Dig Deep Down
Doing a review of Slumdog Millionaire earlier this year, I discovered something fascinating.
We all know the movie, and the sweep of the Academy Awards that followed its release.
But I wonder if the movie would have had the same impact if filmmakers went with the ending the original script suggested?
In that dramatic finale, the hero played by Dev Patel “storms the castle” to get to the set of the Millionaire show and answer the final question that will make him rich. His last lifeline call goes out and by gosh SHE answers, the girl of his dreams, and the only one who can help him.
In the original script, she did! And there on the air, gave him the final answer that would solve all his problems, unite them in love… and good fortune… forever. Wow! What a happy ending!
But that’s not how it went. In the movie, Dev connects to the girl of his dreams, but she doesn’t know the answer. And now it’s just Dev and the depth of his experience we’ve seen him live through where he must search for the answer. As the clock ticks, and the pressure mounts, he does.
I’d say. But why?
In my opinion, it’s because that moment now delivered on a key part of what I call the “Five Point Finale,” in which the hero must “Dig Deep Down” to find the answer to any problem he faces.
It’s the “touched by the divine” part. And I think it made all the difference in making the ending of Slumdog Millionaire a success. It’s that part of the story where the hero, having died at All Is Lost, now knows he is not alone. A steely pro, a hero with true — not blind — faith, he knows that if he reaches out into the darkness, someone will take his hand. Someone not necessarily human.
If you are trying to figure out that last little piece in your finale, think of the difference between being given the answer, and digging deep down to find it. This “Use the Force, Luke!” beat is why we go to the movies. When we find it, it will guide our storytelling and give it supernatural power.
It’s truly the little beats as this one that make the great movies.
And so many people (me among them) are unaware of them, until you generously point them out.
I can’t wait for your next books!!
Thanks for reminding us that writing great movies is easy, Blake.
Greetings from Spain.
What was beautiful is that he didn’t know the answer. He guessed. He said ‘A’ because he didn’t really care. It was never about the money, it was just about reaching out to her. If he hadn’t won the money it would have still been a happy ending. Because it’s the inner arc that’s what really important. That’s what elevated the movie for me. he never cared about getting the answers right.
- Dave Carter
Those scenes are what inspire me to try my hand as a writer. Sometimes it seems (in hindsight) that every scene in a movie serves to tee up a single moment or line of dialogue, which makes the movie unforgettable.
I can’t believe I waited so many years to read Save The Cat! Stay tuned…
- Dennis Orris
Do you think it could have worked just as well if she provided the answer, but wasn’t sure if it was correct? He would then have a suggestion to base his answer on and they could merge them to overcome their adversity together.
I haven’t seen that movie since it was in theaters, but I thought that’s how it worked out.
I agree. Although sometimes I think the divine moment is only as powerful as you’ve been able to set it up throughout the story. In other words, the “touch of the divine” has been with the hero all along, it’s only that he or she was unable, until that moment, to see it, or to see it fully. Someone or something has been trying to get his or her attention all along. [Chinatown: “Not good for the glass…”]. Little clues. Foreshadowing that occurs throughout acts one and two. Perhaps this is one reason why I love the finale in Titanic. Whether it involves a divine moment or not I’m not really sure. And I know some people say that the story of Rose in present day is simply the frame story and the main story is about the sinking of the Titanic and what happened aboard the ship. I disagree. The story question surrounds the necklace. Was there a necklace? Rose had it all along. What will she do with it? She digs down deep to find the answer, and her choice, in the end, is full of the whole meaning of the divine moment. In throwing it overboard, she gives ultimate meaning to Jack’s sacrifice, ties her story into a larger one, and shows us that Rose was never alone. The story of Titanic’s sinking, as well as everything that happened aboard the ship, was I think, a vehicle to achieve the emotional impact of that single moment.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Couldn’t agree more. This is the big victory/transformation of self beat that we don’t always get, but yes, these great movie moments are why I go to the movies, that’s for sure!