Genre: Heist
Premise: An American thief living in Paris (Paris. See?? French Week!) is coerced into pulling off a complex heist in order to save his kidnapped wife.
About: Today’s script finished low on the 2011 Black List. It was originally a pitch that started a bidding war, with Dreamworks delivering the winning bid over Warner Brothers. It’s currently in development at the studio. The writer, John Hlavin, wrote two episodes for the critically acclaimed show, “The Shield.” His biggest credit, however, came last year, when he wrote the latest film in the Underworld series, “Underworld: Awakening.” He also sold a spec to Warner Brothers a few years ago called “The Gunslinger,” which Roger reviewed for me. Oh yeah, baby. It’s a good old-fashioned professional spec script review here on Scriptshadow. ☺
Writer: John Hlavin
Details: 132 pages

tom_cruise-440x330I think this has Tom Cruise written all over it.

Wow, after yesterday, I’m surprised some of you are still reading. It’s always funny to me how up-in-arms people get when you criticize any historic pillar of cinema or screenwriting. It’s as if these things can’t be challenged, that just because they’re talked about in film school or influenced great filmmakers, we must all fall in line, nod are heads, and agree that they are great.

Personally, I think that’s a load of b.s. If you think the French New Wave is a bunch of New Wave baloney, say so. If it’s harder for you to suspend your disbelief when you watch a black and white movie, say so. If you believe the latest Oscar contender that everyone can’t shut up about is a boring piece of pretentious hyena vomit, say so.

I can tell you this. The WORST thing you can do is to pretend to like something you don’t. Storytelling and cinema are about finding the truth within yourself and your story so that what you create is real. That was the spirit behind the rebellion that was the French New Wave, and I’d think those guys would be happy to hear people rebelling against them for the same reason.

There’s too much bullshitting in Hollywood, born out of a fear that you’ll sound inferior or stupid if you hate something everyone else loved or don’t believe in something everyone else believes in. Stick by your opinion. It’s what makes you you.

Where does that leave us today? With a heist film, of course! This one a pitch to Dreamworks. The whole pitch sale thing always confused me. It’s so damn hard to write a good script. Even the best screenwriters in the business struggle to do so. And you really don’t know if you have something until you’re finished and the script is out there. So to bankroll a script that hasn’t even been written yet is always a huge gamble (unless it’s based off a well-known pre-existing property of course). I suppose if the writer is proven and has an extremely specific outline, so you know exactly what you’re getting, maybe then it’s worth going for, but in my mind, you just don’t know what you got until those 110 pages (or in this case, those 130 pages!) are printed up. So why risk it??

35 year-old Michael Kitson does one thing really well – he robs banks. He’s been doing it all his life and he’s never been caught. His current city of choice is Paris. Why rob those lame bunker-looking buildings in the U.S. when you can rob a building with some style and history, you know? Then afterwards, you can stroll down the street and grab a fresh pain au chocolate from the café.

But Michael’s getting tired of the grind. And the love of his life, his wife Elise, is starting to nag him about quitting. So Michael makes the call. He’s officially retiring. He and Elise will head off to some island with a pretty name and never come back again. I mean why not? He’s got all the money in the world anyway.

Well not ALL the money apparently. Becker, Michael’s go-to middle-man, has a new job for him. The “French Blues.” The “Blues” are a set of blue diamonds that were thought to be made-up. No one’s actually seen them. But according to Becker, they’re real, and his client wants them badly. Sorry, Michael says, he made a promise to his wife. He’s out for good.

Except when Michael gets home, he learns that he’s not out of shit. Elise isn’t home, and it doesn’t take long for Michael to realize she’s been kidnapped. The call comes moments later. “Do the job. You get your wife back.” Shit. Michael freaks. He’s typically calm under pressure but when his wife is involved, all that goes out the finetre.

He puts together a four-man team and tells the kidnappers he wants to talk to his wife. He specifically wants her to tell him the story of how they met so he knows it’s her. What follows is two weeks of prep to steal the French Blues from a wealthy businessman who happens to be a former MI-5 agent.

