If I had to define action movies in 2015 with a single word it would be adaption. Whether it was adapting a comic character to the big screen or a franchise to a new generation this felt like the year of the adaption. Even more so since unlike years past we get reboots for major, long dormant franchises like Jurassic Park and Mad Max as well as returning favorites like James Bond and The Avengers. Not to say that it was all remakes and sequels. While original fare wasn’t always the biggest hits they certainly brought interesting ideas to the table. From kids stealing a Cop Car to a stoner government assassin we were introduced to a good collection of up-and-coming writers and directors. Needless to say it will be interesting to see how these two worlds meld in the near future. With that all said these are the Top 6 Action Scenes of the Year.
American Ultra- Saving Phoebe
Despite a stylish director and a fun script American Ultra didn’t click as perfectly as it should. That is until near the end. Going to save his kidnapped girlfriend sleeper agent Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) finally takes the fight to the CIA and rescue her. Starting with an explosive entrance it quickly becomes a violent and creative fight scene/tracking shot with very few cuts. It was the movie finally delivering on the creative and frenetic chaos I wanted throughout.
Jurassic World- Dinosaur Breakout
Ignoring thing’s I’m not paid nearly enough to discuss (ie. gender politics and sexism) Jurassic World is the perfect example of a summer blockbuster. Things like dropped plot threads and lacking in personality can be put aside for a couple of hours because OH MY GOD A DINOSAUR! This can best be displayed when the dinosaurs finally break out and attack the tourists. It’s been built up over the whole movie, heck over several movies, and it’s just as sweet as you want it to be. In fact it’s pretty damn brutal. Pterodactyls swoop down attacking tourists before one grabs Zara, Claie’s assistant. The dinosaur straight up tortures her before both are they’re both eaten by a Mosasaurus. Despite being cruel and mean-spirited it is a pretty entertaining scene. Definitely a highlight of this summer blockbuster.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation- Opera Fight
In my retrospective of the Mission: Impossible franchise one recurring element was what I call the “silent” action scene. Named after the scene where Ethan Hunt came though the ceiling to get information each film as had a similar scene. Rogue Nation changed the formula a bit by having a chase and fight take place during the opera in Vienna. Set to Turandot agent Hunt is on a race against time to stop three snipers from killing the Australlian Chancellor. Beautifully shot by frequent Tom Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie it is a beautifully shot set piece that demonstrates why Mission: Impossible is one of my favorite franchises.
Spectre- Dia de los Muertos Chase
Reviews for the latest Bond film have been mixed to say the least. Critics and audiences alike are split on whether the more retro feel worked out. Regardless of the review the one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that the opening chase was awesome. On an unofficial mission Bond is in Mexico City during Dia de los Muertos. We follow Bond seducing a woman and walking along the rooftops in a great looking tracking shot. Bond chases assassin Marco Sciarra throughout the streets as people celebrate and buildings crumble. Culminating in a helicopter fight it’s one of the best Bond openings of the Daniel Craig era.
Kingsman: The Secret Service- Church Fight
If there is one thing I have made abundantly clear on this list it is that I love a good tracking shot. More specifically one during an action scene. I will never not be impressed watching a good director meld fight choreography and chaos in one continuous shot. And if there ist one that impressed me more than any other this year it was the church fight in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Set up by Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is in a packed Westboro Baptist-esque church. Valentine broadcasts a signal that makes everybody violent and all hell breaks loose. Using simulated tracking shots (with occasional cuts to people watching) we see the typically prim Firth play against character and kill as many people as he can. The kicker being that it’s set to the most hillbilly song ever, Lynard Skynard’s Freebird. Shootings, stabbings, impalings, it is the perfect bit of chaos in this already fun movie.
Mad Max: Fury Road- Everything
Of course Mad Max: Fury Road has the best action scene of 2015. What else could it be? The dark horse of the summer blockbusters it endeared itself to critics and audiences alike with some amazing chases, great fights and a surprisingly progressive narrative. The bigger question is which action scene was the best? Was it the War Boys chasing Imperator Furiousa into a monstrous sand storm? Perhaps it was Max and Furiousa fighting each other, one-on-one outside of the War Rig. It could just be last battle where the crew of the War Rig and the denizens of the Green Place heading straight into the Citadel. The movie is basically nothing but awesome action scenes. Which is why the top spot for Best Action Scenes of 2015 goes to all of Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a total cheat and I admit that. But when even small things like Max using his body to help Furiosa use a sniper rifle are cool bits of character I refuse to pick out a single scene as the best.
Creed- The Second Fight
For the most part Creed does pretty good in the boxing scene department. Certainly better than other recent films like The Fighter. While we get a more traditional fight in the finale the one that sticks out to me is the second fight in the film. The second fight in the film it follows Adonis Creed’s first major fight in a single, unbroken shot. Without cuts to the audience or commentary for announcers it is something completely different from anything else in the Rocky franchise. Not to mention, as it’s become clear, I’m a total sucker for tracking shots.
Cop Car- Stealing the car
Directed by Jon Watts (who will direct the next Spider-Man film) Cop Car is a good indie thriller starring Kevin Bacon. Despite all the action and chases the best scene is probably the most innocent. The scene is simple enough with leads Timothy and Harrison stealing the titular car. It’s almost Spielbergian in how it’s played out with the two being afraid and excited just to get in the car. While not the most action packed scenes it’s pretty damn fun.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens- Kylo Ren vs Finn
The Force Awakens was fairly unremarkable action scene wise. It was fun, no doubt, but typical of a summer blockbuster. The one scene that really stood out was the final showdown between Kylo Ren and Finn. Unlike previous films it is, for lack of a better term, realistic. It isn’t too plodding (rewatch Obi Wan in New Hope) nor is it ridiculous (see Revenge of the Sith). It felt like a real fight (or as real as a movie about space magicians can be). Unfortunately it just feels a bit too short and the fight right after (no spoilers here) is good but suffers the same problem.