death proof

(Welcome to /Response, the companion piece to our /Answers series and a space where /Film readers can chime in and offer their two cents on a particular question.)

Earlier this week, the /Film team wrote about their favorite car chases in movie history. We then opened the floor to our readers: what is your favorite movie car chase? And you let us know!

We have collected our favorite answers (edited for length and clarity) below. Next week’s question: what is your favorite TV episode of all time? Send your (at least one paragraph, please) answer to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com!

Death Proof

Choosing this film almost feels like cheating, as Death Proof was constructed as a love-letter to white-knuckle car chase thrillers like Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Vanishing Point. Regardless of how you feel about the film as a whole, this chase scene is epic, and takes up the last 20 minutes of the film.

There’s a lot to love about this scene, starting with the oddball circumstances that set it up. A group of women working on a film decide to joyride a vintage Dodge Challenger. One woman, a professional stunt performer played by Zoe Bell, takes things to the next level by playing a game that involves laying on the hood while the car is pushed to its maximum speeds. The real chase begins when a psychotic stunt-driver begins tailing their car and ramming into it with hopes that he can knock Zoe off the hood. From this moment on, my hands are always sweating. Every time you see that car take a hit and see Bell slide across the hood, your heart skips a beat.

Soon, the tables are turned. The women are now the “cat” in the chase, barreling down country highways trying to get revenge on Stuntman Mike for his sick games. This half of the chase pays more direct homage to chase films of yesteryear  and these last 20 minutes of the film is the reason to watch Death Proof. (Jordan DeLuCruz)

Diva

Diva is an unforgettable film for many reasons.  The cinematography is stunning, the wardrobe on-point, the soundtrack both moving and unconventional, and the plot is so superficially fantastic to the point of being completely superfluous to the true purpose of the film.  But of all the unforgettable elements of the film, what truly solidifies it as one of the great cinematic experiences to come out of the short lived and exclusive Cinema du Look movement is the chase scene.

A little more than an hour into the film, we see our protagonist, Jules, leaving the apartment of his object of affection. As he is approaching his beautiful red Motobecane moped, we hear a conversation between the male and female cops that are tailing him. Their conversation is completely irrelevant (the male cop attempting to impress the female by bragging about his cardiovascular talents), however the motions of the camera, the slow sweeping motions toward the subjects, builds perfectly the chase that is about to ensue. Once the cops hear the moped, the chase begins.

We are immediately gifted with beautiful shots of Paris at night, the soft lights of the city bouncing through the background, the bright lights of the vehicle reflecting an acid yellow on the cobblestone street and some exciting lens flare creating a crimson halo around the headlights. Clashing with these images are a series of sleek shots of Jules wearing his red and gold helmet which emphasize not only the cool design and colors of the helmet but also the dramatic nature of the city lights at night.

The sequence lasts about 3m 45s.  What makes it so great was the unconventional approach Beineix and his team took to the classic chase scene.  They slowed down the pace considerably and did not rely on the typical motifs and shots that most chase scenes employ.  The music is almost relaxing and mirrors the surreal nature of the situation (a foot vs moped chase through the Paris Metro) but the beautiful and naturalistic lighting and colors of the city are enough to keep the viewer engaged in ways that most chase scenes don’t. (William Arvin)

Drive

Nicholas Refn’s brutal arthouse flick features Ryan Gosling as a most enigmatic character: not only is he a stuntman by day and getaway driver by night, but he’s also a lover and a fighter. Furthermore, he is never named throughout the entire movie – he’s just known as “the Driver.”

The film begins with the Driver in a car watching his watch and waiting for his burglars to finish burgling and get in the car. At the movie’s 5:20 mark, they are off. But wait! It isn’t a chase yet. The Driver is not racing to get away. Instead, he slowly drives under the radar, hiding behind semi trucks in the shadow of the night. He is poised and precise. But while police officers are searching for the car, there is just as much suspense going on as in a typical car chase. Everyone in the car, and the car itself, is quiet. The stillness creates suspense. Once the car is spotted, the Driver revs his engine and speeds off as a helicopter tracks him. Our hearts are pumping for a few seconds, and then the Driver finds another place to hide. The use of sound from quiet to loud to quiet again is frustratingly thrilling. It isn’t long before a police officer finds him again and chases him for a few seconds. But the Driver gets away, parks the car, and loses the officer. The scene goes black. We can finally breathe.