During this time, we repeatedly flash back to Michael and Elise meeting, falling in love, him telling her he’s a bank robber, and her eventually accepting it. What begins as a set of mundane memories, however, turns out to be a carefully constructed code the two agree on should Elise ever be taken. Via this code, she’ll be able to communicate to him where she is and who’s taken her.

I’ve said it before. A good heist script is hard to do right because they’ve all been done before. Which is why I tell heist scripters to focus on something besides money. Money is a great motivator in movies, but since we’ve seen heists for 10 million dollars, 50 million dollars, 100 million dollars, there’s really no dollar amount you can throw at us that’s going to get us excited.

Hlavin’s Heist script does a good job in this regard, making these mythical diamonds the centerpiece of the heist. And when you think about it, the heist is really about the girl. That’s what we’re hoping he gets back.

However, this is where Hlavin’s Heist runs up against the same problem all of these kidnapping scripts do: How to make us care about the person kidnapped. You only have a few options. You can do it the Taken way. Spend the entire first act setting up the person who’s going to get kidnapped so we know and care about her. Knowing the character for this long, it’s almost certain we’ll care about her. The downside of this is that we might get bored waiting an entire 30 minutes for the person to be set up.

This leads us to option 2, giving the kidnapped character a really quick 1-2 scene intro before they’re kidnapped. This keeps the story moving along, but you risk us never really getting to know the victim and therefore not caring about her. You have to be a really good writer and write a set of perfect scenes to get us to give a shit about a girl we’ve known for 5 minutes. But it can be done.

The third option is to keep cutting to the person once they’ve been kidnapped, like they do with Silence of the Lambs. We can get to know them that way. However, this way you’re only getting to know them AFTER they’ve been kidnapped. You’d like the audience to care about them before it happens if possible. We’ll be more invested if we care initially.

This leads us to the final option, which is always the least desirable in my opinion: flashbacks to the victim’s past throughout the story. A heist film is about prepping the heist. That takes a long time and has the potential to get boring if you don’t keep things bopping along. Interspersing flashbacks has the potential to slow things to a crawl, since you’re stopping the story completely to go backwards all the time. For this reason, this option rarely works.

So it was surprising to see Hlavin’s Heist make that choice. We kept getting these on-the-nose flashbacks of Michael and Elise getting to know each other. Sure, it made us care about Elise more, but at what cost? Boring scenes. A story that was stuck in reverse for 2-3 minutes at a time. I hated that.

Luckily, Hlavin redeemed himself. Cleverly, I may add. Eventually, after the 7th or 8th flashback, once Michael’s revealed to Elise what he does and she’s accepted it, he says, “Now there’s something we have to talk about. There’s a chance, however small, that one day they’re going to take you in order to get to me. If that day ever comes, we’re going to create a code so that you can tell me exactly where you are. You’ll be telling me the story of how we met, but what you’ll really be telling me is how I’m going to find you.”

And so we realize that this whole thing where Michael has Elise tell him the story of how they met is actually a cleverly designed code between the two. They’re fooling the bad guys, and he uses the information to get the jewels AND save the girl, in one hell of a finale.

You see, in THIS specific case, the flashbacks worked, because they were working towards a cool payoff. However, you’re still dealing with a pretty substantial tradeoff. It took us 80 pages to GET to the point where we realized the flashbacks had a point. That means for 80 pages, this was your average run-of-the-mill Heist script. And I was getting bored as a result. That twist changed everything, and the last 50 pages were non-stop craziness as a result (there are a few more twists and double-crosses), but it’s a big risk to write something that straightforward for that long before you reveal all your magic tricks.

Hlavin’s Heist is a tale of two screenplays. There’s the decent by-the-numbers first two-thirds of the script, and then there’s the exciting “nothing-is-as-it-seems” final third of the script. If you can get through the first part, you’ll probably find it was worth the ride.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: With heist scripts, you HAVE to make the heist impossible. If we don’t think it’s impossible, we’re not going to wonder how our hero is going to pull it off, and if you don’t have that element, you don’t have a heist script. So if I were you, I’d write yourself into a corner with your heist. Write the most impossible situation you can think of. Then figure your way out of it. The heist here had a former MI-5 agent at the helm, a house with all the latest MI-5 security measures, only one way in, a personally designed safe that there were no blueprints for in the entire world, 1/20th the prep time they’d typically have, etc., etc. Make it impossible. Then try and find a way out of it.

