Azazel’s ‘Fallen’ Narrative

Fallen (1998)

– iMDB Rating: 7.0/10

Cast:
Denzel Washington John Hobbes
John Goodman Jonesy
Donald Sutherland Lt. Stanton
Embeth Davidtz Gretta Milano

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Written by: Nicholas Kazan (written by)
Full PDF Screenplay: Courtesy of dailyscript.com

Fallen

I was seeking a film that had skipped my radar at the time of it’s heyday that I could count on to be a decent read. Well, everybody loves Denzel, right? Okay, so I chose this quite irrationally, but I hadn’t seen it & the IMDb score made it a safe bet.

I read it and it is truly gripping. There isn’t a single page in it that doesn’t leave you with a need to know what happens next, the way a thriller should be. That’s the one main issue I discover on un-produced films and drafts that need a good re-write. If I got paid for every unnecessary monologue I have read where folks are sitting around and go into long driveling sentences, where a one-liner would suffice, I’d be filthy rich. Back on point Fallen has a big fat ‘zero’.

Here’s a scene that I think says plenty about good writing. There’s a clear distinction in characters, it shows friendly office banter, while staying on point with an ongoing investigation, moving it forward to the next clue, the next scene. Three quarters of page 46, just under a minute of footage, zero wastage.

HOBBES

Any more on Muskavich?

JONESY

Only his pizza.

LOU

(passing by)

Hitting your area of expertise, huh, Jonesy?

JONESY

(turns on Lou)

Look man. Pizza is the staff of life. Without pizza and other fine Italian foods, there is no happiness, okay?

(turns back to Hobbes)

There was one slice left. Deep dish: Garlic, Linguisa and pineapple. An unusual combo, but Gina’s over in Oak Park has it as a #17. Plus there was nothing in Muskavich’s stomach, so it was the killers eats.

HOBBES

You’re saying the killer might be from Oak Park?

I did after my read watch the film too and it translates pretty much as it is on the page. The only small departures were unimportant. How does one decide what is unimportant? Hmmm.

Disclaimer: If you haven’t either seen the film or read the screenplay, and want to avoid spoilers you should probably stop right here. Below I’m about to outline practically everything that happens in the film.

I’m going to use Blake Snyder’s ‘Beat Sheet’ to go over what the core skeleton of the film is. Answering the above question, if it’s not in the outline, it’s probably unimportant.

Opening Image: Struggle at a cabin. A narrating Denzel/Hobbes: “This is how I almost died.”

Set-up: Hobbes lives with his disabled brother & nephew. He once had a woman by his side, now his job as a homicide detective, his colleagues & these two dependants are all he has.

Theme Stated: Rewind to: Hobbes visiting a serial killer that he has caught, just before his execution. The killer seems undisturbed by this fate, as though he hasn’t lost, leaving Hobbes a riddle & stating this isn’t the end. ‘We’ see the passing of the ’soul’ through multiple hosts as he dies. The executioner to X to Y… to Anorexic.

Catalyst: Hobbes’ landline rings in the night, the killer used to call this way, but he’s dead. A coincidence?

Debate: Anonymous Tip #1: One more murder (Anorexic) with the same MO & a clear link to the executed felon. The very same riddle. Creepy. Two coincidences? Surely not.

Break into Act Two: Following & solving the riddle leads to a question. “What happened to Milano?”. Hobbes advised by boss to drop it. (Hobbes can’t. – he chooses Act 2)

B Story: Hobbes goes to see Gretta, the daughter of Milano, the only living lead to that question. She ambiguously evades questioning, but leaking a fear of demons, by being surrounded by angels.

Fun & Games: Hobbes chases clues with the aid of colleagues. Late at night, he walks home. A Mousey-Guy passes by him. The next day, Anonymous Tip 2: Mousey-Guy is now the victim, same M.O. and Hobbes recognises him. The ‘soul’ is playing with Hobbes. It continues passing itself to new hosts. Hobbes investigating, connecting clues, finds a location map for where Milano died, he drives there, discovering ‘the cabin’ from Opening Image, a cat startles Hobbes. His investigating there leads Hobbes to the word AZAZEL. Upon his return, he feels as though he is being followed. We see that his being followed involves a number of hosts. Hobbes sees Gretta who warns him, Hobbes is playing with fire, should stop. he states he can’t. (Won’t.) It’s his job!

Mid-Point: Library, discovering AZAZEL is an ancient demon who uses people as hosts, passing from one to another by simple touch. Placed together with the Anonymous tips, this making sense in a strange way. He also learns the language of the demon is Aramaic.

Bad Guys Close In: Hobbes decides to confront it, telling it, that he is aware of it. AZAZEL reveals himself with his power, shifting from host to host by touch, right in front of Hobbes, then disappearing. Using his skill AZAZEL comes to the precinct, but why? He takes Hobbes’ pen & makes his presence known, scaring Hobbes. Afraid, when Hobbes returns home, he’s confronted yet again by the demon, leaving a clear message. I can get to you & yours!

As Hobbes chases, AZAZEL tauntingly speaks to Hobbes through a man, then points a gun at him. Hobbes instinctively shoots him dead. Victory? No. AZAZEL survives having found another host without touch, Hobbes has killed a man in vain. Hobbes needs more information & seeks it from Gretta who shares that as well as touch, the demon can also transfer to nearby people upon the death of a host.

All is Lost: At the precinct, the boss tells of Hobbes’ fingerprints being at each of the crime scenes. He’s on borrowed time & MUST solve this fast. He may have made sense of the demon, but has no solution to defeat him. The demon kills his brother.

Dark Night of the Soul: Hobbes hopelessly on the run, brings his nephew to Gretta, hiding & protecting the only remainder of his own.

Break into Act Three: Discussing AZAZEL with Gretta further, Hobbes seeks limitations. When transferring to new hosts. How nearby does he need to be? Aaha! Hobbes has a plan.

Finale: Hobbes attempt to execute the plan by driving himself to ‘the cabin’, making a call to the precinct as bait, to lure AZAZEL to him as he waits. The plan not really clear. A familiar face arrives, it’s his boss, here to arrest him, or it could be AZAZEL? Hobbes needs to know. His partner also appears there. Two people? This ruins his plan of isolating the demon. Which one is AZAZEL anyway?

AZAZEL reveals himself in the partner, who kills his boss & gloats. Hobbes shoots him, but not an instantly fatal shot. He buys himself time to poison himself. Ah, the plan. By the time his partner dies & AZAZEL transfers himself to the only other man there, he, Hobbes too would be dying, thus killing AZAZEL. Partner dies. AZAZEL is now in a struggling poisoned Hobbes.

Revisit the Opening Image: Struggle at a cabin. A narrating Denzel/Hobbes/AZAZEL: “This is how I almost died.”

Final Image: Victory? No. A cat exits.

THE END.

Wait, so the pizza scene ‘is’ unimportant?
No. We’ve established in the Set-Up, his colleagues and family are important & they need to be real people. Real people often eat, but we would rather they moved the story forward too, instead of just eating on-screen, right?


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