Genre: Period Thriller
Premise: After World War 2, a former SS Captain and a Jewish woman travel through war-torn Germany to find and kill a Nazi officer.
About: The best thing about starring in a big flashy Hollywood hit is that you now get to explore more challenging and serious roles. Such is the case with Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, who is rumored to have signed on to Ruin recently. The project will be directed by Justin Kuzel, who’s best known for directing Michael Fassbender in both Macbeth and Assassin’s Creed. The script has been written by relative newbie screenwriters Ryan and Matthew Firpo, and just appeared on the 2017 Blood List.
Writers: Matthew K. Firpo & Ryan Firpo
Details: 89 pages – 1/6/17 draft
Today’s writers took a big chance.
I usually tell writers that if they’re going to write about World War 2, make sure it’s a true story. There have been so many true World War 2 movies at this point, that it’s become an audience expectation. If the audience finds out a movie set in this era is all the result of an overactive imagination, a lot of them will react with, “Well what’s the point of watching it then?”
Certain genres can work with WW2 fiction. Like horror. The B-Movie horror crowd loves zombie Nazi movies, for example. And you can get away with action or thrillers as well. The Brad Pitt tank movie, Fury, is a good example of both. That’s the route today’s script takes, building a revenge thriller after the most devastating war in history. Let’s see if it works.
It’s been a few months since the end of World War 2. Germany is in ruins. The entire country has been bombed into oblivion. The scraps have been divided between the Russians, the Brits, the French, and the Americans.
“The Captain,” is a former captain of a German SS unit. And judging by his demeanor when we meet him, things aren’t going well. The Captain (he’ll remain nameless throughout) is on the hunt for someone named Anton Richter. He plans to kill this man, as well as everyone else in his unit. We don’t know why, yet. But we get the sense that the reason is personal.
After injuring a member of his former team, the man tells The Captain of a Jewish woman named Elsa who was Richter’s “personal whore.” She knows where he is. So off The Captain goes in search of Elsa, finding her just as her head’s being shaved in public for being a “traitor.”
The Captain gets more than he bargained for when Elsa refuses to tell him where Richter is unless she can come with. This man, we will learn, kept her as a prisoner for two years. Got her pregnant. She had a baby that was then taken from her. Which means Richter has her daughter.
The Captain reluctantly allows her to come with, and the two traverse a war-torn Germany where there is no law, no rules, and the country is steeped in sadness and anger, which reveals itself in many forms. When the two finally do find Richter, Elsa is met with shocking shocking news – news, it turns out, The Captain knew all along.
I absolutely loved the first 40 pages of this script.
There were lots of cool things going on.
For starters, I loved how they flipped the script on the hero’s and villain’s introductions. Our hero, The Captain, is introduced heartlessly killing people. Our villain, Richter, is introduced lovingly helping his daughter shake off a bad dream.
Traditionally, newbie writers will go the obvious route and start off with the hero doing something heroic and the villain doing something villainous. The fact that the writers played with that trope let me know immediately this wasn’t going to be an average script.
I really like goal-driven movies with mystery motivations as well. We know that The Captain and Elsa both want to kill Richter. But we don’t know why for over half the script. Adding that mystery component is one more way to keep your reader invested. And adding mystery motivations for BOTH protagonists doubled the interest.
I also love what they did conceptually here. Almost every World War 2 script I read takes place during the war (for obvious reasons). It can become hard, then, to find a new story in that world. So many have already been told. The simple act of moving the timeline several months after the war gave the entire script a fresh feel.
Which leads me to the biggest lesson I learned today – and that is, using a script’s unique subject matter to inform your characters.
One of the hardest things to do in screenwriting is create depth in your characters. So often, we rely on cliches to install depth. And it never resonates because it’s too reminiscent of character tropes we’ve seen before. So here’s a cool thing you can do to solve that problem. Take whatever is at the core of your movie then install that into your characters as well.
So if you wrote Safe House, what you’d do is you’d say, “Well maybe my main character stays inside a metaphorical Safe House.” He never takes any risks in his life. This situation will force him to, for the first time ever, take those risks, and move outside of his safe bubble. Now, you’re using the core of your movie to inform your hero. And by doing that, you not only create organic depth, but you win over literary nerds, who find this kind of shit orgasmic.
With Ruin, you’re talking about the ruin of Germany after the war. So using the same formula, you have your heroes in ruin as well. And that’s exactly what we see here with both The Captain and Elsa. Their inner lives are in complete ruin. And it totally works. We can see them trying to heal from both the physical and mental scars they’ve endured over the last five years. So the next time you’re struggling to figure out what to do with your heroes, do what these guys did.
Unfortunately for Ruin, the second half of the script wasn’t as good as the first. Part of the problem was that it lost sight of its genre. This started off as a thriller, but it becomes a drama. And the drama gets so intense that we don’t feel like we’re watching the same movie anymore.
And look, I can see the other side of this argument. There was nothing rosy and fun about World War 2. However, the ending is so incredibly sad and horrifying, that I didn’t feel like the journey I took was rewarded. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if they changed the ending. I don’t think people are going to be okay with it.
But, with all that said, the script kept me reading and wanting to know what happened all the way up til the end. And that’s always a successful script in my book. So I’d still recommend Ruin, and am curious what you guys think of it, particularly the ending.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: If you’re struggling to find a title for your script, it’s usually lurking in the thing that makes your story unique. What’s unique about this script is that it takes place in a post-war ruined Germany (as opposed to within the war itself). Hence the title: “Ruin.” If you can’t find anything unique about your script to inform your title, it may be an indication that your idea is weak and/or unoriginal.