The mark of a great action director is often best indicated by how viscerally exciting and coherent he or she makes the large action set-pieces. A superb sequence of sound and fury relies on many elements to be exactly right. The editor is supposed to cut the sequence in a way that builds momentum while showing how all the separate parts in the scene fit together without it looking choppy. They must also keep the continuity. In order for this to happen, the cinematographer must get a lot of good angles on the scene, ensuring we come at the excitement from all angles to avoid further confusion. However, the director often has the final say on how these scenes are shot and subsequently put together.
Let’s just say that crafting a bravura action sequences is no easy task.
Recently, We Got This Covered’s Tuomas Hakola shared 10 phenomenal action sequences that you can watch over and over again. They all had a few things in common: an epic scope, several minutes of screen time and millions of dollars needed to complete. I cannot say I agree with them all – I, for instance, think The Battle of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers and the parkour-inspired chase near the start of Casino Royale are the standards that any action filmmaker should aspire to. However, there was another recurring theme: all of these movies were big blockbusters hits, and titles that anybody walking into a theater would expect a huge action sequence from.
Interestingly, several of my favorite action-packed moments don’t even come from behemoth blockbuster fare. Some are gritty independent dramas, others bouncy animated comedies. With the advent of CGI, it is easier to put together a sequence with a massive scope. However, one should not forget that many of the greatest action visionaries were making films in the silent era. It is sometimes an exhilarating surprise to come across a wonderfully shot action sequence where you least expect to find one. Sometimes, showing that you can make a big set piece from a small budget proves you have what it takes to handle a production.
On that note, here are nine of my favorite action sequences that don’t come from action movies. Read on, and feel free to share any of your selections in the comments section below!