THE FALSE FLAG is in most respects an exceptionally well written script. It has a strong concept, great structure, a likable protagonist and a relentless pace that conforms to expectations for the genre. Unfortunately, all these good qualities are undone by one spectacular flaw: its frivolous treatment of a subject of the utmost seriousness to most Americans. The script has some great action sequences and set pieces worthy of a 007 movie. But the American movie-going public is not ready for a James Bond approach to the bombing of the Mall of America. Ten years after the attacks of 9/11, this subject speaks to one the biggest collective anxieties of the nation. In a different context, this script could be the basis for a great blockbuster of a movie. But in the wake of 9/11, it’s impossible to believe that an entire agency of government officials would plan and execute a major attack on the Mall of America, followed by two suicide airplane attacks on major buildings. Mainstream audiences will not be willing to engage in the massive suspension of disbelief required to turn this premise into entertainment.
In my opinion, the blockbuster approach to this material is very risky. This is obviously a big budget script. So the movie version must be able to pull in large audiences. That means sensational special effects, a simplified plot and lots of stuff blowing up. All of this is OK in a 007 movie... Maybe your antagonist can get away with plotting to blow up the Mall of America if he’s Ernst Blofeld or the latest megalomaniac to emerge from SPECTRE. But not if he works for the US Government and dupes naïve young do-gooder” types like Sean to carry out his evil plans. Maybe I’m wrong. But I just don’t see it working out that way.
The concept itself is not the problem. I think a blockbuster approach to the blowing up of the Mall could work. But you’ve got to approach this material with a measure of respect and at least aim for a degree of plausibility. My notes below convey my astonishment at discovering that the attack on the Mall was a real operation, not another test like we saw in the opening scene. You are obviously a talented writer. But I have to say, I was very disappointed that the story would take such an improbable turn. Then, to make it even more implausible, you show the Smoking Man conspiring to put Sean and Kitty on remote control aircraft and crash them into buildings. Please tell me it isn’t so!
I notice you have four stars currently on the script, so maybe a lot of other people are loving it the way it is. If that’s the case, you may want to ignore my advice. But if anything I’m saying resonates, here are my thoughts on what went wrong and what you might do to make it better…
In and of themselves, the mall and airport sequences are great movie-making and I expect you will want to do everything you can to preserve them. So how can you make them more believable?
First, this cannot be a government sanctioned operation. I know there are people who believe our government staged 9/11 as well as Pearl Harbor and probably Hiroshima, too. But they’re not enough of them to fill a thousand multiplexes across the country. Slightly more within the realm of possibility would be a plot to make it look like Iranian terrorists intended to blow up the mall of America... Maybe have Duke and his team, disguised as terrorists, plant live bombs in the mall. Then have other members of the team step in and foil the plot. Only what if the operation goes wrong when one of the team – Vasquez, for instance – turns out to be a double agent? Or a renegade fanatic?
This could work. But you’d probably have to sacrifice the great airport sequence. Unless… The Smoking Man decided that once the operation went bad, the agency needed to cut its losses by getting rid of the rest of the team members who witnessed this colossal fuck-up. So he decides to put them in remote control planes. But instead of running the planes into buildings and killing more Americans, he scrambles the Air Force to shoot them down, which is what would actually happen in a real plane attack by terrorists. That still stretches credibility. But it’s more plausible than what you’ve got.
Other options? I don’t know… Would a Dr. Strangelove approach work with this material – an obviously satirical approach to a deadly serious anxiety-provoking subject? Very risky and very difficult to pull off. But maybe it could work. You’d have to change the entire tone of the story and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to do that.
A renegade militia intent on provoking WW III in the Middle East? Timothy McVeigh and his buddies were crazy enough to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City. So we know there are kooks out there willing to take such extreme measures. But how would they get an All-American do-gooder like Sean to join their ranks?
I have a feeling you’re going to want to stick with your original premise of a clandestine government organization which conspires to stage twin terrorist attacks on American soil. If that’s your choice, go for it. If I knew what the American public really wanted in a blockbuster, I’d be rich by now. If this is the story you really want to tell, here’s what I recommend to help make it a little more palatable for anyone remotely concerned with plausibility…
1) Ratchet up the paranoid/manic/maniacal aspect of Duke’s personality…. I’m talking Wild Bill Donovan on steroids and testosterone, with a touch of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (from Strangelove) on the side.
