These days nearly all major Hollywood productions follow a variation on the three act structure developed starting in the 1970s by screenplay theorists like Syd Field. It's a formulized pop variant on what mythologist Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey, and it's the framework for just about every major blockbuster of the last three decades.
In the first act, we meet our hero in the midst of his everyday life. He has an opportunity to change his life which, after a bit of debate, he decides to pursue. In the second act, our hero is tested. Somewhere in the middle he experiences a great success, and the stakes are raised. But the victory is false, and things get progressively worse until the hero reaches his lowest point. Hitting bottom spurs a period of reflection that helps the hero to truly understand who he is, which eventually leads to a plan to achieve victory using all that he has learned—a plan which he successfully enacts in the third act.
In recent years, screenwriter Blake Snyder has divided the structure into a series of 15 necessary story points known as a "beat sheet." But the basic three act outline remains the same: Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.
And so far, writes Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman, Mitt Romney’s campaign seems to be hitting just about every major beat.