  • ArabyChic

    “It’s always funny to me how up-in-arms people get when you criticize any historic pillar of cinema or screenwriting. It’s as if these things can’t be challenged, that just because they’re talked about in film school or influenced great filmmakers, we must all fall in line, nod are heads, and agree that they are great.”

    I think you missed the point entirely. Most people were not criticizing your opinions on Breathless – I’m not a Breathless fan either. What had people shaking their heads was your blanket statements not only about an entire generation of French films but French films in general, when it was pretty obvious to everyone that your knowledge of French films is limited at best.

    • JWF

      This. You can’t dismiss an entire country’s contribution to cinema – it was a ridiculous sweeping statement and that is what people had a problem with.

      • wlubake

        That’s the beauty of it. Yes he can! Sure he may miss some great films by doing so, but he’s perfectly entitled to write off an entire country’s film industry if he chooses to do so. That’s called an opinion, whether informed or not. We’re all allowed to have them on EVERYTHING. It’s pretty awesome.

        • JWF

          yeah…so I should have put shouldn’t rather than can’t…



            Wlublake don’t tell JWF that he can’t criticize Carson’s opinion whilst using the rationale that everyone’s entitled to an opinion and “that’s the beauty of it”. It is in JWF’s OPINION that Carson can’t dismiss an entire country’s contribution to cinema. JFW is not physically stopping Carson from dismissing French New Wave, he’s simply telling him that he can’t (which Carson can choose to ignore or embrace). Which, using your rationale, is something JWF is entitled to express.

            Sarah Palin has an opinion. I wake up every morning saying thank god she’s entitled to it.

          • wlubake

            Reread what I’ve written and tell me if you really think I’ve told JWF he/she can’t have that opinion. All I’ve done is defend Carson’s right to express his opinion. JWF is welcome to his/her own. I would hope that he/she chooses to respect those of others in the process.

          • wlubake

            Not really hung up on the semantics of it. My problem is taking someone’s opinion and telling them that they are wrong for having it. It is a personal pet peeve.

    • Brainiac138

      I found those statements to be particularly disconcerting, as well. Anyone can go on Netflix and see that some of the best written, well-plotted, twisty-turny thrillers are coming from France right now. Sure a meandering, no plot film comes around and all the critics go crazy for it, but I don’t think that is any different than when an American meandering, no plot becomes a critical darling.

    • martin_basrawy

      Yeah all these comments of Carson’s reek of ignorance and have turned me off to this entire week of articles. :(

    • GeneralChaos

      To be fair, some people here get pretty dismissive about genre films, probably the same people who had their feathers ruffled yesterday.

      • klmn

        Also, to be fair, I think Carson had just emerged from an insulin coma caused by the mass consumption of pain du chocolat.

    • Matty

      Yeah, Carson just totally ignored most of the sentiments expressed yesterday. If he read them, he’d notice how many people, including yourself and myself, that said they didn’t even particularly care for Breathless.

      I’m not going to repeat myself from yesterday because I thought it was pretty clear, but yes, you should not be making blanket statements about an entire country’s worth of films based on a few films from 50 years ago that you didn’t like.

      I love you, Carson. But you’ve totally missed the point that everybody made – and they made it in pretty simple terms. You can’t really pretend that your past two articles were only criticizing the New Wave (hell, Monday’s didn’t even mention The New Wave). You bashed the cinema of an entire country. I guess you were even going to write an article about why French cinema sucks for tomorrow (God, I hope you do not do that). If you wanted to do a “French” week, you would’ve been best off watching French films and just reviewing them, and them alone.

      • blue439

        Carson should have a conversation with Quentin Tarantino about how much he hates French cinema.

  • Jorge Osvaldo

    Cool info on developing a character before they disappear from the story for an extended period of time. It works equally well for kidnappings, deaths, abandonment, illness, travel, or any other story contrivance.

    It’s hard enough to make the audience care about characters that are present for the entire story; making them care about someone that’s only there for a fraction of the time is exponentially harder.

