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  • Summer's coming up so we wanna talk action, but we're not in the mood for

  • picking favorites instead,

  • let's pick a deep dive into five more brilliant moments, this time in action.

  • (Music)

  • First up we got a brilliant little moment from The Raid, about 25 minutes in to

  • a stealthy raid up a gang controlled high rise, the heroes are discovered, their

  • guards are killed, their communication cut off and the lights are cut.

  • All of a sudden, they're trapped and they need to battle their way out to survive.

  • But before that happens they hole up in a stairwell to prepare as the big

  • dad puts a price on their heads over the loud speaker.

  • We hear a sound which the next cut connects to a glance which

  • a wonderful slope hand then connects to the door knob,

  • there's someone at the door, everyone gets in place, let's do this.

  • The sound is on, music and push inniness of the shots are all communicating very

  • clearly and conventionally that something is about to happen.

  • But then, we punch in on Jacka's face and his eyes twitch.

  • The punch in tells us something is happening internally and

  • our first guess would be fear but the head turn directs our focus elsewhere,

  • there's something else going on and then we see it.

  • Now, we know more than the characters and

  • the tension of dramatic irony is introduced, what's going to happen?

  • How will it happen?

  • Will they realized the second threat in time?

  • So, in order to render the tension visual between a perceived threat in

  • one direction and the real unperceived threat in that other.

  • The director cut between two axis as indicated by the eyes,

  • one horizontal between man and door and one vertical between man and

  • unknown threat above and then the trigger is pulled.

  • (Sound) Holy shit,

  • talk about impressive

  • visual storytelling,

  • the muzzle emits a beautiful glow.

  • >From the attackers perspective,

  • the glow briefly illuminates their unsuspecting prey.

  • A shot in the face shining the glow, they are seen,

  • followed by a gun barrels raising.

  • The position of the drafts tells us what they're racing towards, and then chaos.

  • (Sound) Without words or

  • explanation we understand the exact dynamics of the situation.

  • Tension is laid out before us with clearly delineated opposition and

  • stakes are obvious, the danger is visceral.

  • All too often bad action injures it's stars or kills off it's supporting cast to

  • no effect, it's the generic red shirt death and it can make action boring.

  • Why should we care about our heroes if their plot armor is so

  • thick it's more like plot invincibility.

  • If they can do parkour chases through the streets a day after their intestines were

  • eviscerated, we stop suspending our disbelief and even worse, paying

  • attention to what's happening, the stabs don't matter, so why should we worry?

  • And that's where the raid succeeds,

  • because a single misplaced bullet costs them lives and we know exactly why.

  • And we see it coming like a runaway trolley that we're powerless,

  • just like Jaka, to stop.

  • If the raid is one brilliant little moment of clearly communicated visual action,

  • Mad Max Fury Road is one after another for about two straight hours.

  • Which sounds like it might get tedious or straight forward and boring, but Miller

  • manages to be so absolutely clever about it you don't even realize it's happening.

  • You see, Bruce Lee had it right, bad guys really only can attack one at a time and

  • be understood.

  • We can really follow one line of action that quickly,but clever action directors

  • like Miller Stagger out the conflict, such that they aren't happening all at once.

  • Consider Idmon's battle of ten black belts,

  • it's really just one on one after one on one.

  • But it's staggered much more intricately than injure the dragon was, so

  • it looks like he's doing ten things at once.

  • He isn't, he's doing one thing, after one thing, after one thing,

  • all woven together like a tapestry.

  • Zigzagging between every character in the room so

  • that everyone is involved in the singular event.

  • So, sure, it looks like Furiosa and Max are fighting 18 different battles at once,

  • but in practice, we're not getting told 18 different stories.

  • We're being told one single story that just so happens to involve all 18 battles

  • and tracks linearly throughout them all, check it out.

  • (Sound)

  • (Music)

  • (Sound) If I go back to narrate this clip like a book,

  • you'll see how linearly each bit flows into the next.

  • Stone Cold Steve Austin, here fires a torpedo directly into the steering wheel

  • so Max can't turn it anymore, it pulls out the steering wheel and

  • then traps Max's hand.

  • Prego and Redhead jump out, grab the bolt cutters and release his hand,

  • problem solved.

