May 7, 2012

The Tomb Script Review

This is the review of "The Tomb" script dating back to a year ago, when it was still called the "Exit Plan" and Willis was advanced as the lead actor. Schwarzenegger had also shown interest in the movie at the time. As we know now, the lead role ended up going to Stallone and the script has also been modified, we don't know to what extent though. The character called Church is now called Swan and Schwarzenegger actually ended up signing up for that role.
The following summary was written by a fellow who has a blog where he writes his reviews of different movie scripts. Spoiler Alert!!

"The Tomb starts in a top level prison with a felon named Ray Breslin, a hard-ass with an attitude problem – Breslin appears to be a little brighter than the rest of the rats in this cage, and we soon figure out that he’s planning an escape. After getting himself thrown into isolation, he cleverly creates a fire raid which allows him to sneak out of the prison as one of the firefighters.

Cut to Breslin in an office – receiving a check. Breslin does this for a living. He gets hired to go into prisons under aliases and designs an escape meant to expose security flaws. And Ray does the job every single time.

Suffice it to say, he wants a challenge. But his handlers remind him that he’s broken out of every major prison in the U.S. There aren’t any challenges left. What about internationally, he asks. And that’s where things get interesting. There’s a mysterious businessman who wants to pay for Breslin’s services for a secret prison, one that’s so far off the map and so top secret, that he won’t know of its location until he gets there. Breslin can’t sign on the dotted line fast enough.

Big mistake.

After being drugged and thrown into the jail, Breslin realizes that this is unlike any jail he’s ever seen. Cells are stacked on top of each other and see through, with a ring-shaped platform allowing guards to see everyone at all times. Escape demands privacy. Here, there is none. But it gets worse. The warden, a bloodless man named Roman Steffes (now changed to
Willard Hobbes), doesn’t seem to know who Breslin is. Which means Breslin’s failsafe, being able to tell the warden his real identity, is off the table. And the topper? Breslin finds building schematics based on his OWN STUDY OF PRISONS. This prison was built specifically to withstand every weakness Breslin has ever found in a prison.

Breslin’s only ally is a quick-witted man named Church (now changed to Swan), who rightfully thinks Breslin’s crazy for even mentioning escape. It’s impossible. Plus Church has his own set of problems. He seems to know one of the most notorious terrorists in the world, and therefore is being watched 24/7 by the guards. How will Breslin ever break out of here, much less with this attention-grabbing buddy of his? And where is “here” anyway?
Yesterday was all about the characters. The inner journey is what drove the story. Here, it’s the plot that’s the star. It’s the twists and turns and surprises and reversals that keep you reading, and boy are there a couple of doozys. I’ve read a lot of scripts, so it takes a lot to trick me or make me wonder what’s going to happen next. And while I definitely had some suspicions, I was genuinely surprised a few times. There’s a late 3rd act reveal in particular that I did not see coming, and it was a good one.

What’s cool about The Tomb though is that it still cares about its characters. Breslin is someone with a real past, believable motivation, and crippling flaws. Breslin’s parents were murdered when he was younger and the killers were able to escape prison. Breslin’s set on the bad guys never finding a way out again. And that’s why he does what he does. It’s a great reminder that you can come up with a cool idea for a movie, but you still have to make the hero interesting enough that some bankable star will want to play him.

There’s a lot of writing skill on display here for an action flick actually. I took note of this towards the end, as in every action thriller, you want to up the stakes to draw out the most amount of tension and excitement possible. If the stakes and the time frame are the same as what they were in the second act, then there’s no real difference between then and now, and the third act fizzles. So in the third act of The Tomb, Roman meets with Breslin and gives him 24 hours to get the location of Church’s terrorist buddy, or he’s going to keep Breslin in this prison on 24 hour surveillance for the rest of his life. From that moment on, the story takes on a considerable amount of urgency. And it’s all because the writer knew he had to up the stakes in the third act.

Another great thing about the script is just how impossible it makes Breslin’s mission seem. Again, this is what writing action-thrillers is about. You want to make the hero’s goal seem as impossible as you can so it looks like there’s no way to succeed. You do that and we’ll be at the edge of our seats the whole time. In The Tomb, there’s never any privacy for the prisoners. The warden doesn’t care about Breslin’s real identity. The prison was built specifically to hold him in. The location makes an escape impossible. I mean, we really have no idea how he’s going to pull this off, and that’s what makes each step he takes so dramatically compelling.
I’ve always liked these “get paid to go in and find faults in a company” films and doing it for a prison seemed like a logical extension of the idea. The added hook of placing Breslin in an impossible-to-escape-from prison where his secret status no longer mattered, was likewise a nice twist. Plot-wise, this was perfectly paced. And I loved the unexpected twist at the end. Easily one of the better “escape” scripts I’ve read in a long time."