Blink

blinkI decided to review Blink because the premise:

Logline: Years after being fully paralyzed during an infamous bank robbery, a man is taken hostage for the secrets in his head. His only form of communicating with the outside world – and outsmarting his captors – is his ability to blink.

is so bizarre. I wanted to see if a writer could intentionally paint herself (1) into such a cramped narrative corner and still tell a propulsive, cinematic, story. I am quite glad I accepted the challenge because today’s script confirmed my top two beliefs about the contained thriller genre.

1. The “container” you build must be leak-proof. If the audience accepts the fact that your container IS realistically sealed, then you will get attention for your script.
2. Every effective contained thriller makes use of “mental magic” to break out of the container to keep the audience entertained while we spend the majority of our time in one location. We’re talking about scene cuts owed to Memory and Imagination.
(2)

Blink is unique in its staging because it makes the container the protagonist’s body. Talk about setting yourself an amazing narrative challenge, how do you take a medium that literally has the word motion in its name and design a story in which the main character MUST remain still? I appreciate the efforts of today’s author just for trying something with such an outrageous degree of difficulty. Once generalized, part of me believes this is an effective method of getting attention all us amateurs could adopt.

Stake out a piece of Impossible Storytelling Geography and then provide a decent map of the territory.

I’m inclined to say your script DOES NOT have to be as good as other scripts vying for Reader Attention when the narrative difficulty is high. There might even be a screenwriting law buried in this observation. Is it possible that:

Narrative difficulty [cinematically speaking] is inversely proportional to skill in execution?

In other words, if you’re going to tell a simple story, you better tell it perfectly. If you want to tell an impossible [cinematic] story, you only have to be ordinarily good. If this hypothesis is true, it would only apply to stories whose narratives don’t make sense in the cinematic context. This is not a commandment to make a story ridiculously complex.

I say this because Blink is a decent script. It’s well-written, and its story adds up. (3) However, I can’t go on and on about the subtext [its there, but minimal] or the theme [also there, but also minimal] because this script is not about any of the things that make a Screenplay great. You read Blink because you want to see if its author can keep the suspense moving while telling a story unsuited to its chosen medium. Because the writer delivers suspense, the reader finishes reading. Basically, this script is about technique. It got attention and a director [in my opinion] because reader’s were rooting for it.

Once again, we have run a review aground on the sandbar pointed out by walker in his comments to the Yellowstone Falls review. I hadn’t thought about this before he pointed it out to me, but I am now becoming convinced that walker has found a corner of spec writing that anyone [of a certain competency] can exploit.

In aesthetic terms, I had always sought Stories that moved through a traditional narrative to produce a non-traditional result. Yellowstone Falls and Blink [and even Huntsville] point at a new kind of script possibility.

Construct an impossibly faulty story and dare the reader to quit reading it.

Because, she won’t. All three of the scripts mentioned above are well-written and clearly understand the format of our medium, and the constraints of our medium… and all three actively subvert the format and constraints of our medium. They exist as challenges to a reader’s knowledge of the rules. She shouldn’t keep reading because she knows the narrative is improper yet, she will keep reading because she recognizes the competency displayed in the periphery. Write a script like this and you will cause the reader to think:

This author knows what she’s doing, but she’s acting like she doesn’t. Necessarily, then, this script has something up its sleeve. I have to find out why, therefore, I will finish reading.

What choice have you left the reader with EXCEPT to recommend your script? After all, there must be something which explains why she read the whole thing. In every other circumstance:

Finishing the read = a good script. Why should yours be different?

Who knows how long this trend will last? My guess would be until the overwhelming number of scripts written each year come to resemble the direct challenges to readers similar to the three scripts mentioned above. I doubt this change will ever happen, however, because the great mass of writers are more likely to continue to try to write traditional narratives with non-traditional results. If they didn’t, all the cottage industries which spring up around the “how to write a great screenplay” market would instantly shrivel and die.

In that sense then, I can say that Blink is:

Rating: Recommended for Imitation

Footnotes:

1. I recognize today’s author is male, I’m just writing the sentence generally. When writing sentences about generic authors I [try to] always use the feminine pronouns.
2. These ideas first came to me years ago while reading The Numbers Station. Our ticket out of the “Station container” was Emerson’s imagination.
3. I should qualify that. The script strains credulity as it winds toward its climax. I know nothing about how police, hospitals, and banks operate, but the number of coincidences which have to happen to get to this particular Fade Out had me mentally objecting.

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