It never occurred to me to elaborate on the two characters in my screenplay beyond the confines of the story — until several people, namely actors, wanted a broader understanding of who they are and where they came from, in an effort to produce a more three-dimensional role. So I sincerely hope that my analysis of each character provides the necessary information for the actors to build upon.
In this post I’ll describe the character Bowman.
IN THE FILM
Bowman is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, and is the protagonist of the story. While not expressively a hero, Bowman’s actions can be considered moral, and just; his reactions are in self-defense. This is in contrast to his fellow survivor, Carter, an antagonistic cannibal. Bowman, for what we understand in the story, is attempting to survive by pooling resources and maintaining sanity through intellectual conversation — only to be stifled by Carter’s sadistic demands. Bowman is fortunate enough to possess the only weapon on board the raft: A six inch serrated blade, keeping Carter at bay. This unnerving stalemate serves as the backbone to their tumultuous relationship.
Bowman’s intelligence stems from his training and common sense — work together — and everyone lives. He is a natural leader that takes charge, but feels inept when his natural authority is challenged. Without the Naval command structure to back him up, his authoritativeness crumbles like a cheap facade. Keeping the other survivors inline was a challenge to him — even more so when Carter ended up in his company.
Bowman is slowly bleeding to death from a deep wound below his rib cage on the right side of his abdomen. The lack of proper medical care and the salt content in the water vapor aggravate the wound to the point of infection. As the story progresses, Bowman becomes septic — his blood becomes toxic and his body begins to rot from the inside-out.
Bowman is unable to comprehend why Carter will not help him survive, so that they may in turn help each other. The concept of “every man for himself” is beyond him.
One night, as Carter sleeps, Bowman is able to work up enough strength to get right up to him — put the blade of his knife right up to Carter’s throat — but still cannot kill him in his sleep. Bowman’s morals inhibit him from becoming a killer, until the last possible moment he can tolerate Carter’s aggressions.
Bowman’s character serves as a dichotomous opposite to Carter: Such as night and day. He is a proud man of strong morals and discipline, a natural leader with a firm grasp on common sense and consequence. The latter point being the most important aspect of his persona — consequence — Bowman is a man who evaluates the consequences of his actions in a effort to produce a better outcome the next time he is faced with adversity. The evaluations he makes augment his common sense and bring him closer to absolute morality.
The inspiration for Bowman’s character actually comes from the character Harvey Keitel played in Reservoir Dogs (Mr. White) — a man who has good intentions but is totally and unintentionally ignorant to spontaneous threats from within his own organization.
Bowman’s concept of the world is railroaded by Carter’s sadism and complete lack of empathy. Bowman is not flexible enough to understand Carter’s way of thinking and method of surviving, which is the root cause of the friction between them.
While Carter feels nothing, Bowman feels everything — even feeling for Carter. Bowman’s empathy is so strong that he debates how justified he would be if he killed Carter; could he live with being a murderer? Is self-defense justifiable? Would he regret killing another man in cold blood? Bowman will grapple with these thoughts during the entire course of the story.
Bowman was born on the first of June, 1960, in Bedford, Virginia — the first of four children. His father, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, operated a garage and his mother home-schooled him and his siblings. Bowman recounts stories his father told him of campaigns in the Pacific Ocean during World War II; supply runs he would make between Japan and Hawaii. Bowman’s father was never involved in any hostile action, but saw his fair share of aftermath and devastation.
In the late 60s and early 70s, Bowman was involved with the Boy Scouts of America. His troop would travel around south west Virginia, camping in the bush and the hills for entire weekends throughout the year. It is here that Bowman learned survival tactics he would remember for the rest of his life: First aid, fire starting, seafaring, just to name a few. Bowman has fond memories of his involvement in Scouts but often feels it was done as a pacifying technique because his parents had too much on their plates, what with three other children around the home.
Bowman once suffered serious injury in Boy Scouts that hospitalized him for several weeks: While hiking up a steep trail with his troop, he lost his footing and slipped down the side of the escarpment and into a shallow, rocky ravine, hitting his head on a boulder. Because his family had no medical insurance, the resulting hospital fees bankrupt his father and forced him out of Scouts.
As a necessity, the family relocated to Richmond, Virginia, where his father took a job as an elevator serviceman. Bowman became depressed with the guilt of his family’s misfortune. He has never fully recovered from his depression, and the guilt is something that influences every decision he makes in his adulthood — he is constantly weighing the consequences of his actions, tying up his thought processes with persistent indecision and lack of direction.
Bowman’s depression also led to his violent incident with the bully Isaiah, as mentioned in the screenplay.
After high school, Bowman attempted to enlist in the United States Air Force however did not pass the entrance exam. He instead opted for public schooling at the University of Richmond, with a focus on the Sciences.
During his undergrad years, he met his current girlfriend, a lovely freckled-faced brunette named Stacy. Though they would not actually start a relationship for some years. Bowman graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Science and then almost immediately enlisted in the United States Navy, training in Illinois.
The Navy provided Bowman with the structure he admired in Boy Scouts — prompting him to enroll in the Officer Development School with an emphasis in engineering. The leadership and intuitiveness he demonstrated during the course fast-tracked him to the rank of Ensign, serving at Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pearl Harbor. It was here that Bowman earned his three promotions, the final resulting in Lieutenant Commander.
Bowman reconnected with his old friend, Stacy, when he discovered she was living in the city of Honolulu, working at the general hospital there. They immediately fell in love, remembering the fondness for each other back from their university days.
Stacy completely supported Bowman’s Naval career, herself having a family history of Naval service. As Lieutenant Commander, Bowman requested to serve on the USS Frank Cable, a submarine tender with the Seventh Fleet. Bowman’s request was granted and in early 1989 he was commissioned as Lieutenant Commander, Engineering. A year later, and fictionally speaking, the USS Frank Cable experienced a massive engine fire that resulted in the sinking of the vessel at night on its way back to port Apra Habor, Guam. Bowman was in engineering at the time the fire began, and remained there until all surviving engineering personnel were evacuated.
An unknown number of the roughly 1,300 crew members aboard evacuated the ship before sinking. Bowman and three other crew members were some of the last men to leave the ship, deploying an emergency life raft off of the starboard side of the Frank Cable. The fire, treacherous seas and nighttime caused a tremendous amount of confusion. As the vessel exploded and burned its way beneath the waves, Bowman rescued a young officer from the water — Carter — marking the first occasion the two characters met.
The raft Bowman and Carter were on swiftly separated from the other survivors.
IF BOWMAN LIVED
So obviously, Bowman dies. But what if he lived? What if he killed Carter, as he does, and was then rescued? Or drifted ashore? The question has deep implications because it is one that Bowman is constantly asking himself throughout the course of the story.
As we know, Bowman is a man who believes in absolute morality — naively believing that good men are good and bad men are bad. Seeing himself as a good man, the murder of Carter would undoubtedly have a substantial effect on his beliefs.
Accepting that what he did to Carter was right, would change his personality forever — feeling as if he lost a part of who he was. As a result of his guilt, Bowman would asked to be tried for, what he perceives, is a crime.