#TBThursday Review: Best Stunts Put On Film


IMG_0622When it comes to stunts, there’s nothing Tom Cruise won’t do. If you’ve seen any of the MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE films, there’s a real, tangible quality to their action sequences. Granted, not everything can be achieved in a realistic way, but when it can, boy, is it riveting.

The franchise’s fifth installment, ROGUE NATION, opens tomorrow, and our team put together a list of their favorite movie stunts to celebrate its release. Let us look back at some of the most ludicrous things people have ever done in the name of authenticity in their movies.

Truck flip

Now, when it comes to the best of stunts, you can’t NOT mention practical master filmmaker Christopher Nolan. The man who envisions something and tries his damnedest to make sure he achieves it, and it a practical way.

If you saw TERMINATOR GENISYS this summer, you may remember the scene on the bridge where an entire school bus flips, but the stakes were not there like they were in THE DARK KNIGHT, mainly because it felt as artificial as the CGI that was used to make it happen. However, THE DARK KNIGHT‘s truck flip is a whole other animal.

When Nolan first suggested the scene, I’m wiling to bet no one thought he literally meant flip a semi truck. They probably thought, “Yeah. We’ll use a miniature and add it in post later,” since that’s how Nolan does some of this stunts. But no, Nolan wanted a real truck to do a real flip.

This stunt could have proven to be really, really expensive if it had failed. When you’re shooting in the streets of Chicago, one small slip and you destroy the utilities on the street. But not only were they putting the city in harm’s way, but someone had to drive the damn thing. So Nolan and his team reinforced the cab with a strong frame, as you might expect. And after the crew eventually developed a large, remote-controlled piston to be placed under the truck, all it took was two tries and multiple camera angles and boom– history.
– Preston Barta

Rotating Hallway

Our second Nolan entry would be the infamous rotating hallway scene from INCEPTION. During the filming of that particular scene, the production crew intended to build a 40-foot long set similar to the idea of the hamster wheel, with the cameras mounted on the floor and walls. However, as the scene grew more elaborate, the set reached over 100 feet. From there, the actors were placed inside and had to learn the choreography for the scene. All that hard work payed off, because you do not forget that scene after you see the film. It’s a dazzler.
– Preston Barta

Tanker chase

There isn’t an action scene captured on camera that had more moving parts than the 13 minute final scene in George Miller’s THE ROAD WARRIOR. The second in the MAD MAX series springs to life pulling bits from several genres in a fully visceral experience. The “tanker chase” is widely regarded as one the best rollercoaster rides that Roger Ebert called “a film of pure action, of kinetic energy organized around the barest bones of a plot.” That simplicity that Ebert spoke of is in full effect here as the tanker driven by Max (Mel Gibson) is being chased by a motorcycle gang after their precious “juice,” or as it’s curiously referred to as “guzzoline.”

The dizzying experience of THE ROAD WARRIOR is amplified by this thrilling conclusion that I believe is nothing short of breath taking.
– Cole Clay

SPEED (1994)
Keanu Reeves Tries to Dismantle the Bomb

Note: Above is the film’s trailer. No clips of the scene described below are available. Although, there are a few quick glimpses in the trailer.

Sure, there are numerous stunts more memorable (i.e. the elevator rescue, the bus jump), but I’m most impressed when Jack tries to dismantle the bomb, mainly because Keanu Reeves does most of it himself. Much like our MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE lead Tom Cruise, Mr. Reeves is known to do a lot of his own stunts. In this scene, Jack is cabled on a dolly for him to get under the bus to dismantle the bomb. Once under, Jack grabs onto the chassis to go to work. The action is intensified by the fact that a) the film intercuts between Jack under the bus and his partner Harry (Jeff Daniels) as at the precinct walking him through a bomb dismantle, and b) you see the moving pavement in the background, with Jack framed in a close-up. Then the bus starts rolling over debris, causing Jack to jostle but maintaining his position. Because they’re going in circles, the debris comes back around to take the dolly off track, positioning Jack right in front of the rear passenger tires. There’s a bit of trickery with close-ups solely on the legs, but the editing makes sure to keep close-ups of Jack’s face in tow. The dolly then goes under, leaving Jack holding onto the chassis for dear life. Again, our lead is in close-up with the pavement moving behind him, cutting to his kicking legs trying to hold on. Eventually, he is rescued by the passengers through the door in the floorboard. Having a lead bold enough to be involved in stunts like these are extremely effective in maintaining tension, which SPEED holds in its entirety.
– Jared McMillan

Honorable Mentions:

  • BULLIT (1968) – famous car chase
  • CASINO ROYALE (2006) – parkour dude
  • THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2013) – plane hijacking
  • MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) – the whole movie
  • THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) – mid air roll
  • RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) – climbing under the truck
  • SKYFALL (2013) – train fight opening
  • TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991) – helicopter chase sequence
About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.