Captains of the Clouds

Inciting Event: Canadian bush pilot Brian MacLean—who is notorious for stealing jobs and occasionally women from his fellow fliers—finally encounters his angry rivals when three of them mob his plane in the air and try to force him to land. Instead, he outflies them and escapes.

First Plot Point: After returning groundside to woo the fiancée of Johnny, one of his rivals, Brian is hit in the head with a propeller and ends up in desperate need of a doctor. Johnny arrives, intent on beating Brian up, but when he sees Brian’s condition, he instead risks his life to fly in a doctor through the fog. When Brian later learns of Johnny’s heroics, they become friends.

First Pinch Point: After working with Johnny all winter, Brian tries to warn him away from his fiancée Emily—who Brian knows is just a gold digger. As a last resort, Brian marries Emily instead, to keep her from blowing all of the money Johnny has saved for his dream airline. But in his despair, Johnny ends up giving all the money to the Red Cross and joining the Air Force.

Midpoint: After hearing Churchill’s post-Dunkirk speech, Brian and the other bush pilots all decide to join the RCAF to do their bit—but they are deemed too old to be fighter pilots and assigned as instructors instead.

Second Pinch Point: After refusing to comply with RCAF training regulations and nearly getting a young bombing student killed, Brian is cashiered out of the service.

Third Plot Point: Brian and his friend Tiny dive bomb an awards ceremony at the RCAF headquarters. Tiny blacks out during a steep dive, crashes, and dies. Brian loses his civilian pilot’s license.

Climax: When all the available RCAF pilots are called upon to transport bombers to England, Brian takes Tiny’s identity and convinces Johnny to let him fly with them. Over the Channel, a lone German pilot attacks, and Brian takes it upon himself to try to ram the fighter plane out of the sky.

Climactic Moment: Brian collides with the German plane and crashes into the ocean, dying.

Resolution: None to speak of.

Notes: One look at the plot points here shows you how all-over-the-place this movie is. It doesn’t know what it’s about (bush-pilot rivalry? romantic rivalry? old pilots? wartime heroics?), and its structure clearly bears that out.

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