Best Action Scenes That Tell The Story

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A good fight scene isn’t just an action star beating on some goons. It shows who the characters are and progresses the story. It has a unique style, a gruesome ballet of extraordinary human movement.

Here are my three favourite recent examples.

Daredevil’s Hallway

Netflix’s Daredevil had a lot of action. But my favourite part came in episode two:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B66feInucFY&w=560&h=315]

Two things I love about this scene:

It’s stylistically unusual, the movement on and off screen creating a novel perspective and engaging the viewer’s imagination in working out what’s happening out of shot.

It shows the protagonist’s character, and that the violence is affecting him. He’s so exhausted he keeps having to stop and rest against the wall, but nothing’s going to stop him reaching his goal.

Snowpiercer’s Sense of Direction

Snowpiercer uses fights not as interruptions to the characters’ dilemmas and journey, but as part of that journey. By continuing its left/right breakdown of shots, and using this to show characters making decisions as well as making progress, it connects the action in to a cohesive and powerful narrative.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X05TDsoSg2Y&w=560&h=315]

The Raids

The Raid and The Raid 2 feature some of the most breathtaking fight scenes in modern cinema. Sure, their plots are primarily vehicles for those fight scenes, but from the floor-by-floor carnage of the first film to the punch-up in the confines of a car late in the sequel, and right through to its brutal climax, they keep showing something new.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ6yUHHfZ04&w=560&h=315]

Agree, disagree, can’t see the point in on screen violence? Share our thoughts, and great examples I’ve missed, in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Best Action Scenes That Tell The Story”

  1. Interesting for me that you picked this topic at the same time I was thinking that, although I was glad to have seen “Marvel: Avengers Assemble” at last, I was very glad I had not been to the cinema for it, as, for me, too much screen time was taken up with violence. I can take a certain amount of fighting as long as it is right for the story. I can take less destruction, I think. Must be getting old …

    1. I think it’s more a matter of taste than of age. Films have upped the ante in terms of action in recent years, and as someone who loves a well executed fight that suits me. But it comes at the expense of other things that could have filled that screen time, and clearly isn’t going to suit everyone.

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