Analysing revenge/thriller trailers:’Edge of Darkness’…

Posted: August 10, 2010 in Media

And next I am analysing ‘Edge of Darkness’ because I’ve never seen the film before and I have heard that it has a strong revenge theme. Above, a poster for the very recent crime/revenge film which stars Hollywood legend Mel Gibson…

And below is the trailer I analysed….


I’d have to say the obvious ones are Crime/thriller/action/revenge. Crime is indicated through the fact we quickly discover our main character is a detective (or maybe an ex detective) of the police, so therefore it tells us that he will be trained in upholding the law, protecting the innocent and so forth and we expect him to encounter crimes that he may have to solve/prevent. Also, crime is clearly a big genre as his daughter is murdered in the opening scenes of the trailer- and that tells us that crime will be a big part of the film’s narrative. I think, judging from the trailer, the film will be a thriller as it looks very complex and could confuse viewers, like most thrillers usually do. And as it looks like the film could be quite shocking or have various twists and turns the more the main character investigates his daughter’s murder, this insinuates the film will be a thriller also. Action is implied in the trailer because of the violent scenes so regularly portrayed we see the protagonist’s daughter killed, various characters brandishing weapons such as guns and knives and also many car chases- which are all common conventions within action films. Revenge?? Well it’s clear from the trailer that the whole narrative of the film has a revenge theme to it- as when the protagonists daughter is murdered this is when the trailer actually kicks off. He is seen grieving over her and desperate to find out who killed her, and more importantly, why. It gives us the sense that he wants revenge for what happened to her and will stop at nothing to get it.


Well this seems to be quite unclear overall. There seems to be a vivid and secure introduction tot he equilibrium- we are introduced to two characters: a father and daughter. They have a close and happy relationship and it appears the daughter is coming over to pay her father a visit. All seems well as they meet and then drive back to his house- but then the disruption occurs and ultimately shatters this calm and happy equilibrium. An unidentified character ( or there could be more than one- we don’t know) are seen to shout to the father and then shoot their gun. Who the character was really targeting we do not know but the daughter is shot and killed, thus giving us a disequilibrium and expecting that the father will restore a new one and be the hero of the film. We begin to wonder who shot the daughter, why they did what they did and also whether the father will discover the truth and get his revenge for loosing his daughter…and the only way we can find out is to watch the actual film. A new character then comes into the picture and we are unsure of what character type he is, but appears to be a helper- as he tells our hero (the father) vital information that could help him find out who shot his daughter and why. With this characters help, the hero then digs deeper into his daughter’s life and tries to restore the equilibrium by discovering why she was murdered and who by. Oppositional characters then appear to try and stop our hero in his quest and we wonder whether he will be able to overpower or outsmart them and how he’ll do it- making us want to see the film to find out. And we’re left without knowing whether the equilibrium is restored or not- which of course, makes us want to see what happens.


Well there are actually quite a few of these, but most are the actual actors/actresses who are featured within the trailer, such as: Mel Gibsonclearly a USP. Very very popular and well known Hollywood legend who will bring any of his fans (and I’m sure there’s got to be a lot) into the cinema if his name or face is featured in the trailer. And as he’s playing the leading role, we can expect this even more so. If any audience member has seen and enjoyed any films he’s featured in such as ‘Braveheart’,’ Lethal Weapon’,or ‘Mad Max’, they are very likely to go and see this film if they hear he’s filling the protagonist’s role. And of course there’s Ray WinstoneA very well known and popular English actor who, although his name isn’t mentioned within the trailer, will probably be recognized anyway by audiences who have seen and enjoyed previous films he has been in, (Well, I recognized him!) and any audience member who likes his acting such as seen in: ‘Nil by Mouth’, ‘Beowulf’, and ‘The Departed’ will be more interested in going to see this film if they see he is playing quite a significant role within it. There is also the fact that we are told that whoever directed this film directed one of the most recent and rather successful bond films, starring Daniel Craig, ‘Casino Royale’. And any audience member who enjoyed the Bond film will surely be interested in seeing this film when the trailer tells them it is directed by the same person. And that’s likely to be a lot of audience members as the Bond Series as a whole is very popular. I’m also going to mention actress Bojana Novakovicwho plays the daughter, and although her name isn’t as recognizable as Gibson’s or Winstone’s, she has featured in a few quite popular modern films such as ‘Drag Me to Hell’ which I understand was quite a hit, so anyone who recognizes her face will also be inclined to watch the film when they see she is playing an important role within it as the trailer indicates to us.