    I’m wrestling with that problem now, and my choice was to write one strong scene that shows the character interacting with the protagonist before disappearing until the third act. I’ve considered using flashbacks to flesh out their relationship, but like Carson says, they tend to kill the momentum in the story. Instead, I’m coloring the protagonist’s words and actions with a sense of loss; I’m trying to show how every choice the protagonist makes, or every phrase he utters, has been directly or indirectly influenced by the other character’s absence. This may prove to be too subtle, and may not really flesh out the absent character, but it seems like the best choice available.

  • Abdul Fataki

    I’ll say it again – the whole first act was NOT SO THAT WE WOULD CARE ABOUT THE DAUGHTER!

    It was so that we could care about BRYAN CARING ABOUT HIS DAUGHTER.

    • filmklassik

      Yeah but don’t you miss the days when it wasn’t a requirement for the main character to have a WIFE, SON or DAUGHTER in danger (“Stakes people!” barked the executive. “Gotta raise the stakes!!!”) in order to be induced to accomplish his mission?

      Honest to God. Every fucking crime movie now — without fail — seems to have the hero’s S.O or family member in dire straits which in no way makes the movies any better. In fact the greatest crime movies — with the possible exception of DIE HARD — work just fine without it. See DIRTY HARRY, BULLITT, RIFIFFI, THIEF, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, JUGGERNAUT, SPEED, THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE, etc for evidence of this.

      • Citizen M

        I just watched Rififi (1955), the original heist movie. The really bad guys kidnap a child from the bad guys. The first few scenes show you that the child’s father and godfather (partners in crime) are really fond of the child, so you know they’ll do anything to get him back. The child himself is a minor character.

        Watched Rififi and 400 Blows on the recommendation of commenters on this site. Both are great movies.

        • fragglewriter

          I watched “Fififi” last week on TCM. It was mind blowing. I never heard of “400 Blows” so I’ll look out for it.

  • brenkilco

    Yes, you have to make the heist impossible. That’s the easy part. Then you have to make the accomplishment of the heist ingenious and PLAUSIBLE. That’s the hard part. If you don’t, you wind up with a piece of shiny junk like Now you see me. The Ocean’s film teeter on the edge of this problem. But all the old superior ones make you buy the plan: Topkapi, Gambit, How to steal a million. What constitutes ingenious? Well in general I would say ingenuity equals the impossibility of the crime divided by the simplicity of the means. How to steal a Million is not a great movie but you have to appreciate the fact that Peter O’Toole pulls off a million dollar art theft using nothing but a magnet and a boomerang.

    Also, is there a hoarier cliché than the reluctant thief hero being forced to pull a last job because his family/significant other/ best pal has been threatened? God.

    Not for nothing, but the statement that new wave films ignore story is sheer ignorance. Please explain the story deficiencies in Le Boucher, Shoot the Piano Player, The Bride wore black, Elevator to the Gallows and Bob Le Flambeur. And if you’ve never seen any of them, well……

    • Somersby

      I remember quite enjoying the script for “Now You See Me”, but there were a lot of changes by the time it made it to camera. You’re being kind calling the final product a piece of shiny junk.

      There are some heist flicks in which you just enjoy going along for the ride. (“Sneakers”, for example.) I’m willing to accept the occasional breach of plausibility if it doesn’t take me out of the story. But the stretch was so ridiculously farfetched and juvenile in Now You See Me, It felt that the filmmakers were intentionally aiming the story at six-year-olds.

      AAAC (avoid at all costs!)

      The same goes for franchises like “The Fast & Furious”. It’s difficult to relate to or have empathy for characters that are conveyed–and respond to the laws of physics– as if they were in a Road Runner cartoon.

      • Acarl

        Whatever your knocks on ‘Now You See Me’ are, the box office/profitability disagrees with your “shiny junk” claim. Same goes for the Ocean’s films mentioned above. NYSM is considered a summer sleeper hit. Yes, the heists are farfetched but a lot of movie goers are okay with walking into a theater and just going with it. No one is claiming these stories are based in reality.

        • Somersby

          A solid box office absolves a movie from being considered junk? Hm. I guess I’ll have to rethink my position on Transformers.