  • Furioso quickly attaches a make shift steering wheel but

  • they're headed straight for a rock and can't turn in time.

  • Joe is like, shit, my baby mama is about to get squished and

  • sure enough they smash right into it.

  • But she's okay, however her newly injured foot slips on her newly bleeding blood and

  • the newly damaged door gives way so she falls from the rig directly into the path

  • of Joe who swerves, rolls his truck and ends the pursuit.

  • That's a pretty god damn linear story in the action,

  • but look at how many people are involved.

  • Max, Furiosa, Blondie, Lindsay Lohan, Joe, and Andre the Giant,

  • all the major players have bit parts in this one minute of skirmish.

  • Miller is the master of finding clever ways to temporarily disable certain

  • characters or keep them at a distance so

  • that he can make way for others in the conflict without leading

  • anyone bouncing around awkwardly in the background.

  • Like Max here with his hand, this lets the sirens in Furiosa of shine or Joe and

  • gang here, this lets the rig get away to make space for the next conflict or

  • even the whole reason Joe is on his own in the first place.

  • Because the rest of his war band got stuck behind some rocks and he was the only

  • one with four wheel drive in a god damned rocky desert apocalypse apparently, but

  • it gets better.

  • You know how in a stand up comic's routine,

  • when they've already had their fun with some sill bit and then ten minutes later

  • they cleverly reincorporate it back into their latest joke with a callback?

  • Miller does this with just about everything, but

  • instead of humor, he uses violence, just like my parents, anyway.

  • Those wire cutters, they we're a key plot point just a short while back.

  • Even the rickety door and bum leg are planted moments earlier,

  • which brings us to our final point, the characters.

  • This action sequence wouldn't be much more interesting than actual dominos if it

  • we're just clever pieces of shrapnel banging into each other in

  • one long chain explosion.

  • But in between the explosions and feats of strength and

  • moments of cleverness, Millard Peppers in just the right amount of character.

  • The individual characters are essential cogs in the Rube Goldberg machine, and

  • their decisions are both entirely warranted by the action that comes

  • immediately before, and entirely impactful to the consequences that come about after.

  • And he does this by planting who they are and then paying it off in their actions.

  • Time and time again,

  • we're given indication of how important Joe's unborn child is to him.

  • When the flame thrower's shut off, when he's forced to hold his fire because she

  • throws her body in front of Furiosa and immediately before her spill on

  • the fake out where we hear and see his warning yell.

  • So when she actually does fall, and Joe swerves and nearly kills himself and

  • his crew, not only is it believable,

  • it's inevitable, which is what makes this whole sequence so bloody brilliant.

  • We watched a ton of action sequences to pick out our favorite moments for

  • this list.

  • And one of the recurring features of some of our less favorite bits of action is

  • something I wanna Gestalt action.

  • Gestalt action is nonspecific, it's not about the individual bullets or

  • even necessarily the individual people, it's happening at Scale.

  • Army A is pushing back army B, the good guys are beating up the bad guys,

  • we're dying out here.

  • It communicates the broad strokes of a fight,

  • which is important, especially if it's a massive fight.

  • But if a fight scene ends up being a little too gush salty,

  • the individual component parts start not to matter, if each gunshot is a drop in

  • a bucket we stop really caring about the impact in pain of each gunshot.

  • We're just waiting for the bucket to overflow, but

  • when each drop in the bucket is the exact drop

  • that sends it overflowing into the next one, that's something special.

  • Peter Jackson is brilliant at this or he wasn't The Lord of the Rings,

  • this kind of stuff is noticeably lacking in The Hobbit.

  • But at helm's deep, he's tackling two massive armies, but

  • somehow we still care about every death in every arrow.

  • We stay focused on the heroes without losing track of the turning tide of

  • the battle field, this is really hard to do.

  • In fact, there aren't very many movies that do it all that well,

  • even movies with otherwise brilliant action sequences like

  • Saving Private Ryan's final 30 minutes actually miss a lot of opportunities here.

  • Whereas in the Battle of Helms Deep, we always know which direction the fight

  • is swinging and even where there are wins and losses on the battlefield,

  • Saving Private Ryan showdown is much more chaotic.

  • It's easy for us to lose track of the general geometry of the battlefield,

  • such that when characters are being flanked, we aren't quite sure

  • why it's happening except for that's what the script says is going on right now.

