Analysis of Severance

Summary The movie follows a group of employees on a retreat in a remote forest lodge, where they confront unsettling events and discuss the ethics of their work. They face numerous challenges, including bear traps, hallucinations, and unknown hunters who chase and kill them. Maggie and Steve lead survivors out of the burning lodge but face their own obstacles while trying to escape the hunters. When Maggie gets caught in a trap, Steve tries to save her, but she urges him to leave for his own safety. They defeat one of the hunters and ultimately face off against another, with Maggie impaling him with a motor. Although Steve is injured, they escape together and share a moment before approaching a waterfall where they come to accept their fate.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The story of the screenplay is engaging and filled with suspense. The initial chase scene in the forest sets a thrilling tone for the rest of the story. The reveal of the man as an executive at an arms company adds an intriguing twist. The tension and conflict within the group of employees, as well as their moral dilemmas about their work, adds depth to the story. The scene of them navigating through the dark forest adds a sense of danger and keeps the audience on edge. The gruesome discoveries and the escalating paranoia create a chilling atmosphere. The climax of the story with the final battle and the characters' ultimate fate is powerful and resonant.
Suggestions: To improve the screenplay, consider developing the individual characters further. This will help to establish stronger emotional connections with the audience and create more investment in their journey. Additionally, some scenes could benefit from more focused dialogue and clearer character motivations. This will make the conflicts and tensions within the group feel more organic and impactful. While the story has a good amount of suspense and action, it could benefit from a few moments of emotional respite or reflection to give the audience a chance to breathe and process the events. Finally, consider ways to enhance the visual descriptions in the screenplay to make the forest and lodge settings more vivid and atmospheric.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Gareth

Gareth is a relentlessly positive individual who uses humor and motivational sayings to deflect from serious issues. He is enthusiastic and curious, but also somewhat naive and lacking in knowledge of ethical implications. Despite this, he is a good-natured and likable member of the group.



Maggie

Maggie is an assertive and intelligent woman with strong moral convictions. She is principled, skeptical, and sarcastic, often using her wit and resourcefulness to challenge the status quo. Maggie is confident, straightforward, and unafraid to speak her mind, but also has a seductive and manipulative side. She values personality over status and is fiercely loyal to her friends, showing a nurturing side when needed. Maggie can be a bit of a wild card, taking risks and thinking outside the box. She is a survivor who has endured physical and emotional trauma, growing stronger as a result of her experiences.



Richard

Richard is an ambitious and manipulative executive of an arms company, who is obsessed with impressing the company's founder. He is confrontational and dismissive towards those who criticize their work, and always puts business deals before his colleagues' well-being. However, Richard is also a competitive and snarky individual who finds joy in winning. He is troubled by the recent departure of his wife and his perceived failure at work, revealing vulnerability and emotion.



Harris

Harris is a sophisticated and confident salesman with a survivalist mentality. He is practical and level-headed, taking charge in scary situations and unafraid of investigating. He is sarcastic, enjoys finding humor in situations, and can be both aggressive and short-tempered. Harris is physically fit, knowledgeable about first-aid techniques, and has an ominous understanding of the lodge's history. He is mysterious and possibly untrustworthy, always trying to find the right words, stirring up fear in the group, and enjoying unsettling others. Despite this, Harris shows concern for others' well-being and enjoys Jill's company.



Steve

Steve is a disaffected and sarcastic veteran employee who is struggling with addiction, paranoia, and low self-esteem. He often tries to provide levity to the group through his humor, but his fear and paranoia make him a liability in dangerous situations.