          • Acarl

            It’s a business. We as writers want to sell product. It is not junk if it gets sold, made AND profits(in my book anyway). Take a look at R.I.P.D., Battleship, Lone Ranger, etc…these are actual examples of “shiny junk” that were awarded as such on their returns.

          • filmklassik

            Acarl’s definition of a good movie: Any movie that makes money.

            Acarl’s definition of a bad movie: Any movie that loses money.

            And there you have it. Done. End of story.

            So who’s the better screenwriter: Paddy Chayevsky, David Mamet, or Akiva Goldsman?

            Answer: Akiva Goldsman. His movies made more money.

            Go now and do likewise.

          • wlubake

            And what is your definition of a good movie? Probably like everyone else: “Whatever I say is good.”
            Acarl and the movie industry as a whole uses box office as a objective measure of success. I guess the question would be, as a writer, do you want to make (1) a successful movie, or (2) an artistic achievement? Of course the answer is both. But if you had to choose one or the other, choosing to make a successful movie gives you the chance to make more movies. Making an artistic achievement that loses money is not the path to more chances.

        • brenkilco

          If you don’t tether the heist to reality, you’re not writing a heist film, you’re writing a fantasy. And a cheap, cheating fantasy at that. Commercial considerations should not be an excuse for lazy plotting.

        • Jonathan Soens

          Haven’t seen “Now You See Me” yet, so I can’t say anything about that. But I think the box office isn’t a reliable barometer for quality. Even “Ocean’s Twelve” raked in money, and that was a horrible mess with an insulting and incoherent heist premise.

          People might just be going for actors they like in the cast.

          They might be going because the trailer makes it look better than it is. Heists play pretty well in trailers, where you can tease the more exciting elements of the heist.

          They might just be going because they like heist films as a genre. And, depending on how long it’s been since the last time a heist film came out in theaters, they might be abnormally excited about the genre just because it’s been too long since they saw a heist film. Just like some people will mindlessly go see any random scary movie around Halloween, just because it’s been a year since they did that and it feel like it’s about time to do it again.

    • filmklassik

      “What constitutes ingenious? Well in general I would say ingenuity equals the impossibility of the crime divided by the simplicity of the means.”

      I love this and, what’s more, I will be quoting it in the future. It’s brilliant. And you’re right, it’s amazing just how FEW movies manage to rise to the level of “ingenious.”

      And how few audiences really care.

      • brenkilco

        Thanks, and you’re right. You’d think audiences would feel cheated and frustrated when logic flies out the window in this kind of film. That they’d throw popcorn at the screen. But sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter.

  • fragglewriter

    Glad your enjoying your vacation.

    I watched the french heist movie “Rififi” the other day, and boy, did I enjoy it. You talk about writing an impossible heist film, well, that movie was suspenseful from start to finish. If you have time, think “Rififi” would be a good film to analyze. Maybe you can do a Heist Week. That would be even better.

    I’m not sure if you’re looking for any French movie input for the remaining of the week, but in my French Literature class in college, we saw three French films. “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, “The Stranger” and “Battle of Algiers.” The do incorporate one or two of the GSU’s. I believe “Battle of Algiers” incorporates all three.

    • blue439

      Best heist movie ever made IMHO. Carson should watch Wages of Fear. That has GSU up the yin yang. Oh, but wait, it’s in black-and-white.

    • brenkilco

      That silent twenty minute robbery sequence may seem tame today but Riffifi was the grand daddy of heist pictures and it blew em away back in the day. And didn’t it also feature a kidnapped kid?
      Action movies today owe a large debt to the verite style of Battle of Algiers though most directors may not realize it. Everything that was so original in Battle has by now been completely absorbed by commercial films. Run it on a double bill with Argo.

      • fragglewriter

        I read about the 20 minute scene before I watched the movie, and let me tell you, it had me on the edge of my seat. “Show and don’t tell” was brilliantly displayed in this movie. If more movies can depict this scene instead of continuous exposition, it would have audiences wanting more.

        I want to incorporate a scene like this for one of my scripts, but it has to warrant it.

        The “Battle of Algiers” is so relevant to today. I haven’t watched “Argo” yet.

        • brenkilco

          And the way Dassin made you as ask, what the hell are they going to do with that umbrella. Dont’ mean to suggest that Argo is really related to Algiers or in the same league. Just that the faux documentary, everything caught on the fly, look of so many films today is directly traceable to B of A.

