Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Script review – “Southern Comfort” (1981) by Walter Hill, David Giler, Michael Kane, Gordon Carroll (warning: spoilers)

This feels different to the film - it doesn’t seem to be set in the past. And it seems to take longer to get going (it’s a little confusing meeting all these different people). But the structure is the same: go on tour; discover boats and steal two; run-in with Cajuns, resulting in death of leader and loss of radio; discovering and kidnapping a trapper; destruction of the trapper’s hut; boobytrap; the knife fight where one of the sensible men kills a maniac; the arrival of a helicopter; the final three cut off, then two; visiting the village.

From memory, the movie didn’t have a young boy watch the soldier die in quicksand, but it did have the trapper who was kidnapped come back at the end to let the final two (Atwater and Cavelli) live, which isn’t in the script – this was a good addition because it helped explain why they didn’t kill Atwater and Cavelli. The final fight is very different – in the film it takes place in the village whereas here the soldiers go outside into the bushes – I think Hill made the right decision for the film. Also in the script, Cavelli is killed while killing a Cajun; Atwater survives after killing the other Cajun, and goes back to the village, to be met by a bunch of National Guardsman having a party. I preferred the ending of the movie, where both Atwater and Cavelli survived but we didn’t know they were safe until the very last shot.

A very solid action script, even if the characters try sympathy: most the of the guardsmen are such idiots that they kind of deserve to die. The best lines are given to Atwater – who has a different name in the film, as do all the other characters (this is a standard Hollywood trick used by screenwriters who come on to a project to make it seem they’ve made more changes than they have.)

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