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Film like all other forms of art employs the usage of different elements of narrative to tell a particular story. No two film plots are exactly the same and each director has his/her own way of ensuring that each piece of work he/she is involved in has unique features that link the final product to him/her. This essay seeks to analyze the narrative structure of the film Transporter 3. To this end, a summary of the film story shall be provided and then a well detailed analysis of the structure will follow citing adequate examples of from the film.
Summary of the plot
In order to understand the narrative structure of a given film, it is of paramount importance that a clear understanding of the plot be made. In summary, Transporter 3 film is the third installment of the Transporter series in which the services of the lead character Frank Martin are enlisted to transport certain items/people from one corner of the world to another. For this last part of the sequel, Frank is kidnapped by an assassin named Johnson and required to transport a certain young girl, Valentina from Marseille to Budapest.
He is also to deliver a certain package at the said location and he is made to believe that the package is the primary item he is to deliver. Frank and Valenina are handed bracelets laden with explosives and they are set to go off should they veer off from the car. In a slightly different development some Russian agents have been sent to kill Frank before he can complete his mission.
Since Johnson and his men are constantly tracking Frank via GPS, it becomes impossible for the latter to change the course of the journey. Against all odds, though, Frank manages to overcome the challenges that come his way and manages to deliver the girl in Budapest but not before having a romantic session with her.
The action film Transporter 3 follows the three act narrative structure. This basically means that it has a setup that introduces the viewer to a given element of conflict before a resolution is arrived at.
In this particular film, Frank is forced to transport a certain package alongside a young girl (Valentina) who happens to be the daughter of head of the Environmental Protection Agency for Ukraine, Leonid Vasilev. This is the setup part of the narrative where we are introduced to the element of contention that will result in conflict much later in the film.
As the scenes unfold, it becomes clear that Frank had been tricked and that Valentina is the actual “package” that he is supposed to deliver. Part of the setup aspect is the revelation that Frank and Valentina have been tagged with distance triggered explosives which prevent either of the two from going more than 75 meters from the car. This helps the view understand why the two have to contend with each other even though there is initial tension between them.
The conflict aspect of the narrative comes in when Frank has to constantly battle the individuals who hired him to deliver the “package” and officials from the Russian government who are out to intercept him. The non-cooperation from his passenger Valentina is also a challenge that Frank has to contend with. We see Frank getting annoyed with the girl when she intoxicates herself with drugs and alcohol. This is just one of the numerous times that we see some form of conflict arise between the two travelers.
The resolution gradually kicks in when Frank and Valentina develop affection for each other owing to the fact that they have been forced to stay together for an extended period of time.
After outwitting all the assailants that are after him by pulling such physically impossible stunts as outrunning a speeding car and safely crashing over two bridges, he arrives at Budapest with the girl in one piece. This brings the film to a settled conclusion whereby the viewers are not able to clearly understand why some characters in the film had to carry themselves in particular ways.
The film appears to conform to the model of the classical Hollywood cinema where it has two distinct lines of narrative development, with one element leading us to follow Frank and his passenger as they drive across the black sea while avoiding and dodging the Russian. The other line follows the romantic relationship between the two lead actors (Frank and Valentina) and this develops in its own tempo but parallel to the main goal of the story (Pramagiorre and Wallis 2005, 41).
The characters in the narrative generally fall in at least one of the seven spheres of action that have been fronted by the scholar Vladimir Propp (Thury and Devinney 520-521). These seven categories are hero, villain, helper, donor, princess, dispatcher and false hero (Thury and Devinney 520-521).
Frank is the accepted hero of the film owing to the fact that he manages to take down his enemies and safely deliver Valentina to her parents. The individuals who forced him on the mission are the dispatchers and they are also very instrumental in the development of the plot since without them the narrative would not have kicked off.
Valentina is the princess and she doesn’t do much in the story but wait for the hero to save and protect her from all the individuals that are out to harm her. The Russian agents are the villains and their main role in the film is to basically disrupt the sequence of events by constantly diverting the direction that the story is taking. Like in most Hollywood creations, the villains generally end up losing by the time the film ends.
