By action sequences I don't mean just scenes from action films. The type of film that the scene is in has no bearing on it's selection, though the majority are from action films in the more classic sense. It also has nothing to do with money, a good film maker will make a good action sequence on a shoestring. It's because you have something invested in the characters, you care what happens to them. A good action scene will keep ratcheting up the tension but never drag, just cause you have a lot of money doesn't mean you should throw it all at the screen. I'm taking about the Michael Bay's, Brett Ratners and Roland Emmerich's of the world. The end of Transformers 3 goes on for so long I gave up caring. I just wanted everyone on screen to die an agonising death, just so that it would end and the chance of Transformers 4 would be out of question. Honestly though, it's a film about cars that turn into robots, why is over 2 hours long? What could possible take that long to say about some robots hitting each other on the head, whilst Shia Lebeouf does that irritating screechy nostril flaring thing. This is what passes for a leading man these days?
So here are my top 13 action sequences (not in any order). Why 13? I don't know I had to cut it off at some point otherwise it may have been top 128!
There are a number of sequences in old boy that stick in the mind.From live octopus eating, to tongue slicing, or ants crawling under the protagonists skin, but there are few which capture Oh Dae-su's relentless quest better than the corridor hammer scene. Made to look like one take, it has a streets of rage look to it, with one man against the world and just a hammer for company. And just when he gets to the end of the corridor? There are a few more blokes in the lift. Suffice to say they meet a sticky end as well.
Children of Men
I can never decide if I prefer the car reversing motorbike scene or the final warzone scene. Both have a very naturalistic look to them, with so much going on in the scene you don't know where to look. For me the motorbike scene is more exhilarating, made by a supremely confident film maker who knows what he's doing. It's so action packed you might just miss a major character catching a bullet.
The Dark Knight
One of two Chris Nolan films that make my list, he's become the go to guy for original action sequences. The whole of the Dark Knight has a constant sense of tension that never drops during the whole running time. The prisoner transfer scene is the best scene for me. The unpredictable nature of the joker means you never know what's going to happen next. Plus the bat mobile turns into the most awesome bat bike, takes on a HGV and there's a surprise reveal at the end as well.
Mr Nolan's second entry and I'm sure he'd have 3 if the Dark Knight Rises had been released. It's not a surprise that the corridor sequence is my pick, easily the best action scene of 2010. This is the scene everyone was talking about almost as much as the ending! It goes to prove that you don't need hugely expensive CGI, just take two blokes, a rotating corridor and add gravity.... et voilà.
Everyone has bullet time in their film these days it's nothing special; computer games use it, TV shows use it, even bloody quiz shows like ITV's tTe Cube have it. But there was a time when this was truly special. The first time I saw the Matrix in the cinema I was blown away. The sequels definitely bought into the more is more idea, throwing too much money at the screen but for a brief time in 1999 bullet time was a beautiful thing to behold
Lord of the Ring: The Two Towers
Some people think this is the weakest film of the trilogy, the point were the trilogy sags a bit but I don't agree. This is the film were the there's no set up or tying up of loose ends. It gets going straight away with Gandalf fighting the Balrog. It's the battle of helms deep where it all truly kicks off,with hacking and slashing of the highest variety. When Gandalf appears accompanied by Eomer riding down the hill, the sun shining behind them, it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. For me is the stand-out moment of the trilogy.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Once Paul Greengrass took over the reins of the Bourne films they really seemed to find their feet. That's not to say that the first film isn't good, but Supremacy and Ultimatum just move it on. Every action film since has tried to imitate the up close, quick cutting, brutal and realistic filming style. It all comes together perfectly in the chase across the rooftops in Morocco, culminating a vicious fight for survival at the end.
The Seven Samurai
What's to be said that hasn't already been said about the Seven Samurai? The original action film. It seems that every climactic battle ends in the rain these days, The Seven Samurai started it all. The final battle against the bandits in the rain soaked village is a thing of pure beauty. Kurosawa always made exceptional films, but even by his high standards this scene stands out.
What happened to John Woo? If you watch his Hollywood output, you'd say it's probably for the best that he's not made many films recently. Go back to his Hong Kong days and you realise it's genuinely a shame that he seems to have lost his touch. Hard Boiled is possibly the high watermark of his films, Chow Yun-fat, Tony Leung, and balletic gun play. It makes you wish his Hollywood films had half energy of this scene.
Tell No One
This French film does have flaws. The plot is very far fetched and loses steam towards the end. The chase scene in the middle however is absolutely brilliant. There's a sense of urgency and threat that a lot of films struggle to attain. The CGI in some parts of the chase is poor but that's missing the point, this is genuinely an everyday schmo being pushed to the limit.
Michael Mann hits all the high notes during the bank robbery scene, as the meticulously planned robbery goes to shit when the cops show up. The film is a slow build but it bursts into life as soon as the machine guns start firing. Few movie heists come close to the level of excitement reached in Heat.
The Good the Bad and the Weird
A Korean homage to the good the bad and the ugly, finishes off with a barnstorming chase scene involving horses, a motorbike and the Japanese army as the titular good, bad and weird face off looking for the treasure. Funny and exhilarating in equal parts, this is a thrilling end to an excellent film.
Who doesn't wish they were Steve McQueen? Really what more is there to say?!?
What's you favourite? No doubt I've missed something off this list which I'll regret later, c'est la vie.