          • fragglewriter

            Glad you mentioned that part, cause I had to rewind it when I saw him take it off the table. Then when he used it, I said “I would of never thought of that.” That scene made me happy and sad about writing my first draft.

            Happy that I get to watch this movies and try not to do what’s been done before, and sad because that means more time writing one script as opposed to just churning them out. I guess in the end, I’d rather churn something tasty then something regurgitated.

  • carsonreeves1

    Trust me. Worth the read.

  • Matty

    Right on, man.

  • Lenny

    ‘I’ve said it before. A good heist script is hard to do right because they’ve all been done before. Which is why I tell heist scripters to focus on something besides money.’

    Agree. For example, in Davis Guggenheim’s Puzzle Palace a bunch of crooked cops has to enter in One Police Plaza, the NYPD central, one of the most vigilated places in New York (goal) in order to steal a gun involved in a crime they’ve taken part (stakes) before the trial in which it will be shown as evidence (URGENCY!)…

  • sheebshag

    Carson, you should watch Irreversible together with Ms. Scriptshadow and review it for French Week.

    • Alex Palmer

      Irreversible has to be up there with Hotel Rwanda and Fatal Attraction as worst date movies.

  • ArabyChic

    Look at yesterday’s comments section. I think people were throwing out a bunch of good titles – some of which I haven’t seen but am looking forward to watching.

    And for any film buff – especially wannabe directors – check out La Haine; it’s the movie that made Vincent Cassel an international star and it’s by far the best movie by director Mathieu Kassovitz, who packs the movie with a ton of in-camera special effects that make the movie feel like a Scorsese movie in French. And for fans of PT Anderson, there’s a drug sale scene that is almost identical to the one in Boogie Nights, 2 years before BN existed. The ending is a little trite, but the rest of it is amazing.

    • ArabyChic

      Just a warning though, La Haine is not a thriller… and it’s in black and white. But, if you’re looking for something different NOT focused on GSU, that feels like an early Scorsese film set to French Hip Hop… that’s the one for you.

  • Acarl

    Try to keep up! The three films you named that I must find terrible, were all sold, made AND profited quite nicely. And yes, they are all terrific films. What is your point? My opinion is to write at least semi-commercially appealing scripts to better your chances of success.

    • blue439

      You are equating quality with commercial success. They are not necessarily linked. A good movie can not make a dime. A terrible movie can make millions. The quality of a movie doesn’t always determine its commercial success (or failure). If that were true then the best movies would always be the biggest grossers and vice versa, but that’s rarely true.

  • martin_basrawy

    Indeed. This guy gets it.

  • ximan

    “I can tell you this. The WORST thing you can do is to pretend to like something you don’t. Storytelling and cinema are about finding the truth within yourself and your story so that what you create is real.”

    THIS!!! Could it be that because so many people go along with the herd of popular opinion, sooo many scripts suck?? Could that be it? Because surely herd-followers forget what their inner truth is. And surely that facsimile of truth ends up on the page.

    This might be your most helpful tip ever Carson….

  • Spitgag

    Carson’s gonna get 86’d out of the Maurais. Maybe it’s just all that fine French Burgundy that’s making him talk so much shit.

    Man Bites Dog.


  • Calavera

    Hum… To be fair, Taken is actually a French movie. It was co-written, produced and directed by the Luc Besson crew. Was it good or not, I leave it for you to decide.

    I’d like French cinema to be as daring and spirited as you say, but let be honest we do have our share of sacred cows and boring movies. You know, criticizing French movies is not taboo in France ! But when it comes from a foreigner, I guess the operative word is tact :-)

  • lonestarr357

    Just got through with it. Neat read. A little too complex, at times, but fascinating, I’d definitely see this.

  • filmklassik

    “,,,anytime Neeson was cornered he never thought his way out of it, he’d beat up like a bad guys and problem solved.”

    Which is exactly my problem with the overrated BOURNE series, whose main character isn’t merely a resourceful secret agent but a quasi-superhuman who, despite a trendy soulful broodiness can easily take on an army of enemy combatants with two fingers on his left hand and walk away unscathed. It’s not just unrealistic, it’s INSANE, and undermines all possible tension.