2) Clearly establish that Smoking Man, Duke and the rest of them are rouges operating outside of direct government control.
3) Put Sean through some kind of hazing process that supposedly establishes his bona fides to join a false flag operation of this nature. This is the biggest implausibility of all – that Duke would assign a new recruit to such a sensitive mission without field testing him in a less critical, but still morally hazardous solo operation. Instead of putting Sean through the paces of a low stakes capture the flag operation in the first act, send him to a third world country to assassinate a civilian politician with some “unintended” collateral damage. This would make for a more exciting opening sequence and would establish Sean’s qualifications to serve on the team that blows up the Mall of America’s. Of course, this will make Sean less likable in the eyes of the audience. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t make Sean a good guy and have the bad guys think he’d be willing to go along with them in their morally corrupt scheme to provoke a war with Iraq. Duke needs to think that Sean is enough of a bad guy to carry out the mission when it comes right down to it. Your protagonist must tread a fine line between good and bad. In other words, he must be morally complex. Not like a Bond, so much as a Bourne. Of course, Bourne had the advantage of not knowing who he used to be, so he (and the audience) could begin with a moral blank slate (hmmm).
My notes below are mostly of the nitpicky type. At times, the dialogue is a bit off, and the characterizations are pretty one dimensional. But aside from the glaring implausibilities, this is a very strong script. You have a clear talent for writing blockbuster action sequences and the structure of this screenplay is excellent. You also have a very good feel for the genre, something that is usually lacking in less experienced writers. Most of the elements of a successful action screenplay are already there. You just need to make the fictional dream believable… At least for the couple of hours it takes to watch the movie.
p. 1 – Solid cinematic opening.
p. 2 – What does a “New York Mexican” look like? Mexicans may be the fastest growing ethnic group in New York, but they haven’t been there long enough to be an easily recognizable type, like the Nuyoricans (Puerto Rican New Yorkers).
p. 5 – Not a good idea to have your hero speak in comic book clichés for the first words out of his mouth. And in general, it’s usually a bad idea to have lines of dialogue begin with interjections, such as “Oh” and “Hey”. Why does Guard One say “FLASH BANG!”? I can’t tell if that’s a typo or an actual attempt to communicate something.
p. 7 – Nice of Kitty to strip before she takes on Sean hand-to-hand. But why the sleeping dart? I assume he was killing other guards (i.e., the head twist on the preceding page). So why let Kitty live… Just because she’s a girl and has a nice rack? I’ll buy that. But I think it’s rather sexist of him.
p. 9 – Cheater! I thought you might be up to something like this when he shot Kitty with the sleeping dart. But the head twist on page 6 is a blatant red herring. I think you’re better off letting the reader think that he shot Kitty dead and not showing the sleeping dart in her arm until the page 9 reveal.
p. 11 – “Oh. Ah, congratulations…. (etc.)” Lame. Guys like Jugs, even if their techies, don’t get this far in the CIA by being wimps.
p. 13 – A viewing audience isn’t going to know what the medals on Duke’s wall are for.
p. 16 – It’s doubtful someone in Sean’s position would need a primer on false flag ops.
p. 18 – 3-5 bottles of whiskey is too much. They look much tougher if they drink a single bottle between them and show no ill effects. Five bottles, whether actual or just a drunken boast, make them look like assholes.
p. 26 – This has to be a phony operation. Right? No way the members of this team are going to blow up the Mall of America. I’m thinking you’re going to have a hard time making this sequence work, because the premise is so implausible.
p. 32 – Bad time to take the reader out of the story with an on-the-nose flashback to Kitty’s childhood.
p. 41 – I was wrong about this being a phony operation. This is just totally implausible. You need a much better set-up to make this believable.
p. 43 – Why wouldn’t they zap Sean? Vasquez just shot a bunch of cops in Sears. They can hardly be worried about public appearances at this point.
p. 47 – Under the circumstances, I’m having a hard time understanding why Duke wouldn’t order Jugs to take out Sean.
p. 52 – I did not realize Aunt Sarah was really Kitty’s aunt until she was dead. Perhaps this is just careless reading on my point, but I thought it was just a case of mistaken identity. Part of my confusion stems from the fact that she call’s Kitty Kefira. It might have been less confusing if you had referred to Kitty by that name before, as this is an important plot point you don’t want the reader to miss.
