embassy. They cops are ready to arrest him when Brent points out the “Diplomat” sticker on his car. Brent’s boss, Ambassador JACK COLEMAN (63, weathered face but bright eyes), rides from the airport with JOSEPH NUNN (early 50s, slim) and a scarred but very much alive Mark Shepard. Meanwhile, CIA agent COLIN MAXWELL (48, tough as nails) leads his men to a diamond-theft ring, but the place is cleared out. Someone tipped them off. Maxwell suspects a mole at the embassy. Coleman tries to negotiate with a German politician, RITTER, who won’t budge on his terms until Coleman produces an ATM security photo that shows Ritter in the background, entering a building that houses a known brothel. Pleased with this victory, Coleman takes Brent to a fancy gentlemen’s club, where he imparts his political philosophy while Brent soaks up the free whiskey. Brent catches the attention of a cute waitress; that night, they have sex at a nice hotel.
Brent stumbles into his home, says hello to his wife, APRIL, who pretends to be asleep. Brent goes into the bedroom of his sleeping daughter, DARCY (6), and kisses her goodnight. The kiss wakes Darcy, who announces April is mad at him. Brent tells her not to worry. As he showers, April grills Brent on his whereabouts. Brent is all apologies and reassurances, then pulls her into the shower, where they make love. The next morning, Brent asks Grace what Darcy might want for her birthday. Grace tells him she’ll take care of it. She informs Brent that April called to tell him to pick up Darcy. Brent heads out there and is stopped by a CIA agent, BAKER, who tells Brent he needs to have an emergency meeting with Coleman and Maxwell. They go into a lot of background about bank accounts and suspicious activities, but the bottom line is, they suspect a mole, they know the mole has a safety deposit box at the Bank of Dubai, and Brent has to reconnect with an ex-contact there to get the account information they require. Brent knows this means starting up a love affair and is apprehensive until Coleman provides him two first-class tickets back to Washington, with a message: send April and Darcy home for awhile.
Brent attends Darcy’s birthday party and is just as surprised as she is at Darcy’s gift, a fancy boombox. April knows Grace picked it out and bought it, but she’s more amused than irritated. Later, Brent produces the tickets, suggesting they surprise April’s dad on his 60th birthday. April doesn’t want to go. Brent talks it over with Coleman, who tells Brent to go to the bank and see “Katja,” that Coleman will ensure they get on the plane. Brent reluctantly goes to the Bank of Dubai and reintroduces himself to KATJA BECKER, a dark-haired beauty. They go into the safety deposit box vault and make love. Brent gets the account information and sends it to Coleman. At the airport, April clutches a manila envelope while Darcy cries. April makes a decision, and they leave the airport. Shepard and another DSS agent, GARDNER, arrange security on a black-tie event at the embassy. Brent makes small talk with Shepard when he gets a call from Coleman, who insists he knows who the traitor is. Brent heads up to Coleman’s office — but he’s accosted by April, Darcy trailing her. She throws the manila envelope at him. Inside are photos of Brent and Katja kissing. Brent tries to explain it’s part of the job, but she won’t hear of it. As they argue, Darcy wanders over to “Uncle Jack“‘s office just in time to watch him get shot. Darcy’s frozen with horror as Gardner swoops in to help Coleman. Shepard and DSS Agent BRATTSON manage the other agents to ensure they catch the gunman before he leaves the embassy. Maxwell bursts in, insisting this is now a CIA operation. He takes the not-quite-dead Coleman away in a CIA ambulance. Shepard reviews security tapes.
At home, Brent tries to talk to Darcy about what happened. It quickly dawns on him that he saw the shooter. The same thing dawns on Shepard, Brattson, and Gardner. Darcy is a target. Brent makes her look at a facebook containing everyone at the embassy. She fingers Nunn as the shooter. The house is a sudden whirl of activity as Brent makes April get their bags and get to the car. Before they can do anything, two mysterious men — one SCARRED, one BALD — burst into the house. The Scarred Man goes for Brent, while the Bald Man gets April. A fight ensues, but Shepard and the other DSS agents burst into the apartment. The other men disappear. The DSS bring Brent, April, and Darcy to an old, abandoned-looking houseboat on the outskirts of Berlin to use as a safehouse for the night. Brent tells Shepard and Gardner about Coleman looking for a traitor and Darcy identifying Nunn.
