Friday, January 19, 2018

Favorite Scene Friday! Inception: Spinning Around

It's January here on To The Escape Hatch (and everywhere else too, I guess) so we are of course holding our annual celebration of fantasy and science fiction, the Escape-athon. For my submission I'm also involving the LAMB's Acting School, who are currently focusing on Joseph Gordon Levitt. The Venn diagram of JGL and fantasy doesn't feature too many movies in the intersection (it's pretty much this and Looper), but fortunately one that does appear is one of my favourite movies of the past decade, Inception.
Inception by Chris Skinner
To date Inception is my favourite of Christopher Nolan's films. It's that rarest of creatures - a hugely successful summer tentpole that's also wholly original and incredibly complex, whilst remaining vastly entertaining. If you're unfamiliar, it follows a team of "extractors" - people who enter dreams to extract information - who are hired to perform the first successful inception, wherein they plant an idea that the target will believe to be their own. In order to accomplish such a task the team - led by Leonardo DiCaprio, and comprised of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao and Ken Watanabe - must enter deep into the subconscious of their target (Cillian Murphy), meaning once inside the first dream they must then enter a second and third level of dream to really make the idea stick. Unfortunately for the team, any events that occur within the dream above will take effect on the dream below. This is best shown in today's clip. Here, Yusuf (Rao) is charged with protecting the team in the first dream, but has hit a spot of bother with their target's in-dream security, and is having to evade them in a car chase, with the rest of the team asleep in his van. This impacts upon Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), who is undertaking a similar task in the second level of dream, where he is protecting the sleeping team in a hotel room unaccustomed to taking place in the mind of someone in a fast, often not upright vehicle. In the video, the fight sequence starts at about 0:45. Let's take a look:

I like how the dream effects build up in intensity. Arthur first suspects something is up when a light tremor occurs as Yusuf begins to drive the van erratically. Colliding with a motorcyclist causes the hallway to lurch to one side, at this point to Arthur's benefit as one attacker begins to gain the upper hand whilst a second aims a shot. The real danger is shown when a sharp turn causes the first goon to be launched the length - now height - of a hallway, presumably to severe injury if not worse, whilst Arthur is fortunate enough to merely be thrown into a wall. Then comes the money shot, the long corridor scuffle that sees JGL and the stunt man (apologies, I don't know his name) to traverse all four walls/floors/ceilings in a sequence that is frankly a little nauseating to think about. Having them fall into a room full of general hotel paraphernalia is a nice touch, with all the objects flying around adding to the chaotic nature of the fight. And then it ends, with a single shot and Arthur, ever the level-headed professional, checking the gun and discarding it immediately.

As fight sequences go, that's a pretty unique and ambitious one, even more so when you take into account that it was all shot practically, with Gordon-Levitt and various stunt men roaming around a giant rotating centrifuge with the camera locked to it, so although it appears like the fighters are the ones constantly spinning it's actually the corridor itself. If you remove the fantastical elements it becomes a fairly straightforward scene - our hero fights off nameless goons in a hotel hallway, crashing into a room before they all try to reach a gun first - but the ingenuity and innovation required elevate this scene to greatness. I'm not saying it wouldn't be impressive and noteworthy had everything on screen been created digitally, but credit must be given for the hundreds of people involved in overcoming a seemingly endless amount of obstacles to achieve what is ultimately a very short scene that doesn't even involve many major characters. Apparently it took 2 weeks to rehearse and another 3 weeks to actually shoot, but it is absolutely worth it.

What's your favorite Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie moment?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Favorite Scene Friday! Godzilla: Let Them Fight

Our FSF this week - which kicks off Escape-athon 2018 - comes from Nick from French Toast Sunday!


I’m a big Godzilla fan. I had a VHS boxset back in the '90s and early '00s with all the classics. As a child, I watched Godzilla battle it out with Rodan and Mothra (before they became allies) and his greatest foes King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla. Hell, I even have a soft spot for when he battled Biollante, who was essentially a giant plant. Godzilla still kicked its ass up and down Osaka, but I digress. I was beyond excited for 2014’s Godzilla as it was a return to form for the franchise. A slow build where we catch glimpses of the monster, a meandering plot that really doesn’t matter, and a culmination of a massive fight. Sign. Me. Up. Every. Time.

