Opening Car Chase – Amores Perros
Few indie-oriented filmmakers are as divisive as Alejandro González Iñárritu. He plays with temporal structure so often that it is easy to get lost in his cinematic labyrinths. Meanwhile, as his films often focus on a variety of stories, it is easy to pick the ones that work better than the ones that don’t. However, it is hard to deny that Inarritu made his debut in a stirring, pulse-pounding way with the tense drama Amores Perros in 2001.
Often referred to as the Mexican Pulp Fiction, Amores Perros tells three different stories surrounding a fatal car crash. To get audiences invested in this two-and-a-half hour tale of rich, sometimes disturbing drama, Iñárritu kicked it off the best way he could: plunging us right into the front seat of the car that eventually crashes.
Gael Garcia Bernal is Octavio, the driver of the car. A wounded, bloodied dog whimpers in the back seat as Octavio’s buddy, Jorge (Humberto Busto), tends to it. At the same time, a yellow SUV chases them through noisy intersections. The outside world is palpable and omnipresent, and Iñárritu doesn’t flinch to focus on the close calls.
It is a masterfully shot sequence: by setting the handheld camera in the back of Octavio’s car and upping the sound mix, Iñárritu makes one feel as if they are zooming forward with the car, trying to scatter away from the SUV. During the scene, we never find out much about the car chasing after the characters. By mostly viewing it in the rearview mirrors, this car and the mysterious identity of the people inside generates mystery and suspense.
The editing is clean, but the onscreen action is gritty, something that many big-studio directors tend to forget when cleaving together an action sequence. Instead, they try to shorten the cuts to make the editing as impulsive as the people onscreen, which don’t always work to the viewer’s benefit.
This scene is an outstanding, disarming opener that grips your attention – and one that also marked the arrival of a visionary director.