As things settle, April has time to bring up Katja again. Brent tries to placate her, but after what’s happened tonight, she’s not so easy to convince. The DSS agents return to the embassy, where Shepard finds Nunn in Coleman’s office and arrests him. Nunn accuses Shepard of being complicit in the murder of Jane Marshall, says they’re on the same side — the wrong side. The next morning, Brent gives Darcy a chocolate cookie as Shepard explains his plan to wait until nightfall, then fly the family to London on a private plane. Suddenly, a frightened April calls Brent. Darcy has an allergic reaction to the nuts in the cookie. Brent grabs Darcy’s MedicAlert, but Shepard warns them not to take her to the hospital. The DSS can’t assure their safety on German soil. Reluctantly, Brent rigs a breathing tube using a length of rubber hose, but he warns that Darcy needs medical attention. Shepard agrees to bring in a trustworthy doctor.
By nightfall, Brent’s paranoia increases. He takes April’s cell phone, dials her number using his own cell phone, and leaves the call open. He surreptitiously drops April’s phone into Shepard’s coat pocket, then brings his own phone back to the berth where April and Darcy wait. He listens to the conversation and overhears Shepard talking to Nunn about arranging payment in exchange for killing Brent and his family. Suddenly, there’s a loud beeping — April’s phone’s “low battery” warning. Shepard finds the phone, knows the origin, and goes after Brent. Brent prepares to dive into the river, but Shepard fires a silenced shot first. Brent, wounded, collapses into the river. When it’s clear that Brent isn’t dead, Shepard sends Brattson to retrieve Brent. Brattson chases Shepard through several side streets, eventually reaching the autobahn. Brent tries to get someone to stop and help, but when nobody was, he simply runs into traffic. An old car slams on its brakes but doesn’t quite stop in time. It hits Brent, injuring him further but not killing him. Brent begs the driver for help as Brattson begins shooting. Left with no choice, Brent simply steals the car.
Two DSS SUVs chase Brent deeper into Berlin. He manages to cause the two SUVs to crash into one another, then he flees into a subway station. Brent takes the subway to a station near the embassy. As he walks through the station, Brent notices the two men from earlier — Scarred and Bald — tracking his movements. Brent limps away as quickly as possible, barely making it to the embassy. When he turns, the two men are gone. Brent gives his ID to security and is immediately arrested for the chaos he caused to the DSS agents. He’s taken to the marine guards, who rough him up, cuff him, and lock him in a containment room. Brent can’t get out of this. He considers his options: he still has Darcy’s MedicAlert, and there’s a vending machine. With some effort, Brent manages to get some snacks out of the vending machine. The head marine guard, SERGEANT HOPE, is alerted to a problem. It appears Brent has had an allergic reaction to the snacks. Hope calls an ambulance, sticks Brent on it with two marine guards. Feigning unconsciousness, Brent waits for them to uncuff him, then gets the drop on the marines. It’s the paramedics who are the problem, however: both train guns on Brent. One of the marines notices a scalpel, picks it up. Later, one of the marines calls Hope, announcing that they were forced to kill Brent.
Brattson and Gardner arrive at the ambulance to find shaken marines and two dead paramedics getting zipped into body bags. Brent is also zipped into a body bag…but he’s still breathing. Brent tears out of the bag, in the back of the coroner’s wagon. Before he can do anything, two shadowy figures grab Brent and pull him out of the wagon and drag him into an old apartment. Brent realizes it’s the Scarred and Bald Men. Nunn reveals himself, too. He takes the baffled Brent into another room… Where Coleman waits, alive and well, working on surveillance with Maxwell. They inform Brent that this is all an operation to nab Shepard, but they blew it because Darcy was the one who saw the “shooting,” not Brent — that was the real reason he wanted the family out of the country. Gardner arrives. He’s working with them and against Shepard, whom they’ve given adrenaline to bring to Darcy. Brent is livid at Coleman’s lack of compassion for Darcy. Nunn explains to Brent that they want to get Shepard because of what happened to Jane Marshall. He reveals that Marshall was Coleman’s daughter. Gardner returns to the ship, where Shepard’s paranoia is showing. He offhandedly asks which hospital Gardner got the adrenaline from; Gardner answers matter-of-factly.
