Monday, January 8, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: Flightplan (2005) - When the Antagonist's Identity is Delayed

[Quick Summary: When a widow flies back to the U.S. with her husband's casket, her fragile mind is strained when her 4 y.o. daughter goes missing on the plane.]

What I liked about this script:
- Strong female lead
- It's a real page turner
- Interesting mystery: Is the mother delusional with grief or not?
- Several nice twists & turns, red herrings

What I didn't like about this script: The antagonist takes too long to show up.

I do understand why structurally there is a delay in the reveal.

First, there is plenty of pipe to lay down (ex. the search of the plane; why the female protagonist, Kyle, is distraught; etc.)

Second, the antagonist is continually manipulating Kyle's situation from off screen.  So he is "there," although we do not see him.

Third, part of the mystery is who the antagonist could be.

Fourth, it's a matter of taste and preference how to tell this story.

But for my two cents, the script didn't zip as much until the antagonist shows up (well into Act 2), as in the scene below (SPOILERS AHEAD):


She rushes toward the window. Through it she sees the apron of the tarmac:

A Plain FBI SEDAN approaches. CARGO-GUYS off-load suitcases and golf-clubs. There's that pallet bearing the Mercedes and its smashing window

...And David's casket, rolling off a conveyor belt.

But now Kyle has to picture Julia inside it. God no... 

Her legs fail her; she literally folds toward the floor. Breathing feels impossible. We stay on her, tight on her face, as:

CARSON (cont'd): She'll wake up in about an hour, give or take, and find herself face to face with your husband. You fuck with me, even a little, and she'll die in there - there's about five hours worth of oxygen inside.

A four year-old girl, in a coffin with a corpse. It's unimaginable, enough to drive a mother mad.

And that's just what it's doing - we can see it Kyle's eyes.

She backs away from the window, into the aisle. Carson takes out his phone, casually.

CARSON (cont'd): Now. Let's talk about your exit strategy.

She's about to explode. It's coming...

CARSON (cont'd): After the money is wired  you're going to --

Bang. She goes off.

In a blur, she has bolted down the aisle, catching Carson completely off-guard.

CARSON: Goddamit...

He takes off after her."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Even when it doesn't work for me, I admire when writers attempt a bold structure (here, concealing the antagonist's identity as late as possible).

Flightplan (2005)(current revisions by Billy Ray, dated 6/8/04)
by Peter Dowling, rev. by Larry Cohen, Terry Hayes, and Billy Ray

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