p. 53 – Jugs finally gets around to zapping Sean a second too late. Good thing they’re not playing Call of Duty or Sean would have been dead about a hundred times by now.
p. 55 – “He spends more time with the engine than he does with me!” – The teenager’s words do match the urgency of the moment. There are trained killers shooting at him. Does he realize he could die at any second?
p. 61 – The Sean-zapping device needs to recharge? That is really lame.
p. 62 – This is a good scene where he cuts the device out of his neck. Problem is Jugs should have zapped him twenty pages ago. For this scene to be truly effective you must come up with a plausible way to delay the activation of the device (so far you haven’t come close to doing that). The other option, is to make this the first thing Sean does after he disarms the bombs. Actually, this is the only intelligent thing for him to do. He knows the device is there. So the moment he deviates from the plan, he should know he has to do this. Otherwise they’ll kill.
p. 69 – Duke is eliminated for fucking up the assignment. This makes me think of a way out of the huge implausibility dilemma in this script. What if the mission was to merely plant the bombs, but not set them off? Only Vasquez turns out to be a double agent (or just plain insane) and sets them off. Then Duke gets eliminated for losing control of the mission and Smoking Man and other agents make the best of this new situation. Now they just need to tie up the loose ends of Sean and Kitty, so they don’t go public with the true story.
p. 73 – “On the end…” - This is very confusing, because at first I thought you meant the other end of the phone line.
p. 74 – Good idea for Kitty to remove the chip. But why haven’t they killed her yet?
p. 83 – I’m not buying the hiding in a mattress business.
p. 86-89 – Donner does not come across as a skilled interrogator. He certainly isn’t someone the FBI would send in to question the wife of a terrorist suspected of blowing up the Mall of America. He’s not nearly cagey enough – all speeches, instead of actually trying to get some useful information from her.
p. 98 – It makes no sense at all for a government sanctioned operation to fly a plane into a building in Chicago. To begin with, an operation like this requires planning and this is all spur of the moment. Second, it has no chance of success. Remember the evening of 9/11? The entire country was locked down. No way are two terrorists going to get up in the air after bombing the Mall of America, even with the help of a clandestine government organization. Third, this is just overkill. The mission was accomplished with the bombing of the mall. Fourth, even if this crazy scheme succeeded, why risk it, as it would only draw attention to the more improbable aspects of the government conspiracy?
p. 112 – Kitty had to die for her sins. Good move.
p. 111-116 – The denouement is long and a chore to read after the fast pace of the preceding pages. The TV commentary on p. 115 is completely unnecessary.
Review of: The False Flag
reviewed by jayb on 01/06/2012
Review ID: 4073788
Other Reviews by jayb 77
A review of Brokenby jayb on 09/15/2012Featured Screenplay on TriggerStreet and good showings in multiple contests… BROKEN has garnered a lot of positive attention. For some reason, I did not connect with it. Apparently, a lot of other people did, so maybe it’s just me. But I felt it was a good concept poorly executed. The premise is right on track, pushing the protagonist to care for his childhood abuser,... Featured Screenplay on TriggerStreet and good showings in multiple contests… BROKEN has garnered a lot of positive attention. For some reason, I did not connect with it. Apparently, a lot of other people did, so maybe it’s just me. But I felt it was a good concept poorly executed.
The premise is right on track, pushing the protagonist to care for his childhood abuser, after he’s been rendered helpless by a stroke. But it was hard for me to identify with Daniel, and all the other characters were ciphers, clichés, or shallow cutouts.
Daniel does not strike me as someone who has experienced genuine childhood trauma. He exhibits some of the outward signs of childhood sexual abuse, such as low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction and compulsions, and substance abuse. But he hits the wrong emotional register, striking me as more histrionic than genuinely traumatized. He lacks the guardedness and emotional numbness and dissociation you might expect to see in someone who was abused as a child. And where is the avoidance behavior? This might actually be the point of your story, forcing the protagonist into a situation he would much rather avoid. I suggest you go further in that direction, using the first act to establish the extreme measures he will take to avoid facing the pain and trauma of his past. For this to succeed, you must provide him with a much more compelling reason to move in with Kevin and help with his care. I also believe it’s a mistake for the story to begin with him in a support group. Placing him in the group at the start, trivializes his pain, making him look weak and histrionic. If you want to keep this subplot (and maybe you shouldn’t), let the events of the story push him to face his pain and seek the healing of a group because he can no longer deal with it on his own. That should be Kevin’s role in the story, to push him to seek help, not for Daniel to already be engaged in that process.