Target Audience…

 I think the target audience is likely to be male dominant as most of the protagonists introduced to us are men. Also I think men are targeted more as a lot of snippets of violent scenes and action is included within the trailer and this implies an action film, which is roughly thought to appeal more to male audiences more than female. I think in terms of age of the audience being targeted the film should definetly be at least 15+ as it looks quite violent and also sad, and this could upset younger audiences. But I think audiences who are around the same age as the protagonist would enjoy this film more as they would probably have grown up children of their own and therefore be able to relate to the protagonist and the narrative of the film more. I also think the film looks like it could be quite complex so this would therefore need a maturer audience too otherwise younger audiences could get confused or bored.


I think the music opens up the trailer, which consists mainly of piano notes, seems quite sorrowful- like we’re expecting something bad and upsetting to happen as soon as the trailer begins which immediately puts the audience on edge. But it also sounds quite calm and this connotes the equilibrium being introduced to us. I think it also sounds like we’re ‘looking back’ or reflecting on something, which is also implied through the use of flashbacks so it is like we’re looking back on a happy time in this protagonists life and we almost know for sure it is not going to last long, hence the sorrowful music. This stops as soon as the disruption occurs and we hear a very short but loud piece of tension building music that leads up to the gunshot- making us feel scared and tense as we wonder what is happening. When the shot is fired and the daughter is killed, the music then turns darker and implies the anger the father is feeling after witnessing his daughter being murdered in front of him. It insinuates that this is far from over and he will want revenge. Various ‘jumps’ of music are used for added tension as the father is seen having nightmares about his daughter- and this tells us this is important and that the character is clearly distraught about what happened and cannot possibly forget it. As the new character (Winston) enters the picture, the music takes a different route- sounding mysterious and dark implying perhaps that this character is supplying information that will take to dark and upsetting situations and we wonder what will happen to the protagonist after he is given this information. The music then goes silent as we hear tension building pieces of dialogue so as not to take away the mood of the trailer and also so that the music doesn’t prevent the audiences from hearing the important pieces of dialogue. As the father appears to begin to dig up information about his daughter that might tell him why she was shot the music gets mysterious and then fast paced as the oppositional characters are seen trying to stop him discovering things they don’t want him to know- making us tense and wondering whether he’ll be able to find out why his daughter was killed. Throughout this fast paced tension of music various other ‘booms’ of music are added in when something important or shocking is seen to happen- such as when the main character smashes a car window- heightening what he is doing and also heightening tension and shock within the audience. The music here also sounds quite dramatic- heightening the fact the protagonist is getting his revenge because he lost the person most important to him and he is doing these things out of love. The music then cuts off at the end of the trailer- leaving us wanting more and left literally on a cliff hanger and wondering what will happen.  


