Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2013 OSCARS: Zero Dark Thirty (2012) - Three Layered Dialogue

[Quick Summary: Maya, a CIA targeter, hunts and finds Osama bin Laden.]

I was fully to prepared to skip this script.

The controversial topic and hype just became too much.

After I read it to complete the list of Oscar scripts, I was glad I did because it is exceptionally well-crafted.

Yes, it's a heavy topic (and I'm not sure I'd want to get in that head space again.)

But I'd recommend this script, if only for the dialogue.

On a first glance, it may seem to be all exposition.  But if you look closely, the dialogue almost always has three layers:  

- Layer 1:  Basic exposition
JESSICA: How's the needle in the haystack?
MAYA: Fine. [You know Maya is still looking for something.]

- Layer 2: Subtext
JESSICA: Facilitators come and go, but one thing you can count on in life is that everyone wants money.
MAYA (smiling): You're assuming that Al Qaeda members are motivated by financial rewards. They're radicals.  [Subtext is that these are competitors.]

- Layer 3: Moves the script forward
JESSICA (bigger smile): Correct. You're assuming that greed won't override ideology in some of the weaker members.
MAYA: Money for walk-ins worked great in the cold war, I'll give you that. [Twist; has Maya made a concession?]
JESSICA: Thank you.
MAYA: Just not sure those tactics are applicable to the Middle East. [Pushes us forward to the next scene where Maya tries harder.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  It wasn't obvious to me at first, but Maya uses dialogue as a weapon.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
by Mark Boal

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