The other problem with Daniel is a storytelling issue and ironically results from too much realism in this character. Daniel is a passive protagonist. That part of Daniel’s character is realistic from a psychological point of view. But it makes for difficult storytelling.
Through the first half of the story, Daniel is a whiny, fearful, reactive baby who cowers at the feet of the women around him and does whatever they tell him to do. The one driving goal he has in life – to write a book that might help him come to terms with his abuse – gets redirected by his editor. This is as you might expect it to be for someone traumatized by childhood abuse. But it tends to get in the way of the story. The scenes where he gets pushed around by Marina are especially cringeworthy. Some of them felt real. But I really wanted to shake him by the shoulders and tell him to grow a pair. That’s good in a way. But I think it needs to be balanced by more sympathetic qualities, of which Daniel currently has almost none. It would be nice if we could see him doing something that didn’t revolve around his emotional issues and that could cast him in a more positive light. I didn’t think much of the support group subplot. It might be better to put him in an unrelated situation, such as volunteering at an animal shelter, where you can explore the same themes through the subtext. OK, that’s a cliché. But hopefully you get the idea… Cast him in a more positive, sympathetic light in some environment not directly related to his personal experience with abuse. Instead of a support group leader, make Jen a hot veterinarian. Think about it. Subtext is the key to make this work.
Regarding the changed book assignment, it might be better to have Daniel come up with this idea after he moves in with Kevin. His book, his goal, he should drive it. Anything else makes him look weak and not worthy of a reader’s emotional investment.
Lastly about Daniel, his arc was presented in a way that was inexplicable and unbelievable. Victims of abuse are generally very guarded. There is nothing in their experience to make them as gullible and naïve as Daniel is portrayed when he suddenly believes in Kevin’s redemption. The transformation occurs so rapidly as to make it even more unbelievable. It’s a neat cinematic trick to externalize the transformation in the toy, but psychologically, it makes no sense at all. Transformations occur within a character. I didn’t get much sense of what was going on inside of Daniel.
As for the other characters… Kevin is too pathetic to make an effective antagonist. I didn’t know what to make of his apology and I totally didn’t believe the transition from stroke victim back to masturbating pederast. He didn’t strike me as a real person in any way at all. And what’s with the “eye” instead of “I”? Is there a difference in pronunciation?
Susan was another highly problematic character. In family situations like the one depicted in this story the most obvious question is, What were the parents doing? In BROKEN there are strong intimations that Susan is implicated. But I never learned why or how. Daniel makes a cryptic remark at the end that he knows what she did to Kevin. But either I missed something or he’s implying that she somehow abused Kevin. I’m not sure. This could have been inattentive reading on my part. But it seemed to me that her words and behavior were out of synch with the information available to the reader. I like subtext in a story. But it feels like something’s missing (or maybe I just missed it, which is certainly possible).
Of all the characters in this screenplay, Marina is the most irritating. Some audiences love characters like this, but I think she’s a total cliché. She behaves nothing at all like a real CNA and the three word sentences are incredibly annoying and nothing at all like the speech of most Russian immigrants.
The writing in BROKEN is mostly very good, with the exception of dialogue, which tends to be on the nose and expository. Also not enough variation in speech between characters (except, of course, Marina). The description is very good. Almost at the pro level.
All the flashbacks interrupt the narrative flow. I also feel they cheapen the story. We get to see Kevin being a bully to Daniel. But there is no emotional force in a brief scene of an 18-year old dangling an 8-year old over the side of a house (page 26). I believe it would be a lot more effective and horrifying to leave most of this to the imagination. The dreams sequences were not much better. They add nothing to the story and disrupt the flow.
p. 1 – Ominous opening. The imagery is effective, but it took me a moment to visualize because of imprecision in the language. A parachute canopy is not a wheel and nylon is in no way a fabric.
p. 3 – The chair flip seems overplayed to me.
p. 7 – Not a big deal, but the email messages are a clumsy way to do exposition on his financial situation. So far, the writing is for the most part professional. It reads like a real screenplay.