Godzilla Official Movie Site

Gareth Edwards' take on Godzilla took me back to my childhood with one single scene. As the military attempts to simultaneously remove a warhead and bomb the MUTO's nest, Godzilla appears on the streets of San Francisco ready for battle. He approaches and delivers his signature roar and just starts throwing his weight around. The King of the Monsters just manhandles the MUTO for several city blocks, taking it to task. This puny creature is no match, but it’s really never that easy. WHAM! A second MUTO appears, catching Godzilla off guard. The two MUTOs begin ganging up on him and it looks like it’s game over for our antihero. Another curveball! The MUTOs' nest explodes, diverting their attention to the now burning eggs of what could have been their young.

Suddenly, the greatest thing happens. I had waited for this moment (for all my life) since the film was announced and nearly jumped out of my seat in excitement. As the MUTO inspects its nest, we get the slightest grumble and a pool of blue light. We see the light increase and form a spiky trail. It’s climbing up the back of Godzilla, winding up, whirring up, grinding up. At its apex, Godzilla draws his breath and unleashes his atomic breath. A blast of blue nuclear energy burns the MUTO, weakening it, and leaving it defenseless for Godzilla’s final blows. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get the win just yet, but he just might. SPOILERS, Godzilla unleashes the atomic breath again in the film and I was filled with just as much joy if not more. But that’s another favorite scene for another Friday.


What's your favorite scene from 2014's Godzilla?

Are you excited for Godzilla to take on King Kong in 2020's appropriately named Godzilla vs. Kong?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Favorite Scene Friday! The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Orinoco Flow

Beware Spoilers!

Welcome to the final Favorite Scene Friday of 2017! We're really starting to get into some colder weather, so what better way to celebrate than with a scene from a film where cold, bleak weather is practically a character in the film? Hell, one of the taglines is "What is hidden in snow, comes forth in the thaw.". It's from a fairly recent thriller - 2011's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Millennium series - first a Swedish book series, then a Swedish film series and then a stalled American film series, is soon to be rebooted yet again in the form of anther American film, The Girl in the Spider's Web. Director Fede Alvarez is at the helm with The Crown's Claire Foy playing the part of computer hacker and general bad ass Lisbeth Salander, the titular girl (I kind of thought Alvarez should reteam with Jane Levy, his star from the Evil Dead reboot and Don't Breathe). Quite excited for this film, actually - it's due October of next year.

Yannis Ger/AMP
But we're not here to talk about that film - it's TGWTDT we're worried about. My God, this thing really came out all the way back in 2011? It seems like yesterday. We reviewed it, actually - back when we did that sort of thing.

The film follows journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he investigates a missing person's case. During the course of the investigation he teams up with Salander (the underappreciated Rooney Mara). Our scene takes place towards the end of the film, after Blomkvist has been abducted by Stellan Skarsgård's Martin Vanger, who, it's been revealed, is the film's villain. One of the highlights of this scene is surely Skarsgård. He's sort of detached but chillingly intense at the same time.

It's really an interesting back and forth between Craig and Skarsgård. Fear. Boredom. Aggression. More boredom. The scene really kicks into gear when Vanger puts a bag over Blomkvist's head. The bag over the head is so simple but so chilling. Just look at that screen grab below for Pete's sake.  It's intense for two reasons - seeing Daniel Craig (or anyone) like that is very disturbing, but then director David Fincher also lets us see through his character's eyes. I'm not sure which is worse.

Vanger is sort of going through the motions when he realizes - while opening Blomkvist's fly - that he's never had a man down in his torture chamber before. But then it's back to business until Lisbeth shows up. And it's so cathartic when she whacks him with that golf club.

Lastly, if you happened to read that review, you may have noticed that even back then we were particularly affected by the choice of Orinoco Flow, which, by the way, Daniel Craig randomly picked from his iPod behind the scenes. I'll probably never be able to listen to this song the same way again.

What's your favorite scene from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

What's your favorite installment in The Millennium Series, be it the books, the original films, or the American remake?