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The narrative of the film is generally omniscient in the sense that the viewer is able to see all the developments as they unfold (Chatman 1980, 212). The viewer is able to track the movement of the lead character, Frank, and at the same time follow the deliberations of the assailants as they craft ways to get to capture and kill him. This supreme overseer element sustains throughout the film as the narration smoothly transitions to connect the chaser and the chase in some form of explosive conflict.
The action in the story is motivated by the fact that like with any other well developed film, there are good and bad guys. The good guy (in this case Frank Martin) is going on with his regular life until things change and he finds himself under the manipulation of the bad guys (Johnson and the Russians). He has to find a way of getting rid of the bad guys hanging over his shoulder once and for all while at the same time protect all the innocent individuals that he comes in contact with (Valentina).
The bad guys on the other hand have their own goals and they take all the necessary steps to ensure that they achieve what they have set to. Their efforts are however not fruitful as the story ends with the good guy having won the challenge and well on his way to his former quiet life. The end of the story however leaves the viewer in a lot of suspense as it is not easy to predict which way the lives of the surviving characters in the story will take.
Since the film is but a work of art, there is a general story and a plot to help develop the same story (Aumont 1992, 91). The story is basically an outlining of the challenges that the transporter has to go through in fulfilling his objective of moving a package from Marseille to Budapest. The plot is kicks in with the gradual revelation of what the package is through the various conflicts that happen in the story. The plot and the story are however intertwined in such a way that the viewer cannot distinctly tell them apart.
The story ends with the package having been delivered and the plot also reaches a genuine finality with the viewer realizing that the package was the girl, Valentina. In general, all the characters from the story have goals and this is the main reason why they act in the ways they do. Frank, the lead character intends to deliver the package in Budapest and get on with his life while his passenger, Valentina, hopes to get out of the mess that she has found herself in safely.
The goal of the Russian agents is to intercept Frank before he gets to his destination and that of the individuals who set him on the mission is to ensure that he delivers the package as instructed. The pursuit of the different goals help drive the story and the regular crossing of the paths of all the characters helps bring out the intended cinematic and dramatic effect.
Like with most other films, the story could easily have been told with the omission of a number of scenes but in order to give the film some mileage, the creators introduce an element of romance to act as some form of comic relief.
The development of romantic relations between Frank and Valentina has been put in the film ostensibly to give that part of the film a different slow-down to counter the rapid pace that the rest of the film has been hitherto taking. This, of course, also results in the final product getting a few extra minutes on the running time to reduce the element of the audience feeling “cheated”.
In the maintenance of continuity, the editors of the film have to a large extent employed the technique of cross-cutting whereby the viewer is moved from one scene to another spatially unrelated scene in a series of shots (Dancyger 2007, 451). This method puts the viewer is in a position to understand that the scenes in question are separate but the happenings are parallel and related to each other. The match-on-action technique of continuity editing has also been used particularly in scenes that are heavy with action sequences.
This is a technique that basically requires that a shot picks up immediately where the preceding shot had left (Bordwell 1985, 293). For instance, in the scenes where Frank crashes off bridges, the progression of shots used emphasizes the distance that the car jumps and the general effect of the impact. This technique has also been utilized in the shooting and fight scenes in order to weave the unfolding of evens as one piece of the story.
Each film is an independent work of art and it will tend to have unique structure particularly in terms of the narrative element and this will primarily depend on the choices made by the creator.
This essay has analyzed the narrative structure of the film Transporter 3 by providing an assessment of the general narrative, a review of the shot techniques and has also studied elements of characters and characterization that are applicable for this film. Various forms of literature have been used to provide the background for assessment of the movie particularly in explaining the theories behind film narrative structure.
Aumont, Jacques. 1992. Aesthetics of film. Texas: Texas University Press.
Bordwell, David. 1985. Narration in the fiction film. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
Chatman, Seymour. 1980. Story and discourse: narrative structure in fiction and film. New York: Cornell University Press.
Dancyger, Ken. 2007. The technique of film and video editing: history, theory, and practice. Massachusetts: Focal Press.
Pramagiorre, Maria and Tom Wallis. 2005. Film: a critical introduction. London: Laurence King Publishers.
Thury, Eva and Margaret Devinney. 2005. Introduction to mythology: contemporary approaches to classical and world myths. Oxford: Oxford University Press.