p. 1-10 – Not a lot to like about Daniel. He’s an underpaid deadbeat who writes the wedding column for a Chicago paper, cheats on company time, attends a woman’s support group and frequents prostitutes. Worst of all, he drinks rainbow sherbet shakes with vodka! Everything about him screams victim. The only positive information we have about him is that he has a goal to write a book about pedophiles. There’s enough of a hint of trauma around him to keep me interested, but I’m still not with this character at this point in the story.
p. 11 – The dialogue in this important scene is a bit on the nose.
p. 16 – “Find a study on reconciling sickos with their victims.” Josh just happened to hit on the very approach to this subject matter that’s most likely to put the protagonist through paces. I don’t believe it. This premise feels like it’s coming from you, the author, not the characters.
p. 18 – Smashed mirror is a cliché.
p. 18 – “ex sister-in-law” – no one talks that way. Just call her Molly. People will figure it out.
p. 19-21 – I’m not connecting with the emotion in this scene. The conflict seems forced, not felt.
p. 22 – Daniel comes across very poorly in the group scene. Full of self-pity and rage. That might be real, but not very sympathetic. He is shaping up to be a very hard to like protagonist.
p. 28-29 – This is an effective scene where Daniel takes the pistol to Kevin’s head. Perhaps that’s because Daniel is finally asserting himself as a protagonist.
p. 31 – Daniel is looking passive and helpless again. He surrenders his gun to Jen and his booze and pills to Allison. He needs to man-up: be an armed and drunken maniac or get his shit together. But don’t leave this crucial decision in the hands of the women in his life.
p. 32 – Now another strong woman is telling Daniel what to do. I can picture Daniel freezing at the prospect of sticking his abuser with the syringe. It feels real. But it makes him look so weak. You can turn this scene around by having him jab Kevin intentionally hard with the syringe after Marina calls him a baby. Marina scolds him for being too rough. He snarls at her, “Fuck you, you’re a paid attendant,” and storms out of the room, self-satisfied with the sudden enlargement of his gonads. Maybe you are saving a transformation for the end of the story, but the audience need hints of it earlier on, or they will lose all sympathy for your protagonist.
p. 34 – Dr. Haines does not talk like a real doctor. On what basis is he predicting a significant recovery? Kevin is still practically a vegetable. No doctor is going to risk encouraging false hope without very tangible signs of improvement.
p. 42 – “My job is to do no harm.” – On the nose. Plus, I can’t imagine a doctor speaking that way to the relative of a patient, unless they were close personal acquaintances.
p. 43 – “Eyem Shurree!” – This verges on the comic. Not sure that’s the impression you want to create with an antagonist in a story of this type.
p. 48 – Daniel getting pushed around again. When is he going to stand up for himself?
p. 54 – Who does Marina work for? No way her agency is going to forego the opportunity to bill for home services as long as insurance is paying the bills. Send in a replacement for a week who sits around watching TV and ignores the patient. That would be much closer to reality.
p. 55 – I’m not buying Daniel’s sudden conversion one bit. I can see this as a cynical ploy to sell his book. But no way is he going to undergo any kind of internal transformation based on events so far. All indications are that Kevin is still the sociopathic pedophile he always was and if Daniel was really his victim, he would surely know this. At this point, I wonder if you are working for a twist where Daniel puts his trust in Kevin only to have it betrayed once more. If that’s the case, it won’t work.
p. 56 – It’s good to see Daniel taking the initiative at last, even if it’s for the wrong reason. That’s the good part of this scene. But you really cheapen it when Jen reacts by slapping him. This response is totally at odds with reality.
p. 65 – I don’t get this. Daniel writes about his story as if it happened to someone else? That seems incredibly foolish to me. Would he really do that? Why even write the book?
p. 70 – For Kevin to give Ricky the same toy as Daniel, the two boys would have to be contemporaries. That’s impossible given the ages of Kevin and Mrs. Cantorship.
p. 87 – Josh’s turn to hostility feels forced. You should establish him as more of prick at the start if you’re going to have him behave this way so near the end.
p. 90 – Daniel’s failure in bed with Jen feels real, but it’s a real downer for your protagonist so near the end. I believe a scene like this would work much better earlier in the story. Somewhere slightly past midpoint, perhaps.
p. 90 – I don’t see much of a connection between the study and the parable of the scorpion and the frog. Anyway, the parable has become such a cliché, you really should consider taking it out.