Jill

Jill is a complex character who struggles with her health and anxiety. She is smart, assertive, and displays strong leadership qualities. However, she also has a dark side and tendencies towards the macabre. She is capable and resourceful, but can be easily frightened and paranoid. Jill is a cautious observer who questions the ethics of the company she works for and is a counterpoint to Richard's arguments. She is also capable of taking charge during emergencies and displays a practical attitude.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Gareth Through his journey, Gareth starts as the ultimate comic relief before slowly changing into a more serious and grounded character. He loses his naivety and gains a better understanding of the gravity of their situation. Sadly, he meets a tragic end, but his positivity and optimism serve as a reminder of the good things in life. While Gareth is a likable character, his arc feels somewhat shallow, with his development only occurring towards the end of the movie. Additionally, his death feels like a cheap way to add stakes to the story.
To improve Gareth's arc, the script could make his development more gradual throughout the movie. Additionally, his death could be given more weight and meaning, perhaps as a sacrifice to save the other characters. This would add an emotional punch to his story and make his arc feel more cohesive.
Maggie Maggie starts out as a principled and outspoken woman who is disgusted by her company's practices and skeptical of the team-building weekend at the lodge. She takes charge of some of the decision-making and demonstrates strong leadership qualities. As the movie progresses, Maggie becomes more comfortable with using her sexuality to get what she wants, but realizes she does not have as much power as she thought. Maggie reconciles with Jill and admits her temper issues, displaying a nurturing side and valuing friendship over grudges. She becomes a quick-thinking and pragmatic survivor, willing to do whatever it takes to protect herself and others. However, her past trauma has left her with a dark streak and willingness to kill, which she struggles to come to terms with. In the end, Maggie shows great resilience, determination, and bravery as she fights to survive and protect others from the hunters. Overall, Maggie undergoes a well-developed character arc that highlights her strengths and weaknesses. However, her seductive and manipulative side is not explored in depth, and this aspect of her personality is sometimes used only as a plot device. Additionally, some of her traits and actions seem inconsistent or underdeveloped, such as her level of involvement in some scenes or her withdrawal from the group. Finally, her past trauma is not fully explored or resolved, which leaves some questions unanswered.
To improve Maggie's character arc, it could be useful to explore more in-depth her seductive and manipulative side, addressing whether this is a coping mechanism or a personality trait. Additionally, her reactions and reasoning in some scenes could be more explicitly stated to avoid inconsistencies or doubts about her characterization. Finally, delving deeper into her past trauma could provide greater insight into her motivations and actions, leading to a more cohesive and satisfying arc.
Richard Throughout the screenplay, Richard's character arc revolves around his redemption and realization of the consequences of his actions. At first, Richard is portrayed as a selfish and condescending executive who only cares about his business deals and impressing his colleagues. However, as the group finds themselves in a life-threatening situation, Richard's leadership skills are tested, and he realizes the value of humility, accountability, and transparency. His vulnerable moment with Steve shows his ability to connect with others on a deeper level, which ultimately leads to his redemption. In the end, Richard's character arc ends with him accepting responsibility for his past mistakes and working towards creating a more ethical company culture. The character arc is well-defined and provides a clear direction for Richard's growth throughout the screenplay. However, some of the descriptions of Richard's behavior are quite similar, making his character appear repetitive. It would be beneficial to highlight his redeeming moments more prominently, to provide a stronger payoff for his character arc.
To improve the character arc, more emphasis could be placed on Richard's growth towards accepting responsibility for his past mistakes. This could be achieved through showing Richard's attempts to rectify the harm caused by his actions or taking a leading role in creating a more ethical company culture. Additionally, the descriptions of Richard's snobby behavior could be toned down in favor of more moments that highlight his vulnerability and emotional depth.
Harris Harris starts as a sophisticated and passive employee who defends the company's work. As the movie progresses, he becomes more confident, quick-witted, and takes charge in scary situations. However, his sadistic, playful side emerges, stoking fear in the group, and he becomes mysterious and possibly untrustworthy. Harris ultimately asserts his dominance in the group, standing up to Richard and leaving to get help. Despite being level-headed and practical, Harris's tragic death underscores the seriousness of the group's situation. The character arc is well-defined, showing a clear progression from a passive employee to a confident, take-charge survivor. However, some aspects of Harris's character feel underdeveloped, such as his sadistic and mysterious side, which comes across as sudden and unexplained. Additionally, his death feels somewhat abrupt and doesn't resolve his character arc.
To improve the character arc, the movie could provide more context and backstory for Harris, such as why he enjoys unsettling others and his survivalist mentality. His death could also be more impactful if it resolved his character arc, such as sacrificing himself to protect Jill or the group. Overall, the movie could benefit from more nuanced and consistent characterization for Harris.
Steve Steve begins the movie as a cynical and hostile employee who dislikes his job and colleagues. Throughout the film, he struggles with addiction, paranoia, and low self-esteem, which often make him a liability to the group. However, as the danger increases, he shows courage, resourcefulness, and care for his friends, especially Maggie. By the end of the movie, Steve has transformed into a tough and resourceful survivor who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect those he cares about. While Steve's character arc is well-defined and engaging, it would be helpful to have more information about his past to understand his addiction and paranoia better. Additionally, some of Steve's behaviors, such as making inappropriate jokes and trying to sabotage romantic interludes, are inconsistent with his growth later in the movie.
To improve Steve's character arc, it would be helpful to provide more information about his past to explain his addiction and paranoia. Additionally, some of Steve's negative behaviors could be toned down to make his transformation more believable. Finally, giving Steve some moments of emotional vulnerability would add depth to his character and make his growth more compelling.
Jill Jill's character arc begins with her questioning the ethics of the company and providing a counterpoint to Richard's arguments. Throughout the movie, she struggles with her health and anxiety, but also displays strong leadership qualities and resourcefulness during emergencies. However, her vulnerability is shown when she becomes tied up and tortured. By the end of the movie, Jill has learned to rely on her own strength and bravery instead of her medication and fears. Jill's character arc is well-defined and shows a clear progression of growth and development. However, because there are so many different elements to her character, it can be difficult to keep track of her motivations and actions throughout the movie. Additionally, her dark tendencies towards the macabre are not fully explored or explained, leaving the audience with questions about her character.
To improve Jill's character arc, the filmmakers could provide more backstory or exposition about her dark tendencies towards the macabre. Additionally, they could give her more moments of vulnerability and introspection to make her character more relatable. Lastly, they could clarify her motivations and actions throughout the movie to make her character more coherent.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Survival
  • The group struggles to survive in the dangerous wilderness
  • They face numerous challenges including bear traps and a deadly hunter
  • They must rely on each other and their instincts to make it through
Survival is a major theme throughout the screenplay as the characters are constantly fighting to stay alive in a dangerous and hostile environment. This theme is explored through their struggles to escape bear traps, find weapons, and evade the hunter who is tracking them. The characters are forced to rely on their survival skills and instincts in order to make it out alive.
Ethics
  • The characters work for an arms company and struggle with the ethical implications of their work
  • They debate the morality of their employer's activities and question their own involvement
  • Their experiences at the lodge reveal the horrors of Palisade Defense's atrocities
Ethics is an important theme throughout the screenplay as the characters grapple with the consequences of their actions. They are employed by a company that creates deadly weapons and must confront the moral implications of their work. The theme is explored through their debates and discussions about their employer's activities, as well as their reactions to the atrocities they discover at the lodge.
Betrayal
  • The characters betray each other multiple times throughout the story
  • Richard abandons the women in the bear pit and is later revealed to have forced the team building exercise upon them
  • The group struggles to trust each other and work together as a result
Betrayal is a recurring theme throughout the screenplay as the characters turn on each other and struggle to trust one another. Richard, in particular, betrays the women in the bear pit and is later revealed to have forced the team building exercise upon them. The theme is explored through the group's tense and often combative interactions, as well as their struggles to work together and trust each other.
Isolation
  • The characters are isolated from society and struggle to find ways to escape
  • They are stranded in the wilderness and cut off from communication
  • Their isolation causes them to feel fear and paranoia, and leads to desperate actions
Isolation is a significant theme throughout the screenplay as the characters are cut off from society and struggle to find a way out. They are stranded in a remote wilderness, with no means of communication or escape, which leads to feelings of fear and paranoia. The theme is explored through their attempts to find a way out, as well as their increasingly desperate actions as they face the danger and uncertainty of their situation.
Mortality
  • The characters are constantly faced with the fragility of life and their own mortality
  • They witness numerous deaths throughout the story and are forced to confront their own mortality
  • Their experiences reveal the value and preciousness of life
Mortality is a significant theme throughout the screenplay as the characters are constantly faced with the fragility of life and the reality of death. They witness numerous deaths throughout the story and are forced to confront their own mortality as they struggle to survive in a hostile environment. The theme is explored through their reactions to death and their struggles to find meaning and value in life amidst the chaos and danger around them.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

