A good script is more than just a blueprint for a potential movie; it’s an entertaining read in and of itself, a dramatic work that takes shape in the mind long before the sets are built and the actors cast. Whip Whitaker (who has the balls to name his hero Whip Whitaker?) needs about half a page to establish himself as a memorable character. By the end of the script he’s long past memorable and stepping into classic. Profane, reckless, sharp-tongued, bitter, courageous and funny as hell, Whip is a part for the ages. Leading men all around the world must have engaged in a battle royal for the privilege of playing that role (and the right man won).
As for the flight scene … well, no spoilers here, but reading it for a second time on a plane 36,000 feet above Newfoundland was a bad idea. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a better action scene, or one that prompted such a physical reaction from me: the sweating palms; the roiling stomach; the lip chewing. The dialogue provides so much propulsion that the descriptions almost become secondary.
At a time when dramas written for adults are rarely made by the studios anymore, Paramount deserves credit for taking on a dark, brooding, morally complex story. And John Gatins deserves the acclaim coming his way for writing one of the most compelling scripts of recent years.
David Benioff, co-creator of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” is author of the novels “25th Hour” and “City of Thieves.”