p. 101 – “I know what you did to Kevin.” Not sure if I know. Did I miss something? Maybe she abused Kevin, or let her husband abuse him. I’m all in favor of hidden meaning. But it might help to clarify a little more here. read
A review of Divine Intervention V.3by jayb on 08/24/2012It’s refreshing to see a script like DIVINE INTERVENTION on TriggerStreet. It may not be the most marketable concept and subject matter. But done right, I would be interested in watching a movie such as this. It has several features to recommend it: an exotic locale and period, psychologically interesting characters, and lots of potential for melodrama (a good thing in my... It’s refreshing to see a script like DIVINE INTERVENTION on TriggerStreet. It may not be the most marketable concept and subject matter. But done right, I would be interested in watching a movie such as this. It has several features to recommend it: an exotic locale and period, psychologically interesting characters, and lots of potential for melodrama (a good thing in my opinion). I could see a Canadian Ingmar Bergman taking this material to the level of cinematic art. But the screenplay needs work.
In many respects, you get the period, setting and dialogue right. But at other times not so much. The characters felt more contemporary than period, especially in their dialogue. On the whole, there is too much familiarity between sexes and generations. Also, some of the dialogue is on the nose.
It’s a novelty for most audiences to see a period movie based in New Brunswick, so I would play up the setting. Help us feel what it would be like to live in that place at that particular time. I know there was intense prejudice against the Irish then. But I’m not convinced it would play out the way you show it in your screenplay. I want to be surprised when I watch a movie like this -- by the characters themselves and the world they inhabit. Your characters surprise more than most. Though I’m not sure they are always psychologically consistent (Alice is somewhat of an enigma to me). The world they you have put them in is less surprising. In some respects it lacks imagination and a feeling of authenticity. My strongest recommendation to you is to do more research on the setting and the time to develop this aspect of the story. This is the type of story that to really shine demands its own unique world. Too often, I felt like I was looking at a nineteenth century world filtered through the lens of the twenty-first that could have been set just about anywhere in the Americas.
I also had trouble with the characters, particularly the antagonists: Alice, her father and the cruel boys. Starting with Alice, I did not have a good sense of what drives her. She may have been the victim of abuse. But that does not explain her. Her feelings for Simon were underdeveloped. Was she driven by passion for him or hatred for her father or something else? I’m all in favor of psychological complexity and moral ambiguity in the characters of a drama. But I don’t necessarily see that here. Alice seems more like a composite of traits that don’t quite come together. In one early scene with her father we see her both defiant and submissive. People may behave that way in real life. But in this case I felt the author wasn’t sure which way she wanted to go with the character.
The Reverend was a caricature of the prudish religious zealot who can’t contain his lusts. That caricature may be based on a true type, but I fail to see it beneath the exaggerated traits and actions. He did not strike me as a real person. Even more so the twelve year old boys who follow him.
I believe that more research will also help you with character development. I feel you need to inhabit these characters on a deeper level before you can write about them with psychological consistency. Having a better understanding of the world they inhabit and the social norms and pressures they are subject to should help you in this regard.
A note about the title: it seems to hint at a theme for the story that never quite comes to fruition. I thought the opening sequence was compelling, but disconcerting. Mam and Pap’s manner of death seemed quite fantastic, a condition I was willing to attribute to the supernatural, based upon the title: “divine intervention.” I was disappointed that this idea was not developed more in the story. It is not plausible that two experienced farm hands could have died by such careless means, both at the same time. What caused this? I was expecting a ghostly or supernatural explanation. This is the same basic question I had about Alice: what caused her to kill May and do the other things she did? Are characters and events in this story driven by supernatural forces? Or are they driven by the laws of nature and human behavior? Realism or something more expressionistic? I suggest you decide on a consistent tone for this story and stay with it. Either one could work, including a more expressionistic approach that merely hints at the supernatural.
p. 6 – Pappy and Mam’s sudden demise is pretty unexpected. I’m guessing “divine intervention” has something to do with it. But the way they die – especially Pappy – is pretty hard to swallow. One presumes they know their way around a farm and does not expect them to die under such foolish circumstances, even with such intervention.
p. 8 – The dropping of the cup of tea is overdramatic and makes Simon look like a hysteric. Also, I questioned whether a traveler writing from Scotland would be able to predict the day she’d be arriving by coach to a destination in New Brunswick. I suppose that’s possible if there were only one coach per week, but why raise this doubt with the “Today” line. On the whole, this interaction isn’t working for me. Simon’s “I wish it were” feels inappropriate unless he’s having an affair with Alice.