  • But the main brilliance of Peter Jackson's direction here is what I'm gonna call

  • pyramid action, the entire massive battle is the base of the pyramid.

  • It's huge,

  • it's not easy to keep track of without one of those cool big maps that they have in

  • war rooms with those awesome action figures they push around with sticks, but

  • one level above that, we narrow it down a bit, get a little simpler.

  • We can divide the action into two general sides, Roherim versus Oorokai,

  • we keep these nice and evenly divided, screen left and screen right,

  • it's just good writing and directing.

  • You pay a little closer attention,

  • you'll realize that the battle is further broken up into two fronts.

  • The walls and the gate, one below the other, but

  • even keeping track of two whole fronts can be tough, so let's take it one step

  • further by giving each of these two fronts some general strategies.

  • There's one strategy at a time being played out in each region by

  • each side of the war.

  • On the offense, they include ladders, mega crossbow ladders, battering rams and

  • bombs.

  • And on the defense, they include bracing the gates,

  • pushing over ladders, falling back to the keep and shooting the bomb guys, but

  • this is still a little gush salty.

  • If we left it here the whole battle would be told in lots of little montages,

  • we see three letters go up in a row, we know that ladder strategy is winning.

  • We see a couple orcs get stabbed,

  • we know the orcs are getting beat, but PJ don't wanna do that, so what does he do?

  • He builds up one more level and gives each strategy a lynchback,

  • this is the tip of the pyramid, check it out.

  • - Is this it?

  • Is this all you

  • can conjure,

  • Saruman?

  • (Music)

  • - (Foreign).

  • (Sound) In order to win the war the orc's have to win the wall fight,

  • in order to win the wall fight, they have to breach the walls.

  • In order to breach the walls they have to blow up some bombs,

  • in order to blow up some bombs they have to light them and how do they light them?

  • Well, with the Olympic torch McGorch over here and yeah, we admit, the chariots of

  • fire steeds is a little dorky, but look at how brilliantly written it is.

  • It's a single moment with a single action that has a single opposing strategy that

  • is immediately understandable.

  • And when accomplished, gives way to a strategy win that gives way to a front

  • win, that gives way to the gaining the orc gaining the upper hand, this single person

  • turns the tide of the war and it makes us root for every single arrow.

  • And as a topper, who do we find at the tip of the pyramid?

  • Our heroes, it's Aragorn, seeing the ploy, yelling to Legolas to fire the arrows.

  • They're the ones leading the charge against the main strategies of the enemy.

  • They are the key deciding factors that have the ability to turn the tide of

  • the entire war one way or

  • the other, that's how you make massive battles into personal affairs.

  • You make it so the impact of each decision trickles down the entire pyramid,

  • like some kind of actiony Reaganomics, so that this tiny frame sized moment at

  • the top effects everything down to the very foundation

  • (Music)

  • What's even cooler is that Jackson and his writers managed to tie all of this action

  • deeper still to the characters, their personalities, conflicts and arcs.

  • We see the melee battle turn into a friendly competition between Gimley and

  • Legolas, which is essential to their movement from adversaries to best friends,

  • that's just great efficient storytelling.

  • And that's what we want for this list, special moments that reflect character,

  • and theme, and intricacy in every shot, I mean,

  • really, what makes the difference in a lot of fights?

  • Why does Rocky eventually overcome Drago?

  • Sure, we know it's because he wants it more or because he's an American or

  • because he's a fighter, not a quitter.

  • Which is cool, but in how many places does the choreography,

  • cinematography and style reflect this?

  • I mean, it all just comes down to which one the script tells to act tired first,

  • they could've just as easily swapped places if the scene needed to

  • go the other way.

  • We keep coming back to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it's fight scenes are so

  • unlike this it's unbelievable.

  • Crouching Tiger is transcended in the sense that all the action

  • is specifically choreographed to the character performing it.

  • Even the specific point on their arc and their mental state at the time,

  • every single moment of each fight is a slice of the greater conflict at hand.

  • For instance here,

  • we very clearly see Li Mu Bai's, Hong getting the best of Jin's childish anger.

  • And here, Shu Lin is learning something about Jin,

  • here Jin's ego has her delivering a tirading sermon of a fight in