    For God’s sake, even James Bond comes up against bad guys who are stronger and tougher than he is, which makes their eventual confrontations, you know — what’s the word I’m looking for? — oh yeah, SUSPENSEFUL.

    But Jason Bourne? Never. And yes, I do mind this. But I know I’m in the minority here.

    • wlubake

      I feel like we watched different movies. I remember a very clever gun fight with Clive Owen in the first one. I also remember some well thought out evasion tactics in all 3. You never felt panic, as the character Bourne is calmly under control, even when in the worst situation. That’s just who he is, based on his training. He always has a plan that he commits to immediately. That’s what made him so cool compared to Bond, who kinda wings it.
      Taken does some of the same (but admittedly not as much). For instance his “meeting” with the French inspector at the park bench. Also, you have to like his cleverness and down-to-business approach when he’s on the phone with his daughter. I think that one scene and the trailer moment that resulted, made that movie millions. That was good writing.

      • filmklassik

        “You never felt panic, as the character Bourne is calmly under control, even when in the worst situation.”

        Forgive me but I respectfully disagree. Here is why you never felt panic, my friend: BECAUSE JASON BOURNE IS SUPERMAN.

        “Calmly under control” has nothing to do with it. Schwarzenegger was “calmly under control” in TERMINATOR 2, wouldn’t you say? In fact you can’t get more “calmly under control” than a robot. And yet we felt tremendous panic for him in the final moments of that movie because the filmmakers (wisely) put him up against a robot who was STRONGER and TOUGHER than he was.

        So whether it’s David vs. Goliath. Bond vs. Oddjob. Rocky vs. Apollo vs. Clubber Lang vs. Ivan Drago. Indiana Jones vs. that Big Bald Dude near the airplane in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Or the Terminator vs. the T-1000… historically the best and most effective heroes have always been OVERMATCHED by the bad guys.

        And this makes things waaaay more suspenseful.

        But I think that paradigm may’ve shifted in recent years, because if the BOURNE movies, the JACK REACHER novels and the upcoming EQUALIZER movie are any indication, audiences don’t want to see David vs. Goliath anymore.

        Nope, they want David to BE Goliath.

        Which is not as good, in my opinion.

        But your mileage may vary.

  • blue439

    And yet the big problem in the French film industry is that French people don’t go to see French films. Instead, they go to see Hollywood films like everywhere else. It’s not the audiences fault, it’s the French filmmakers, or rather the system of finance they use.

  • JWF

    watch anything by Jacques Audiard I’ve mentioned him in the comments on Intouchables and Breathless – brilliant filmmaker.

  • Kay Bryen

    Christ, people need to stop getting their brassieres in a bunch. Would Carson be getting this much heat if he’d generalized and said he LOVED French cinema?? Would people still be telling him to stop generalizing and reserve judgment until he can spell the directors’ names?

    Oh I get it, the difference is stereotypes are only offensive if they’re negative, right?

    French people badmouth their own cinema all the time, but when a foreigner does it it’s suddenly personal. It’s no different when foreigners badmouth America.

    I myself refuse to watch more Bollywood or Nollywood movies (Nigerian cinema is even faster growing than Hollywood). I gave them a chance, I don’t owe them another. My life is not a democracy, it’s a dictatorship and only I decide how to allocate my limited lifetime.

    Yeah there are cinematic gems in every country, but I’m not gonna waste my movie-going time digging for truffles in the mud, or trying to separate the cocaine from the snow.

    KB out.

    • Awescillot

      Boom. Drop the mic.

    • JakeBarnes12

      For those with open minds, Kay, our personal taste over our lifetime can change, develop, mature.

      Often that requires a willingness not just to try new things, but to make an effort to understand them in their historical and cultural contexts before deciding if we “like” them or not.

      That’s not possible with cilantro.