 Overall I think this was quite effective for holding the mood of the trailer. For example, to begin with we have an extreme close up of an answering machine which tells the audience that the message on it is important to the narrative and will give us information on the film itself. A reaction shot of the protagonist as he listens to the message tells us he cares for the person who left it and whoever they are, he has a strong relationship with them. It makes us wonder who it is and whether their character will play a vital role in the film. We are then given a flashback where we see the protagonist put shaving cream on a smiling girl’s face, this happy flashback makes us insinuate that the person who left the message was the protagonist’s daughter and they both have a close bond.  A shot reverse shot is used when the two characters meet and this tells us more about their relationship by the way they interact with one another- smiling, being polite, casual and embracing tells us the two characters are very close and we want to know whether this will change throughout the course of the film. Mid shots of each character as they meet also tells the audience that they are happy and upbeat- implying that the equilibrium of the film is in place. A shot reverse shot is used in the car as the characters are seen driving back to the protagonist’s home- it gives us vital information to more of the character’s background and makes the audience think about what might have happened in the character’s past and how it will affect their future. Portraying a different mood altogether, as the unidentified character ruins the equilibrium a very quick ‘whip’ pan brings us to this character- but it is so fast we do not get a chance to focus on identity and this leaves us waning to know who it is. It also heightens tension. We are then given an extreme close up of the main character’s eyes, which is in black and white. Here we can see his emotions are shocked and frightened and we want to know what has happened to make him feel this way. The use of black and white also signifies that what happened here is not only important to the narrative of the film, but will be a memory that will linger in the protagonist’s brain. A long shot then shows us the bigger picture- that the protagonist’s daughter has been shot and looks like it has killed her. We see him crying and cradling her body- shocking us and making us wonder who did this, why and more importantly: what will the protagonist do?? There is then a use of hand held camera as the protagonist is seen to have a nightmare, implying his mind and emotions are unstable in his grief for the loss of his daughter- it implies he cannot forget what has happened to her. A slow zoom as he picks up the phone tells us that this is important and we should focus on it, but also heightens tension- who’s on the other end?? A shot reverse shot as another character is introduced not only gives us information on this new character and what part he might play on the film, but also onto both of the character’s emotions and relationship- they don’t know each other, can this new character be trusted?? Here, as the pace gets quicker and the protagonist begins to dig up his daughter’s life and discover why she was shot, there are many uses of extreme close ups to focus on things such as cards, photos etc to signify not only importance, but mystery- clearly not everyone is telling the truth and we want to know, like the protagonist, why she was really shot.  Another shot reverse shot between this new character and the protagonist shows us that their relationship may have changed throughout the course of the film- it looks as though there is an element of trust and we wonder whether we should be trusting this character too, or maybe he is leading the protagonist to a dead-end. We want to know why the protagonist trusts this character and whetehr he is right to do so. Tracking shots of the protagonist running makes it clear there are oppositional characters- characters who want to stop him finding out why his daughter was killed and this makes it seem as though there is something very big behind this murder. This makes us want to know what these oppositional characters are hiding and whether the protagonist will be able to get the truth. Close ups show emotions throughout the film and it tells us that the protagonist is not planning on giving up and he will get his vegeance- this portrays him as ruthless and indicates his character from just a ‘loving father’ may change throughout the course of the film. Frequent use of extreme close ups heighten our tension and introduce threat and violence- such as extreme close ups of guns being pulled out, knives being used, batons being used to smash in a window, tires being shot etc gives us indications that the film will contain a lot of violence and we wonder who will emerge victorious- the protagonist or oppositional characters hiding the truth from him. I’d like to add the use of POV shots that were used in the final sequences of the trailer- two were used from an oppositional characters view- one as they were watching the protagonist from a window and then another as the protagonist shot them. This is clever as the first one indicates the protagonist is going to have a very hard struggle in his quest as the POV is a high angle shot, looking down on our main character, telling us he is not in power or control and insinuating he may not be able to get his revenge on whoever killed his daughter or even find out why she was killed. Then the second POV shot contradicts this, giving us a low angle POV shot looking up at our protagonist as he shoots his gun at the oppositional character- this gives us a very big twist and puts the protagonist in power and control, signalling the idea that his character might change throughout the course of the film and will have to the complete his quest (finding out why his daughter was murdered and also, who murdered her).


 I think overall the trailer follows the basic structure of pace, like a film. It opens up with a slow, allowing the audience to be introduced to characters, themes and a basic jist of the plot at hand. We are then plunged into the disruption of the equilibrium, where the plot is disturbed and things begin to quicken as more question are left unanswered and the plot begins to get a bit more complex. I think here this fast pace begins when the daughter is shot and then again when the new ‘helper’ is introduced to us- as these two scenes give us a lot of information about the film itself. The fast pace heightens tension and shock in the audience, making us want to see more as the fast pace means we often miss vital things and clues to the film itself. We are then left at a slow pace as the protagonist speaks coldly to an unseen character- leaving us wanting to know not only who he is speaking to and why he is talking like this but also whether he will get his revenge.


Overall I think this was the most useful for giving us information on the film as  whole, especially for the narrative and character relationships/emotions/types etc. For example, the first thing that the audience hear is the daughter leaving a message on her father’s phone: ‘Hi dad, I’m gonna come home for a few days, I love you.’ this not only tells us the character’s basic relationship but lets us know a little about the plot- his daughter is coming to stay for a few days. What will happen? Will this be very significant to the plot? Will she bring new or someone with her?? We don’t know and we want to watch on and see what significance her visit has. In the flashback we hear the father say: ‘Perfect’ as he puts shaving cream on his daughter’s face, she laughs and this tells us that they have a happy and close relationship. I think the way the sound of the dialogue is not one hundred percent quality and clear and almost seems to fade into the background this portrays the to the audience that we are digging into the protagonist’s memories and this makes us connect with him further. When the father and daughter are seen to meet up a some sort of station for her visit (we assume) exchanged dialogue as follows:

‘Hi’ –calm, happy and polite, connoting the trailers is portraying the film’s equilibrium

‘been waiting here forever’ – he is joking with, shows they are upbeat and happy in each other’s presence. It also indicates her visit may have a positive effect on the protagonist.

