Tony Gilroy is the screenwriter responsible for Michael Clayton and the Bourne Trilogy and clearly a master of the thriller genre.
John Truby * commented in his October newsletter on the story techniques Tony Gilroy used to create the effective and compelling movie experience in Michael Clayton.
One of the most powerful of these is to clearly establish the Personal Need of the Main character, and then connect that need to the crime that character must solve. If you make this a powerful, personal connection, then the audience has the cathartic pleasure of seeing the hero solve his personal problems at the same time as he solves the crime.
You are controlling the emotional experience of the person in the audience watching the movie at the same time as the hero achieves the double goal.
This aspect of the craft hit home to me today in a powerful way as I read ‘The Abduction’ by Mark Gimenez **. The novel opens with one of the main characters, Ben Brice and sets up his personal need and ghost in the two opening chapters.
As the story progresses it is revealed that [and I am trying to avoid spoilers here];
* there is a direct, personal connection between the crime Ben goes out to solve and his own ghost and pain, and the anatagonist is deeply linked to him at 3 or 4 levels – Ben is still causing the villain pain, just as the villain is still causing Ben pain
* the crime is carried out because decisions Ben made as a result of actions in the past by that same criminal – these are complex, and revealed step by step to explain the motivation for the crime and the reaction from the characters
* each of the other main characters in the book, including the victim, is involved because of that connection
* the compulsory one to one scene at the end is between, for the most part, Ben and the criminal face to face
* the crime is solved, the bad guys are defeated, Ben is at peace.
Powerful technique indeed.