      • Kay Bryen

        “For those with *open minds*…”

        Okay… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that used as a crutch by
        those whose tastes differ from mine. Luckily you’re not one of them, but you risk falling into the same trap: Ever noticed that when someone says, “Try these films with an open mind,” it’s never a 50-50 coin toss. The thinly-veiled insinuation is that you should like these films, if you have any mind at

        You rightly say we need a “willingness not just to try new things, but to make an effort to understand them in their historical and cultural contexts before deciding if we “like” them or not.” So why is it when someone decides they *don’t* like a certain movies, they’re still accused of not “getting” the “historical and cultural contexts”? Why don’t you ever level that accusation when someone does like the movies you like?

        I’ll ask again, because I still haven’t gotten an answer: Would Carson have been similarly accused of generalization, ignorance, xenophobia and much worse if he had just said he *loves* French films?

        I love exploring new types of movies. Nollywood was one such misadventure. I decided it’s not for me. No hard feelings. There are 200
        countries in the world, and life’s too short. I’m not going to spend it repeatedly sampling from the same menu just because someone says I didn’t try this or that director / film / genre / Wave. At what point is someone just entitled to her opinion without being pitied as a barefooted member of the great unwashed who’s stuck in the cinematic Dark Ages and is “missing out” on some so-called gem?

        Lastly you say “our personal taste over our lifetime can change, develop, mature.” Exactly. So does cinema itself. Decades from now French cinema might have evolved to something more palatable to Carson. But not being a time traveller, I can only judge on films my past self has watched.

        Our opinions may differ with Carson every other review, even on Hollywood films. So why is it suddenly a federal case that we’re differing now? Why the personal attacks? Bravo to those who disagree with him while still stoking an intelligent debate. But the rest need to just jump off his nipples and put away that guillotine now.

        • JakeBarnes12

          The problem in a nutshell lies in making sweeping statements about complex and diverse subjects based on little experience or knowledge of that subject.

          Of course we are free to have an opinion on any topic under the sun, but expressing uninformed opinions invites ridicule because we’ve formulated our ideas based on insufficient knowledge and/or insights.

          The way to avoid such problems is simply to limit the scope of our claims.

        • ArabyChic

          “I’ll ask again, because I still haven’t gotten an answer: Would Carson have been similarly accused of stereotyping, generalization, ignorance, xenophobia and much worse if he had said he *loves* French films?”

          This question doesn’t make sense. You want to know if positive sweeping statements invite ridicule because they are just as insulting? I think the majority of positive statements, such as “I love french films”, are not in any way insulting. If that were true, you could never state that you love anything in the plural. The statement, “I love movies” is inherently flawed by your logic.

          By focusing on this you’re missing the point. Not only is Carson dismissing a whole countries films (which is his right), but he is doing it by focusing on two or three examples (which is his right). This makes Carson look ignorant (which is his right) because he clearly isn’t very educated about what he’s talking about (which is his right).

          You’re right in saying Carson is allowed to voice whatever his opinion is, regardless of how well informed it is. Personally I think it’s a crutch. “I may not be knowledgable, but gosh darn it, I still have something to say!” And since Carson is voicing his opinion on a public forum, it is the right of everyone who reads his opinion to inform him of THEIR OPINIONS.

          • Kay Bryen

            No, what “doesn’t make sense” is that you’re disputing my point while somehow managing to *prove* it.

            My point was: if Carson had said, “French movies are awesome!” — how many people would be calling him ignorant and telling him to watch more French movies before making such a sweeping generalization? How many people would be mocking him for not being able to spell the names of the directors before proclaiming his love for them? And how many people would be asking if he understands the cultural and socio-political context of his favorite movies?

            Now you say if it’s a positive generalization it’s not insulting, and so it wouldn’t be ridiculed. That’s precisely what *I* was ridiculing.

            Or is there good ignorance and bad ignorance, depending on what suits us that day?

  • Citizen M

    Have you noticed the many parallels between Truffaut and Carson?

    Truffaut watched a lot of American movies.
    Carson watched a lot of American movies.

    Truffaut started a club to make money off his movie knowledge.
    Carson started a blog to make money off his movie knowledge.

    Truffaut failed to show a movie and went to reformatory.
    Carson failed to write his blog for a week and went to Paris with his girlfriend.

    Okay, their paths diverge a bit towards the end.

  • steve

    French cinema blows. Just saying. There’s a reason why the Frogs line up to see American movies.

  • wlubake

    Pretty sure those good movies you listed all made money.