At the end of each month, the Sound On Sight staff will band together to write an article about their favourite scenes in films released. Here are our favourite scenes from the month of January.
The Grey – In media res
Near the end of Joe Carnahan’s admirably ambling survival thriller, the energy begins to re-mount as it becomes clear that Ottway (Liam Neeson) is about to make what may be his final stand against the wilderness that has dogged him and his fellow survivors for the last, oh, 110 minutes or so. Then, a sight familiar to anyone who’s seen promotional materials: Neeson taping broken bottles between his knuckles, with a knife in the other hand. For the last time, visions of his wife return, once again intoning, “don’t be scared,” only this time revealed to have a very different meaning than we might previously have inferred. The alpha emerges, proud and sure-footed. And then…
Haywire: Car chase
It’s not easy to choose a best scene from one of the better action flicks in recent memory, but the extended car chase that quickly moves onto a snowy off-road, goes in reverse on a narrow path, and ultimately ends with the most unexpected deer collision in cinema history, is likely the most memorable.
A Dangerous Method: Otto Gross’s Entrance
As surface-level “un-Cronenberg” as his M. Butterfly, A Dangerous Method is actually truer to the director’s themes than his most recent works. The restraint here masks a bubbling tension, threatening to explode at any moment. One of the finest examples of this restraint is the introduction of Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), who bursts into Carl Jung’s office (Michael Fassbender) as a patient, and leaves as the therapist – not to mention with a few five-finger-discounted items.
A Separation: Nader and father
There are several excellent scenes in Asghar Farhadi’s Foreign Language Academy Award best bet, but perhaps the best is one of those that sets everything in motion. Nader (Peyman Moadi) returns home with his daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) to find his father unconscious, on the floor, and tied to the bed. What follows is a lengthy discourse of finger-pointing and subtle clues to a greater mystery.
The Grey: First blood
If neither the solemn letter read aloud by Liam Neeson at the start of the film, nor the scene in which his character is a hair away from committing suicide are clear enough indications that director Joe Carnahan means business in The Grey after the utterly forgettable cash grab that was The A-Team, then the moment when the first death of the picture occurs should do just the trick. It happens shortly after their plane crashes somewhere in Alaska’s barren, unwelcoming winter land. A few of the men have survived the event, but one (Ben Gray) is too gravely injured to possibly make it out alive. As everybody hovers over his weak body, only Neeson knows how to approach the situation and ease the condemned man as life itself slowly trickles out of his body. Shock turns to fear, which then turns to an indescribable soothing state as the man is invited by Neeson to think about a family member he loves and let her ‘take’ him away. A jaw dropping early moment in a film the marketing makes look like a throwaway survival thriller.
Présumé coupable: Concluding court hearing
Vincent Garenq’s latest is a testing film. A man (Philippe Terreton) is shamelessly presumed guilty of harrowing crimes and spends many months, even years in custody. His journey sees his mind and heart bullied by despair, frustration and depression. How can it possibly end? What avenues exist to finally provide this poor soul with some tools to finally right the wrongs done to him? A court hearing at the highest level of France’s judicial system of course. Granted, the sequence begins much like the audience expects it to, with both sides pleading their respective cases, but at one point somebody intimately involved with one of the sides begins to fess up, revealing some absolutely stunning material which turns the entire affair on its head. The moment is absolutely infuriating, albeit for all the right reasons since all this time, just like the protagonist, the viewer has been hanging like a thread.
Kill List: The climax
Ben Wheatly’s genre mash-up aptly blends gothic horror, black comedy, domestic drama and the buddy-hit-man movie element into a seamless whole. The film is presented in three distinct but smart connected tissues: Act I is a strange, stressful dinner party between two couples who have far too may skeletons in the closet. Act II is an offbeat thriller that involves the mysterious “kill list,” and follows two hit-man as they go about executing the people named on the list – and the third act is a an effective horror flick that delves into dark twisted themes. Each act has at least one memorable moment but it’s the climax (one perhaps indebted to The Wicker Man), that is heart-stopping. The finale leaves this uniquely cerebral, rich horror movie, to be dissected and appraised long after its theatrical run is over.
Haywire: Carano vs. Fassbender
At it’s roots, Haywire is the kind of low-budget, straight-to-video action thriller that airs on late-night basic cable. Make no mistake about it, Steven Soderbergh purposely keeps the picture true to its low-rent B-movie principles – and while on paper, nothing about Haywire sounds notable, there are several scenes which elevate the film to well above-average: As mentioned above, Soderbergh, manages to spice up a routine car chase (in the snow and in the woods) ending in a shocking sight gag, you won’t see coming. But for my money, the best moment in Haywire is when Gina Carano, the amazonian brunette (in her cocktail dress), takes part in an extended hand-to-hand fight scene with Michael Fassbender (here playing a coldly lethal assassin). As the two tangle, they completely destroy a luxury suite in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel – ending with Fassbender’s head squeezed between her thighs so hard, she knocks him out.
We Need To Talk About Kevin: Opening in bliss
Lynne Ramsay’s direction of We Need To Talk About Kevin is confident and composed. Her stylistic touches burn through the dread that is stripped back gradually through the blood-coloured production design. The colour red that filters through the pictures veins for its entire running time: starting from the unforgettable opening at a Spanish festival where a crowd of people are seen enmeshed and slowly thrashing while drenched in tomatoes. Her mise-en-scène is, at the outset, nothing short of exhilarating. The sound design and score by legendary guitarist and composer Johnny Greenwood are near perfect, evoking unease and active physiological engagement. It becomes clear in that opening scene that Kevin will be an exceptional film.