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‘The forgotton war’ script review » Hungry Screenwriter

Hungry Screenwriter

Breaking down the craft with other hungry writers.

‘The forgotton war’ script review

Logline: A young marine falls in love with an elusive nurse, who breaks his heart when he is about to go to war.
Page count: 118 pages

About the writer:  Patrick is a Florida native who is just now getting hands wet with writing.  This marks the second draft of his first feature length script.
Let’s see what he brings to the table…

The film opens in a retirement home where war vet Charles Wilson is tossing and turning in his sleep.  We are greeted by dream sequence flashbacks depicting his time in “the shit”.  Once awake he is shortly thereafter greeted by a nurse who introduces him to Michael, a young boy eager to interview Charles about his days in The Korean war.  Charles can’t believe the boy has interest in his story because according to Charles “there’s a reason they call it
the Forgotten War.”   Regardless of the apparent haunting memories Charles shows no restraint in spilling his story to the young stranger.

From there we follow Charles journey from the very beginning where he and best friend James depart together, two hopeful marines.   The first thing that made me smile while reading this script was how polar opposite these two are from each other.  You have Charles who is laid back and quiet and James , a loud mouth wise guy who says what he thinks without thinking.  The only thing I questioned was Charles’ consistent cursing.  Right from the start he didn’t strike me as that sort of person at all and the further I got into the story the more proof  I attained backing that first thought.  So they talk for a while as they wait for the bus, all the while letting their personalities glow and after a few annoying remarks from James Charles agrees to introduce himself to the first pretty girl he sees if James agrees to be quiet…

Moments after they arrive at boot camp fate pays Charles a visit and introduces him to Min-Suh, a beautiful, young Korean nurse… You know,   the pretty girl Charles promised James earlier he’d introduce himself to.  Unfortunately for Charles fate was simply cock teasing him because he was not also given the magical ability of confidence and bravery and blows his opportunity to talk to her.  We’re fifteen pages in and the purpose for this film is clear!

A little while later after settling in to their barracks James decides to take a nap, giving Charles the perfect opportunity to redeem himself by seeking out and conversing with the young nurse.  He spots her  packing her things and quickly argues with himself over how he should approach the situation.  He spots flowers and grows excited but as he grabs them he cuts his finger on a vine.  Nice subtle foreshadow there, Patrick.  His SGT spots him and asks him what he’s doing but before Charles can offer an explanation the SGT already knows.   Once again…  Unfortunately for Charles the SGT explains that beautiful nurse is packing her things because she is leaving…  For good.   He then eyes  Charles bleeding finger and explains this:  “Love is a painful thing, son. I can see you’ve already got a taste.”

A few scenes later we arrive at page 30…  Here’s something to keep in mind when writing a script.  You have the necessary three act structure but with that comes the unwritten laws so to speak regarding screenwriting.  Around the 30 page mark you want something to happen that changes everything for your hero!  As I slowly approached this page I couldn’t help but ask myself over and over “Is he going to do it.  Is he going to do it.”  One could argue the nurse leaving for good was that moment but to me, that wouldn’t be satisfying enough.   For one thing it happened on page twenty, immediately after he sees her for the first time giving us very little emotional attachment to his plight of seeing her go.  You want  that thing that changes everything to not only impact the hero but the reader.  You want them to nod their heads and say to themselves “Here we go.”  So, did Patrick do this?

Page 30 opens in a bar where Charles struggles to pop open his can of Beer.  James assists him and the two start drinking.  James drinks his like water and Charles drinks his with the same disdain a child has when forced to drink medicine.  What’s supposed to be a nice relaxing night is interrupted when everyone’s attention is turned to the news where it’s discovered North Korea has invaded the south.  James has no clue in hell what North Korea is but Charles knows and grows increasingly uneasy.   They spend the next part of their conversation trying to convince each other they won’t have to go…   Yeah, right.  I thought this was an excellent twist for our hero who up until this moment didn’t have too much at all to worry about in terms of his current occupation.  Kudos again, Patrick.
So of course they depart in order to aid the south and once arriving at Pusan port it’s clear their lives just got heavier.   The sight of wounded men battered and fatigued haunt their eyes as they fully come to realize what they signed up for.  While exploring their surroundings James and Charles uncover a prison camp full of Children.  This was a cool moment in the story because it showed a truly compassionate side of James who seemed visibly shaken by the idea of children being treated the way they were.

Luckily for Charles fate once again brings this Korean nurse back into his life…  Eventually he devises a plan to converse with her by faking a stomach ache.  This is something she sees through from the moment he opens his mouth but proceeds to play along for whatever reason.  At the end of their first conversation he asks her if she’d be willing to show him around that night, seeing how he’s new there and all.  She agrees by saying “It’s a date.”   Now’s Charles chance.