Articles

Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goal is to survive and navigate the dangerous situation they find themselves in. Their fear, discomfort, and desire for safety and security are reflected in their actions and reactions throughout the script.
External Goals The protagonist's external goal is to endure the challenges and obstacles they face, such as reaching their destination, escaping danger, and ultimately surviving. They are driven by the need to protect themselves and their companions, and to find help and safety.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict revolves around the themes of morality, ethics, and the impact of one's actions. The protagonist and other characters are faced with dilemmas that challenge their values and beliefs, such as the ethical implications of their work, the blurred lines between reality and fantasy, and the tension between survival and morality.


Character Development Contribution: The goals and conflicts contribute to the character's development by challenging their beliefs and values, and forcing them to confront their fears, insecurities, and moral dilemmas. The protagonist undergoes a transformation as they navigate the challenges, make difficult choices, and learn to prioritize survival and the well-being of their companions.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The goals and conflicts provide the narrative structure by creating tension, raising stakes, and driving the plot forward. They serve as catalysts for action and create obstacles that the characters must overcome, leading to a climax and resolution. The evolving goals and conflicts create a sense of urgency and propel the story towards its conclusion.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflicts contribute to the thematic depth of the screenplay by exploring themes such as morality, ethics, survival, human nature, and the impact of one's choices. They raise thought-provoking questions about the nature of right and wrong, the value of life, and the limits of human resilience. The exploration of these themes adds depth and complexity to the story, making it resonate with audiences on a deeper level.


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?