‘You’re always early’ – she knows him well.

‘…come on. let’s go home.’

There is then a conversation in the car home (oh and I’ve just figured out that there is a use of pathetic fallacy here with the very bad rain…indicating something bad and upsetting is about to happen): 

‘Seeing someone?’- Like in ‘Taken’s trailer, this implies the father to be very protective of his daughter. He is obviously a very caring parent.

‘Yeah. I wish you had someone.’ – Wishing for him to be in a relationship tells us more about the protagonist’s background and makes us ask questions- is he lonely? What happened to his daughter’s mother??

‘Nah…you’re my girl.’ – He doesn’t seem very interested in getting a partner of his own. He indicates that his daughter is the only person he needs in his life to make him happy- but it makes us wonder how he would cope if something happened to her. As the pair go inside we hear another character shout, in a very loud and agitated voice: ‘CRAVEN!!!!’ because this character shouts off screen it makes us wonder who it is and why they sound so angry and determined. It also makes us wonder who he is addressing as we can indicate that both character, father and daughter, have the same last name…so did he really mean to shoot the daughter? Or was he aiming for the father? We want to know. After this we hear a news reporter saying that: ‘It appears detective Thomas Craven was the intended target..’ this gives us, the audience, a lot of information to think about. The protagonist is a detective- will he uses the skills he has acquired over the years, like so many other film protagonist seeking revenge (Richard, ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, Bryan, ‘Taken’…etc) and also, if he’s been told that he is likely to have been the original target…that means he will be absolutely distraught: not only is daughter dead but she died taking a bullet intended for him- and that is surely something that he will not be able to shake from his mind. We are then introduced to  a new character, who looks like he could help the main character discover the truth and restore the equilibrium:

‘Mr. Craven…we have things to talk about’ – what things? He sounds clever, like he hold information that will be vital to restoring the equilibrium and insinuates that the truth is being kept from the main character.

‘Like your name and what you’re doing here.’ – obvious the main character is wary at first, as he does not know this character. Will he trust him in time?

‘Like who shot your daughter.’ – This opens up a whole new turn on the narrative. Was his daughter the intended target after all? there clearly seems to be more to this murder than the daughter just getting in the way- and we, like the protagonist. want to know more about why she was murdered. Later on, when talking about the daughter’s life, this new character talks about being a ‘possible threat to the United States of America’ and we wonder what he is talking about. We want to know what the daughter could have possibly been doing that was so bad it got her murdered. We then hear a woman, speaking on the phone saying in a hushed and worried voice: ‘y’know everyone talks about power….but they don’t really understand…’ this implies someone very powerful was behind the protagonist’s daughter’s murder and we want to know whether the father will be able to find them or get his revenge.  Hearing the new character say that: ‘cases like this are never solved, you can just never connect A to B.’ makes us realise he is a clever characters and as it sounds like he is giving the protagonist some help in his quest. like he will play the role of helper in the film itself- but can we really trust him? It also gives a sense that the main character is ‘against the odds’ and implies he has a big struggle to overcome if he is going to ever restore the equilibrium, so, will he be able to do it?? There is also these various pieces of dialogue:

protagonist: ‘what does it feel like?!’ – it insinuates he wants the oppositional characters to know what pain he has gone through. He wants his revenge and will get it at any cost.

An unseen character states: ‘It’s too late it’s already been done.’ – Who is this character? What role do they play in the film? What has been done? Too late? It implies that time is running out and makes the audience feel tense.

There is also another conversation between the protagonist and the new character which appears to be a helper:

 ‘I’m not gonna arrest anyone.’ – The protagonist is going against his duties of upholding justice…has his character changed throughout the course of the film? It sounds as if he wants revenge and is not willing to just leave it at an arrest.

‘I never do.’ – new character clearly thinking on the same level- it implies their relationship has grown and that they trust and value each others actions. It also implies the new character is as ruthless as the protagonist has become.

