Note To Film Makers: Endings Matter

Whether it’s the screenwriters, the directors, or the studios – in too many films, someone doesn’t have the balls to finish the convincing, gritty ending that we’ve all been waiting for.

It happens time and time again, a fantastic premise, solid acting, characters that deserve a birth certificate… And then something happens. Somebody interferes. The flow of the movie is interrupted and all excellence scatters on the breeze. Plot holes appear, undermine the integrity of the film, and the whole story subsides, swallowed up in to the depths of the bargain basket and newspaper freebees.

What am I talking about? Some examples off the top of my head; Fracture, Murder by Numbers, Law Abiding Citizen, three films defined by four men of infinite genius, whose devious schemes are nigh on perfect in planning and execution, and yet each is brought down by petty contrivances or deus ex machinas, (usually as simplistic as bad luck).

Then think Se7en. The concept was bold and terrifyingly brutal and arguably it’s one of the best crime thrillers ever created. Why? Because it stuck around even after the final shot (pun intended). The inevitability of that final deadly sin, the sudden violence, the chord it strikes with everyone watching, knowing: “that’s what I would do”. I defy anybody to suggest they would act any differently to Brad Pitt’s character, Detective Mills, as the head of his wife is presented to him in a bloody box. Really, who wouldn’t pull the trigger in anger and hatred at her killer in those initial few seconds after the gruesome revelation? David Fincher and Andrew Kevin Walker were unafraid to do what so often needs to be done. Let the bad guy win. It’s an unforgiving climax that is memorable and moving because it is real. It is haunting because John Doe (played artfully by Kevin Spacey) succeeds.

Of course, there’s a happy alternative. Let the bad guy lose but back it up with something substantial, some irrefutable reason for their failure. Besides being disappointing, it’s insulting to an audience to spend a film building the character of a criminal mastermind, only to reveal, in some kind of clumsy twist, that he overlooked something elementary, or was dealt a duff card by the hand of God etc. etc.

On a lighter note of the same theme, The Inside Man, Spike Lee’s heist thriller was so entertaining because the robbers got away with it. It allowed you, even welcomed you to share the satisfaction of their success, and that was a joy that stayed with you long after the film finished. My point being that such endings mustn’t always be depressing.

Let me put it like this: if you make an audience root for the bad guy, you’re only going to disappoint them when you set him up to lose. If you create a perceptive villain that overlooks nothing, the audience won’t believe you when he slips up. Be true to the stories you create. People want film making that’s honest, plausible within it’s own context, and unafraid of controversy. Film needs to provide two things, entertainment, and art. With one or the other you’ll usually get by, but land both and you’ve created a masterpiece.

With the rant over, here’s two such masterpieces I’ve seen this year: The American, and The Secret in their Eyes.

The Social Network – a masterclass in film making.

Wow. I’m simply full of praise for the team behind The Social Network. Surely Hollywood, not to mention the premium TV channels that have shunned him in the past, are now clamouring for more scripts by Mr. Aaron Sorkin. I’ve written of my admiration for the guy in the past, and I’m sure I will again. His script is quick-fire, quicker witted and utterly compelling. It is saturated with Sorkin style; rapid conversations that are just too smart to be real, multiple topics and scattered trains of thought covered in dialogue scant sentences long, and of course, a sense of humour, all of which combines to create real momentum and audience involvement. (There is also reference to cocaine, a pivotal point for Sorkin due to his own habit earlier in his career. How much that storyline adheres to the truth I’d be interested to know…) At the cinema screening I sat through, the entire auditorium was totally attentive all the way through, an uncommon circumstance these days. And by these days I mean, days in which cinemas are largely attended by loud dickheads who eat and talk and annoy.

Fincher’s direction is top notch as per usual, great pacing, a broad contrast of ups and downs; that emotional rollercoaster people love to speak of was well an truly rolling and coasting.

Equally impressive is the casting and the cast. Even Timberlake, and I can see it’s not going to be long before ‘even’ won’t belong at the beginning of a sentence like this, gave a spot on performance as the infuriatingly slimy and cock sure, Sean Parker (Napster creator). Eisenberg was at his best. Sullen, sharp, unlikeable – a perfect Zuckerberg and last but not least, our beloved friendly neighbourhood Andrew Garfield, playing the hard done by Eduardo Saverin, in what might be his last interesting role for a while as he dons Spidey’s suit.

Except he’s not really last, because three more of The Social Networks greatest assets need a mention.

Well, actually, this is where it gets confusing, because two of those ‘assets’ are actually one person. Armie Hammer, whose acting career is just about to go boom, plays both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and does a hilarious job of it (in the best possible way). Meanwhile, their friend Divya Narendra is played by Max Minghella, another character with a relatively small role who really jumps off the screen and makes an impression.

Ultimately, I think that’s why The Social Network is going to be such a highly regarded film. It offers a spectacular example of film making on every level. Fincher’s on a role, I really hope Sorkin is too. The trailer doesn’t really do it justice but take a look anyway:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB95KLmpLR4[/youtube]

Is David Fincher the main man at the movies?

Let’s hear some love for David Fincher. The man in the chair for a number of phenomenal thrillers, and no stranger to tackling some of the biggest egos in cinema – see Fight Club, Zodiac, The Game, Se7en and Panic Room. His films always draw a lot of punters, for good reason, and although Benjamin Button wasn’t such a stand out, there’s nothing wrong with the film making. Fincher’s latest title will no doubt be taking the internet by storm, at least if it has anything in common with it’s subject matter – The Social Network.

It’s a movie about the founders of Facebook, which instantly turns me off, so if it does you too, then before you slump your shoulders and sigh, read:

In addition to Fincher’s direction, the script is written by my hero Aaron Sorkin and the cast includes Andrew Garfield (the new, older face of Spider Man), Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Adventureland, anything else with Land in the name…) – and ok, so it stars Justin Timberlake, but he’s never as bad as I think he should be, and though I despise his music, he’s earned a sort of grudging respect from me. Besides, if he’s out of place, I’ve just got to trust that Sorkin or Fincher will kick him back in line. All things considered, there are ingredients here which unless severely mishandled should make for a fantastic film.

But The Social Network isn’t the only movie Fincher’s juggling with at the minute. He’s remaking The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for heathens who refuse to watch subs, and details are emerging of his work on animated movie, The Goon.

The latter especially strikes me as interesting, watch the trailer and see if you agree.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SyFk17YvHU[/youtube]