This screenplay feels like a transcript of the film. What’s on the page is so what’s on the screen, it feels like Sorkin made the movie before he wrote it. It’s clear, precise, and most of all readable, in a way some writers don’t manage, and some screenplays aren’t. It flows on the page the way people tell their stories. It jumps around. There are digressions but only to clarify something else. His use of voiceover is a marvel. Best of all it doesn’t feel at odds with the story. It is the story, Molly Bloom’s story, told in her voice. I have long considered voiceover a literary affectation. Screenwriters use it when they want to get the writing of a book, and the voice of the original author, into a film. It’s used as a framing device to make the film feel like a book. Sorkin goes beyond that. In his hands it’s a structural element that holds together the multiple strands of the story. A must read for anyone interested in screenwriting.
Knight’s writing is dense. His descriptions weighty, full of intention. The dialogue follows the same template, functional and to the point. There’s one plot element that has always bothered me. The revelation that Nikolai is an undercover policeman. If we were made aware of this fact earlier in the plot it would provided another level of jeopardy to Nikolai’s story. As it stands it comes as explanation, the reason why he helps Anna. I understand this might’ve changed the emphasis of the story, but it could’ve made him more active. Just a thought.
The screenplay is somewhat different to the finished film. The dialogue’s very Mamet. It’s almost a code. Characters saying things that are both direct but also cryptic. His descriptions are dense but direct, and maintain a focus on the character’s intentions. He uses parentheticals more than any other writer I’ve read. Overall it’s very utilitarian. It does the heavy lifting. It’s a document used to make a film, not a thing on its own.
Not sure which version of the screenplay this is. It feels like the continuity version because it parallels the film so closely. I’d love to see the first or second draft of the screenplay, just to see how it differs from the finished film. That to one side it’s still an engaging read.