In what I felt was one of the greatest parts of this script Charles and Min-Suh have their date.  Here Patrick executed fantastic back and forth dialogue throughout an evening that didn’t for a second fail to keep my interest.  I was as hooked as these two love birds were on each other.  From there we go back and forth between James and Charles performing their duties (Not fighting the North) and Charles and Min-Suh growing closer together.  While patrolling together one night James sprains his ankle and is out of commission for a while, leaving Charles to do it alone.  This is a pivotal setup for what’s about to come.

So James heals up and explains how beautiful and “nice” his nurses were but his reunion with Charles is quickly interrupted by their SGT who informs them they’re about to go face to face with the North.  The mood is quiet, tensions are high and soldiers are writing loved ones while all Charles can do is read and think about Min-Suh.   He takes a lonely shower until out of nowhere a voice: ” Hey there, soldier boy.”  It’s Min-suh, naked and prepared to give all of herself to him in that moment.  They begin to kiss passionately but he stops and tries to tell her what’s going on.  She’s not having it though…  Conversation can wait.  Or can it?

The next day James and Charles are playing chess and Charles finally lets his friend in on his current love life.   James is shocked but couldn’t be happier for his friend.  Charles then goes to find her one last time before leaving to let her know the current situation.   After greeting each other Charles informs her he loves her for the first time.  She says it back but guilt is plastered all over her.   In a moment of weakness she kissed a man who had sprained his ankle.  Uh oh.

That part confused me a little bit.  I could see why Patrick wanted to include it into the story but I couldn’t bring myself to believe Min-Suh would make the mistake of kissing another man.  It wasn’t in her personality.   Not to me at least.  I think you should consider giving this part a bit more depth.

I won’t go into detail the rest of the script because I feel like it’s something people should read.  Patrick really came through with a spectacular ending.  I’d like to now discuss the pros and cons I’ve gathered after reading this bad boy.

PROS:

  • A common mistake many writers make involve creating characters that are too similar  to each other.   You have three central characters who are all different enough to stand on their own and for that I commend you.
  • Your first full length script you’ve ever written is a period piece.   A well executed period piece.  You should pat yourself on the back for that.
  • You kept me emotionally invested in what happens to these characters.  I’m one to argue a scripts characters hold just as much importance as the plot does because a great plot without great characters  is pretty much useless (And vice versa of course)
  • I didn’t find myself reading certain scenes and knowing they were filler to get you to the next point you wanted to go to, which is tremendous.  For the most part everything felt like it had a purpose.  Your subtle twists and change-ups throughout this thing kept me interested the whole time

CONS:

  • Every time Older Charles and Michael converse we are brought back to the room Michael is interviewing Charles in.  I didn’t like this.  I can understand the occasional cut back to signify more importance, like an act break but I thought this was extremely excessive.  It kind of hints to your readers you’re unsure how to end or start a new scene.   Have them converse to each other but through VO’s rather than Cut to’s.
  • I wanted more characters!  You’re writing a love story that takes place in a war setting.  One of the greatest things about war movies in my opinion are the several secondary characters and their wacky personalities.
  •  A lot of your descriptions are broken up and separated by blank space when they don’t need to be.   3-4 lines is the number you want and if your description breaks past that, that’s when you want to consider spacing it out.
  • When Charles and Michael talk they use present tense, IE – “What happens at the bar”…  I think it should be past.

Another quick note: SGT JOHNSON’s name for when he speaks is spelled “JOHSNON”.

Patrick, it was a very fun and interesting read.  It didn’t feel like you had no idea how the war was structured and I found myself really rooting for Charles to get the girl.  The ending made me literally frown when you-know-what happens..  In a good way!  You have something here but when we talked I asked you how long this took to write and you told me a week.   You said on some occasions  you could write 30 pages a night.  I challenge you to write another draft, taking your time  more so than you may feel you need to:  Five pages a night  you force to take as long as a 30 page night would.  I think once you’ve done that the next draft will be something you might want to consider submitting to competitions.

Now here comes the fun part where I take the characters  I grew to know while reading this thing and match a face to them.


Channing Tatum as James?


JGL as Charles?


Jamie Chung as Min-suh?

Lessons other writers can take from “The forgotton war”:

  • Make sure your characters (Especially the central ones) have differing personalities.  Nobody wants to read a script full of the same people with different names!
  • Changing things up  on different occasions is a great way to keep the reader interested.  Once you have your plot established build off of that certain things that will keep the reader turning the page
  • Establish early on why we’re reading this.  Nobody wants to be 20 pages in to something and think “Where’s this going?”

If you’re hoping for the same breakdown Patrick received (A read, a phone conversation and main page coverage) head on over to the coverage page.  Coverage is absolutely free but with the cost of keeping this site up I’ve decided to add a donate box  should you choose to tip me.  If you don’t have any money to or don’t feel it’s necessary I do not care in the slightest and you will still receive the same exact treatment as everybody else.
Keep writing!!!

Last but not least, here is a link to Patrick’s script – http://www.sendspace.com/file/su6lbx

About the Author

This article was made by HS founder, Aria.
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