p. 15 – “Simon – help” – Rather informal way for a 12-year old boy to address a doctor.
p. 18 – The interaction between Agnes and her father isn’t working for me. She comes across as silently defiant when her father smacks her (“unyielding in her reserve”). But her two previous exclamations to her father are anything but reserved. Here she comes across as spirited and vocal, not defiant so much as contemptuous. Of these two contradictory characterizations, the silently defiant feels more natural and in keeping with the times.
p. 20 – “Violet Stairs” – This could be a great name for a different kind of character in a different kind of story, but the many potential hidden meanings are a distraction here.
p. 22 – “my heart belongs to another now.” – Very on the nose. I can’t imagine a “shy” girl of this era coming right out and saying such a thing to her fiancé.
p. 25 – Simon and Violet seem to be getting along well. Have they already come to terms with their dilemma? This seems a rather modern approach to their relationship.
p. 27 – Simon looks like a coward for not standing up to Reverend Dunsmore. How can he just stand by while his fiancé and the other young woman he has feelings for are treated this way?
p. 37 – Why is Donny so easily victimized? I would think he’d toughen up after the repeated bullying and try to fight back a little. His passivity makes him look feeble.
p. 38 - Interesting complication here. I did not expect Alice to share the letter with her father. This signals a malicious side to Alice’s character that extends beyond her father. Now I’m curious.
p. 42 – Violet says her parents forbid her to marry Arnold because he’s Catholic. But he was also their gardener. Given the class divisions of the time, wouldn’t that be an even bigger obstacle to marriage then his religion?
p. 53 – I’m not convinced Simon would agree to the ruse proposed by Alice. His life is complicated enough having to balance between a fiancé and the woman he loves. Why would he throw another female suitor in the mix.
p. 74 – Donny’s comment about one being there and the other not points to a weakness in the story. It’s hard to feel the urgency of Violet’s dilemma when one of the suitors isn’t even present.
p. 78 – Eugene’s sudden transformation feels too sudden to be convincing. I’d expect more reticence on his part. The admission that he’s the daft one feels on the nose to me. Even more so the talk about their “history”.
p. 82 – Donny and Violet overreact to the realization that May hasn’t shown up yet. Why would they assume something terrible has happened?
p. 92 – May’s murder is presented in an anticlimactic fashion.
p. 95 – I’m confused. Who killed Donny? The boys? That doesn’t seem very likely. Maybe it was May. I’m not sure. The murders don’t make much sense to me.
p. 100 – “Their poor parents.” – Their parent don’t deserve Violet’s sympathy. I’m sure they raised them to be what they are and can’t imagine Violet would feel any sympathy for them, having been so close to May and Donny.
p. 102 – Effective ending with Simon and Alice getting married, though it’s not entirely clear why Simon would marry her? Does he do this in his grief? To gain a permanent assistant in his work? Or is there a glimmer of romantic feeling? read
A review of The Last Great Western (Rev.)by jayb on 07/17/2012It’s nice to see a Western from an aspiring screenwriter. Hopefully, there is life left in the genre and Hollywood will continue to bring new material to the screen. THE LAST GREAT WESTERN has a fairly conventional plot which has been done dozens of times before, THE OUT LAW JOSIE WELLS being one notable example. The challenge is to come up with a new angle on this old story... It’s nice to see a Western from an aspiring screenwriter. Hopefully, there is life left in the genre and Hollywood will continue to bring new material to the screen.
THE LAST GREAT WESTERN has a fairly conventional plot which has been done dozens of times before, THE OUT LAW JOSIE WELLS being one notable example. The challenge is to come up with a new angle on this old story. You do this to some extent by casting a black man in the role of the protagonist. But Billy’s race is actually much less of an issue than I’d expect it to be given the time and place the story is set in.
I’m not saying you should turn THE LAST GREAT WESTERN into a story about racial prejudice. The scene where River and Hart talk about the Indians and Chinese, reads like the author is editorializing through these characters rather than allowing them to speak for themselves. But Billy’s race is relevant to the story because it presents him with additional challenges to overcome and obstacles to his goal – always good to lay on a protagonist to keep the story moving forward.
One option for a rewrite is to go deeper into the how Billy’s race impacts his goal – the quest for revenge. More obstacles equal more conflict and a stronger, more interesting story.