This unorthodox car chase sets the pace for this film. One might argue the quick change of tones from soft to loud is also how the movie itself works: from a soft romantic relationship to a loud intense bloodbath. And just as Driver is so precise, so is Refn, finding a subtle way to create a suspenseful car chase that doesn’t rely on gear shifting and loud explosions. (Sam Schabel)

***

Despite its title, Drive isn’t exactly remembered for its driving. Upon release, the film was even the subject of a law suit from a Michigan filmgoer, who felt that they were deprived of the pulsating chase scenes promised in the trailer. Whilst the opening getaway sequence may not provide the bombast that audiences have become accustomed to with their chase sequences thanks to the Fast & Furious franchise, it shows how suspense can be just as thrilling, if not more so.

In this opening scene we are shown the methodical way in which Ryan Gosling’s character goes about his nightly business. It begins with him counting down the last seconds of his five-minute window, waiting for the perpetrators of a crime to get back in his vehicle. What ensues is a game of cat-and-mouse with the police, as they try to evade detection. Like the film that follows, it is a chase defined as much by stillness and silence as it is by movement. Gosling’s driver deliberately shrouds the vehicle in the shadows, as the beaming light of a police chopper comes from overhead. From the way he uses darkness to hide, before leaping into quick action and then disguising himself amongst a departing sports crowd, it shows the intelligence, ruthlessness and professionalism of the character.

Accompanied by Cliff Martinez’s tension-inducing track, ‘Tick of the Clock’ and culminating in an opening credits sequence set to Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall,’ the chase is also a perfect introduction to the tone and style of the film. It may not be the most explosive chase on this list, but to borrow a piece of car terminology, in terms of miles to the gallon, there are few more efficient or effective. (Michael Dalton)

The Good, the Bad, the Weird

My all time favorite car chase scene doesn’t really involve that many cars, but it’s definitely a chase scene involving vehicular carnage. My pick is the amazing, almost 10-minute long sequence near the end of the classic Korean movie The Good, the Bad, the Weird. The whole film itself is really one extended chase scene, but the bravado of this particular sequence, involving dozens of horses, gunfire, a busted-up jeep, dynamite, a ball-and-chain weapon, and incredible amounts of cannon fire, make it thrilling and hold-your-breath exciting. It doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack – blasting Santa Esmerelda’s “Esmerelda Suite” (also used to great effect in Quentin Tarantino’s first Kill Bill) – ties the mayhem together in such a fun way that you can’t help but smile the whole time. (Noah Cho)

Jack Reacher

Is this my favorite among all the chases I’ve seen? Maybe not, but it comes to mind for one potent reason: tension. There’s some of the traditional tension of car chases, yes, but the tension on display here is tactile: it’s about the weight of cars, the friction of tires against the road, and the real challenge of a human being trying to manipulate these machines at high speeds and with great precision. Car chases can take the skills of their drivers for granted, with cars weaving between oncoming traffic, executing hairpin turns with grace, and fishtailing merely for effect. What happens in this scene from Jack Reacher (due in no small part to how much we see of Tom Cruise actually driving – a now well-known trademark of his performances) is that while those traditional car chase beats are hit, they’re shown to be difficult. We see just how long it can take for a car to accelerate, how hard it is to shift direction, and just how challenging it can be to drive and keep track of your prey. The scene may go on for a bit too long, but that’s a forgivable side-effect of its realistic aesthetic. It’s not about high-octane thrills, but about the effort and frustration and genuine tension of pursuit – and it’s wholly effective. (Danny Rivera)

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