There is also these very important pieces of dialogue from the protagonist at the end of the trailer: 

‘I’m the guy with nothin’ to lose.’ – Frequently seen in revenge films. The protagonist has lost everything, their whole reason for living…so they therefore have absolutely nothing to lose, no boundaries they won’t cross to get their revenge because they have no attachments and no one to care for. It makes those seeking revenge seem all the more ruthless and violent..but also with a hint of sorrow (like in ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ and ‘Gladiatior’ where both protagonist’s wife and child are killed).

‘fasten your seatbelt.’ – Implying action within the film. Threats- he is very determined to get the truth.

‘Well you had better decide whether you’re hanging on the cross…or banging in the nails.’ – religious imagery aside it kind of gives away a kind of victim/villain theme. Are they the victim being hung on the cross, or are they the villain causing the pain? It also insinuates that the main character and other main character’s in revenge films hold both of these character types for a time. At first they are victims who have lost everything they held dear, which makes them turn into villains ruthlessly getting their revenge.

Voice over…

 Erm….no. There wasn’t one.

Special Effects…

 Well honestly I don’t think these were a very big feature in the trailer but they did have a small part to play. For example, I think there was some kind of brightening or tinted effect when we saw the flashback to make the audience fully aware that this happened in the past and is just  a memory of one of the characters in the film. We also see snippets of scenes which require special effects such as car crashes, smashing of glass, characters being pushed out of cars, characters being pushed down stairs, tasers being used, gunshots fired etc etc which tells us that the film could get violent and lets audiences judge therefore whether they would enjoy watching it or not. It also tells us that to find out the truth, the protagonist will have to get violent and ruthless before he gets what he wants, signalling a probable change in character.

Credits & Intertitles…

Personally I liked  the titles as they not only gave the audience USPs that would enlarge the likelihood of them going to see the film, such as ‘Mel Gibson’ and ‘From the Director of Casino Royale’ but they also are very useful for setting the mood and tone of the trailer and giving tha audience a very good idea of what the narrative of the film may be. Such as we start with: ‘Some Memories never fade.’ – written in blue letters with a kind of blue ‘light’ surrounding it on a black background it gives the feeling of calm, peace and happiness. It connotes the equilibrium of the film as well as making us think about the actual plot/characters. Talking about memories that never fade make us think that maybe some characters in this film will have a strong bond and share very happy memories that will go with them to the grave because of it. In likewise font and colour, when then have (on the opposite side of the screen): ‘Some feelings never change.’ – the repetitive use of ‘some’ makes us want to watch on as we feel like it is going somewhere…will these feelings change/memories fade eventually?? Where is this going?? Feelings never changing also implies that again, characters will share a very strong and happy bond between them and we want to know whether this will change, and if it does, how?? It then changes to quite a different tone when we are given titles when the disequilibrium is shown, in the trailer, to occur: ‘Some secrets’– it’s bigger this time, and in the centre of the screen, telling the audience that this is important and putting their attention on it. Secrets implies something is being kept from the protagonist and furthermore, the audience, and therefore we want to know what secrets the titles are speaking of. There is also, again, the use of the word ‘some’ which adds to effect and makes the audience tense and wondering where this will lead. ‘Take us to the edge’ – quite different now, in the centre again, it is clearly important. And now the titles change to red, with a red background, connoting bloodshed and danger- this makes us wonder what has happened to cause this and also changes the entire tone of the trailer. The calm, blue equilibrium is gone, and what replaces it is a blood-red disequilibrium…but we want to know- will the equilibrium be restored?? To the edge also makes the audience wonder how far the protagonist will got o get the truth and his revenge on those who killed his daughter, will he become something terrible and monstrous throughout the course of it? Will this disequilibrium change his character?? Oh and I think linking to the title of the film (using the word edge) being advertised is very useful as it makes the audience tense and get straight into the ‘feeling’ or ‘jist’ of the film even though we are only watching the trailer.  And finally, near the end (but not completely at the end as there are a few more pieces of dialogue, camerawork left to watch, which I think is more effective), also in red, we have the title of the film ‘ Edge of Darkness’ which leaves us wanting to know more and also the title itself connotes violence, bloodshed and dark themes, leaving the audience to judge whether they’d enjoy watching it or not.


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