On the whole, Billy comes across as a moderately likable protagonist. He makes a few questionable moral choices during the course of the story. But for the most part he comes across as one of the good guys, though he breaks the law and social norms on numerous occasions. I did want to know more about his background. Was he a former slave or a freeman? What were he and his family doing living in the West? How did he become such an expert gunslinger and what did he dream of doing before he set his heart of revenge?
On the whole, I felt the characterizations of TLGW were weak. There did not seem to be much motivation to Billy’s character beyond the quest for revenge. He might be more sympathetic if he were looking for some form of justice instead. And I did not fully understand why Ingram and his crew would take such a strong liking to Billy. The female characters are even more one-dimensional than the males. Why does Ember offer her wares to Billy free of charge and then ride off with him? And what became of Miss Sandhez? It feels like the female characters are there only for the sex and romantic interest, with no real place of their own in the story.
A few other random comments… At first I found Ingram’s repeated saving of Billy’s hide to be annoying, but by the fourth time it got to be a running joke and I was okay with it. The one exception was when Ingram intervened to pull Ember away from Jack. That definitely should have been Billy’s place to get involved. He ends up looking like a wimp and a cad for not stepping up to this challenge himself.
The ending was pretty good. I did not expect Billy to die, but that seems a fitting end to his story. The dénouement, on the other hand, was not so satisfying. I wanted to know more about the land deeds that were the object of the train robbery. Not really fair not to explain more about that.
One more thing… There were an unusual amount of typos in this screenplay. I don’t know if you’re aware how unprofessional this looks. Spell check won’t help for most of the errors in this script, which are sound-a-like words, like “there” for “they’re”. I use Movie Magic Screenwriter, which has a check homonym feature that will correct a lot of these errors.
In many respects, the writing comes across as unprofessional. Not just typos, but lots of expository dialogue, anachronisms, poorly paced scenes and erratic transitions. The story itself is serviceable, though lacking originality. Lots of work needed on this screenplay before it’s ready to submit to contests, agents or producers, but a noble effort just the same. Keep at it and you will get better. This is true for all of us.
p. 1-4 – Uneven start. You begin with action, which is good. But there are enough minor problems with the writing to prevent me from becoming immersed in the story. Repeated use of “Beat” is a big distraction and the dialogue sounds more contemporary than Old West.
p. 4 – This is a jarring transition from Billy’s getaway to the bank robbery.
p. 5 – As far as I can tell Miles is introduced for the first time in a line of dialogue. This is confusing.
p. 6. – “What part of he burned down my bank don't you understand?” – This sounds very contemporary. It really jolts me out of the story.
p. 7-9 – One long scene of exposition., very tedious to read.
p. 11 – Why does Billy remove Miss Sandhez’s dress immediately after telling her his job isn’t finished? Then he goes to sleep and wakes up to see a different woman being chased by three men? I’m struggling to decipher what is going on; the storytelling feels very disjointed to me. The scene ends with him being knocked out by a woman with a frying pan after successfully taking on three desperados on horseback. None of this makes sense to me.
p. 15 – Billy joins the band of outlaws. So what happened to the woman they were chasing and he risked his life to save? And why did she hit him with the frying pan?
p. 21 – “time out” another modern usage.
p. 31 – First of all, what are crocodiles doing in the American West? Second, would a band of Apache warriors really give up the chase because of a few crocs in the water?
p. 40 – More expository dialogue about Billy’s tragic past. It would be much more interesting and compelling to show what happened, either through flashbacks or in chronological sequence at the beginning of the story.
p. 51 – I get the feeling that River and Hart’s conversation about immigration is meant to be ironic, but it comes across as one the nose and out of place.
p. 67 – This is the third time Ingram has saved Billy from a life or death situation. That’s not good because it starts to make your protagonist look incompetent. (After the fourth time it became more of a running joke and I was ok with it).
p. 74 – Haten has been a prisoner for the last day and a half. Where did the razor suddenly come from? And what kind of razor are we talking about? Certainly not a Gillette, which did not exist then, though I can’t imagine he’d have been able to hide a straight razor in his mouth.
p. 90 – What claim does Ingram have on Ember? I thought her original intention was to go with them to Carson to continue the trade there. If anyone is going to make a claim to take her out of the life it ought to be Billy, not Ingram. This looks really bad to have Ingram step in a take up this fight for Billy. read
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