After they inject Darcy with the adrenaline, April goes to thank Shepard personally. She attempts to seduce him, but Shepard doesn’t fall for it. He talks about how empty he feels and suggests that April probably feels the same way, considering her husband. Brent hears all of this via their surveillance recordings. Later, Nunn’s agents organize the money for the payoff when Shepard calls, announcing a change of venue. They’re going to meet at the airport. The team heads over there. Maxwell wires Nunn with a radio, affixes a GPS tracker to the briefcase full of money. As Shepard leads Nunn through the metal-detector line, Nunn frantically tries to get rid of his radio’s battery. As a result, they lose their surveillance, but they can still follow the money. It dawns on Brent that the adrenaline they got for Darcy did not come from the same hospital Gardner ad-libbed. He pieces together that everything — the change of venue, the metal detectors, etc. — came about because Shepard knew he was walking into a trap. Maxwell orders his team to move in. They enter the diplomatic lounge and find it empty — except for Nunn, who’s dead, and April, who’s gagged and bound. April announces that Shepard took Darcy.
The team tracks a man they think is Shepard to a plane, but it’s a decoy. When Coleman informs them that they have every inch of the airport monitored, Brent realizes something — they don’t have the subway covered. Brent rushes through the crowds to get down to the subway, just in time to see Shepard leading Darcy onto a train. He doesn’t have enough time to get down to it, so Brent dives off an overhang onto the roof of the train. Shepard hears the thud and tries shooting at him; Brent barely manages to get out of the way, but Shepard thinks he’s dead. Brent works to pull the emergency brake cables from outside, but they’ve been painted over and are too stiff to move. He keeps pulling at them. Meanwhile, Maxwell radios Berlin Transit to give the train green lights all the way to the end of the line. Brent manages to stop the train as it hits the Tempelhof station. Passengers spill out as Brent tries to get on. He thinks they’re alone when Darcy calls for him. Shepard twists in the direction of the sound, but Brent dives to take the bullet.
The CIA descends on the station. Their movement distracts Shepard long enough for Brent to get the drop on him and steal the gun away. Shepard sees Coleman and looks like he’s found a way out. He reaches into his coat, prompting Brent to shoot. Shepard pulls out a safety deposit box key, not a gun. Brent looks baffled, horrified. He goes to Darcy. The CIA moves in and announces Shepard’s dead. Outside the station, Brent and Darcy reunite with April. Brent gives a tearful apology.
An unspecified time later, Brent is still racked with guilt over shooting an unarmed man. April tries to calm him down as they get into a limo that will take them to the airport. On the way to the airport, Brent thinks about Shepard’s cryptic last words. He tells the limo there’s a change of plans. The family goes to the Bank of Dubai, where Katja opens the safety deposit box. Inside is a journal compiled by Jane Marshall, loaded with Swiss bank accounts and nefarious misdeeds. One of the names on her list is Jack Coleman. Brent goes to Coleman’s office at the embassy to confront him. Coleman tells him in this business, you have to make sacrifices, even when it comes to family. Brent will understand it, in time. He attempts to bribe Brent, who refuses. So Coleman pulls out a gun. Brent swings the door open, where Maxwell and CIA agents wait to take him into custody. Brent returns to April and Darcy in the limo. He hugs them, and the limo drives away.
Comments:This efficient, well-crafted action thriller has familiar elements reminiscent of movies like the Bourne and Mission: Impossible movies. However, the writer packs The Diplomat with enough clever twists and unique action set-pieces for the script to merit a recommend.
The story is complex without getting too convoluted. Everything the writer sets up in the first act pays off in the second and third. None of the twists feel like cheats. The writer builds relentless suspense throughout the second and third acts before arriving at a surprising yet satisfying conclusion. Some moments in the script echo other films (Coleman sacrificing his daughter to protect himself is right out of The Good Shepherd), but there’s enough originality here to keep the overall story fresh.
The characters are about as well developed as one can expect from an action movie — maybe even a little better than normal. Brent and April’s early marital problems come across as authentic, and we’re given believable motivations for the various double- and triple-crosses that occur throughout the story. By necessity, the characters seem a little thin at first to hide their true agends, but by the third act, all the main characters are well-defined. The biggest problem is that the conflict that drives Brent’s arc — the choice between his family and his job — gets neglected after the first act. The resolution ties it up neatly, but the second and third acts should have some moments where he’s forced to make a decision about whether he’s going to protect his family or align with coworkers who may not be trustworthy.
Despite the solid storyline and characters, the script does contain a few inexplicable typos. April starts out as “Avril,” and Darcy’s age switches from six to 10 and back (and throughout, Darcy acts consistently like a six-year-old). It’s sloppy on the surface, but overall The Diplomat