Top 15 Money shots of the Noughties
The money shot (no, not that kind of money shot) is one of many reasons why we plonk ourselves on the sofa or head out to the cinema to watch films. We all grew up with some image of cinema in our heads and more often than not the images we stored in our minds were the big spectacular ones; the parting of the waves in the Ten Commandments or the napalm bombing in Apocalypse Now . As the blockbuster came of age these type of shots became more prevalent, film studios used television more effectively leading to adverts that grabbed you instantaneously with some memorable imagery. When you saw it your brain (followed shortly by your mouth) said “take it, just take my mon£y!”
This blog will try and focus on the Noughties, so that rules out any film before 2000 and any film released from 2010 onwards. Restricting this post to that period did not make choosing which ones made it in any easier. Anyway enough babbling, let’s get on with it.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Benjamin learns how to walk
Lacking the grand action seen in the other shots, Benjamin Button deserves its place on this list for its truly remarkable visual effects. Films had tried to make actors younger, older or replaced their heads with one resembling a squid, all to varying degrees of success but up until Button no-one had come as close to believably transplanting an actor’s face onto another human being. Seeing Brad Pitt as an old man, joy coming from his craggy face as he walks for the first time is astonishing. You may not have loved Fincher’s film but the importance of this scene and the avenues it opened for visual effects in the future was undeniable.
Arise, USS Enterprise!
There are so many shots from this film I could include but the moment when the USS Enterprise emerges from Titan’s atmosphere was a stunning, spectacular image in a film filled to the brim with them. It’s not the most action packed of moments but in conjunction with Michael Giacchino’s score, it soars.
“That’s one big damn tree!”
When Stephen Lang’s Quaritch says “That’s one big damn tree!” you agree with his statement. When his army brings it down, you’re simply left stunned. Avatar has its detractors but from a visual standpoint it’s outstanding. This and many other scenes could have featured but the size, scope, and in the end, execution make moments like this part of the reason we’re so eager to flock to the cinema.
The Matrix Reloaded
Most complicated car chase ever filmed?
This film gets a lot of flak (though not as much as Revolutions), however it boasts some fine action set-pieces and the freeway scene in particular is its finest. Did the film live up to expectation? Perhaps not but this car chase was simply remarkable and unlike some other moments in the film was mostly done with practical effects.
Mission Impossible 3
Ethan Hunt. Explosion. Car. Ouch.
It helps that this moment comes near the end of a blistering action sequence where a drone ship and a helicopter attack a convoy on a bridge. The action rises from the initial blast and builds to the scene where Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is blown off his feet and into a car by a missile. This shot featured heavily in Paramount’s pre-release marketing and it’s not hard to see why.
The Dark Knight
“He missed!” Apparently not.
Flipping a semi? In Camera? We’ve seen cars been propelled through the air (The Matrix Reloaded) but a semi? It hadn’t been done before unless you count that silly CGI one in Terminator: Rise of the Machines (we don’t). A victory for practical effects, Nolan showed you can accomplish a stunning action shot without being over-reliant on CGI .
The Bourne Ultimatum
Bourne tries out for the long jump competition
This is another film that eschewed the popular belief of using visual effects/green screen. It could have been a stuntman jumping in green-screen with the background inserted in post. Instead Greengrass, along with noted stunt coordinator Dan Bradley, strapped a camera to an operator and had him jump out (on wires) after the stuntman. You can only applaud their ingenuity and their commitment to keeping things real.
Throw a car through a window, that’s how you get someone’s attention.
Although the logic of sequence confuses me (why would you throw a car at someone when you need them to send a message?), seeing a car being smashing through a cafe window is simply awesome, logic be damned!
You’re not suppose to rip the bloody wing off
Not the first film (and I doubt the last) to suffer for, in my opinion, unfair flak, Returns didn’t make much of an impression on audiences but this action scene takes some beating. The highpoint of the film, it’s a shame it comes so early in it. This along with the bullet in the eye showed that director Bryan Singer still had a eye for involving action sequences.
Statue of Liberty gets her head chewed off
“It’s Alive!” the inhabitants of New York cried and we watched as the Cloverfield monster trounced New York. Like many other invasion/monster films Cloverfield included the typical moment where a well known landmark was destroyed. Still, in those films they’re usually smashed to smithereens, it’s not everyday you see the Statue of Liberty’s head rolling around on your street.
Decepticon freebases, goes horribly wrong
Despite Michael Bay’s Transformers (and its subsequent films) not making much sense, you can’t deny the man his props when it comes to stunning action images (except for the wafts of orange). I have no idea why this Decepticon thought it was clever to smash through a bus instead of gliding past it but it looks good.
Enter the arena, enter the gladiator
Grandstanding, quite literally, emerging from the dark of the gladiatorial changing rooms and into the atmosphere of the arena, this shot shows Ridley Scott at his most visually opulent. No words need to be said. The imagery says it all.
He doesn’t like it when you try and muscle in on his woman
Another film that’s not loved by many whether it’s for its bloated middle section or some poor green screen, that same lack of consideration is not applied to Kong. Facing off against the last of the T-Rexes, this moment represents the calm before the storm. Then Kong gets back to what he does best and rips his tongue out. Crikey.
It only took one grenade to destroy a convoy
This may be the most surprising entry in the blog. Peter Berg’s action film (although to be honest it does wade its feet into some topical themes) is not one that’s particularly remembered but the action scenes are quite memorable. Although the exact image I wanted is not featured here (which is reverse of this shot and may be in the trailer), the destruction and chaos wreaked by a single hand grenade is devastating to see.
War of the Worlds
Do you remember that Super Bowl spot? The one that showed a bridge collapsing in the background as Tom Cruise’s Ray Ferrier made a desperate getaway in his van? A mixture of superlative imagery and destruction of a neighbourhood, in a post 9/11 world this image could be the very definition of shock and awe.