Trifecta #03: Extended Shots


by: Sturdy

You can’t go out and party every weekend, so on those nights you want to take it easy, has put together a bi-weekly column to help you with your movie selection. The Trifecta is a recommendation of three movies that set a mood, that showcase an actor or director, that acquaint the viewer with a geographic location, or maybe even have some obscure link like a Best Boy or Key Grip.

Few things in film are harder to pull off than an extended, moving, uninterrupted sequence. By the time you coordinate lighting, settings, extras and timing, you then have to rely on your actors to deliver their lines and move where they’re supposed to. Oh, and one screw-up and you have to do the whole thing over again.

In honor of the extended shot, I’ve compiled a Trifecta of recent films that have perfected the art.

Start the evening off with an easy one; Tony Jaa’s THE PROTECTOR. I’ll warn you ahead of time that this isn’t a very good film. Even if you’re a Tony Jaa fanatic, the movie is merely a highlight reel of Tony being Tony. There’s no real story here, just a montage of crazy Tony Jaa stunts, kind of like an early Jackie Chan film on speed. But there’s a point in the film where Tony walks into a building, determined to kick some bad guy hiney. As he walks up the stairs in the winding interior, countless bad guys jump at him and he fights his way to the top, throwing people over the ledge, through windows, doors, or just knocking them to the ground. After this scene was over, I had to go drink a protein shake because I felt like I had just worked out. Oh, and the whole thing last about five minutes.

Next, pop in Alphonso Cuaron’s CHILDREN OF MEN. If you didn’t think it was possible to top the shot in THE PROTECTOR, you might be surprised by this one. Here, the 02:11 extended sequence takes place as Theo, played by Clive Owen walks up a flight of stairs in the middle of a battle. Similar to the challenges faced in THE PROTECTOR, Cuaron has to coordinate several things at once, including dialogue and bullets flying by, all the while going up a flight of stairs. This is one of the rare instances where we get an extended shot in an action-type setting. It’s impressive and another scene that you’ll have to watch several times to catch everything.

Finally, finish the night (or day, at this point) with one of my favorite films; ATONEMENT. In my humble opinion, this has the single greatest extended shot in movie history with a shocking 05:09 runtime. As Robbie and his fellow soldiers make their way to base, we follow them as they walk from one end of the camp to another. This one doesn’t have as much dialogue as the others, but it has so much going on that you have to watch it several times to catch everything. Every extra (literally hundreds of them) is doing something and has a purpose. Oh, and there are animals. Imagine filming this sequence and having to hope that the horse in the scene doesn’t go nuts and start kicking or biting people. When I first saw this, I realized about halfway through that they hadn’t cut. I waited…and waited…and the scene went on. My mouth was open at the amazement of what I was watching. I’ve seen this scene a dozen times now and it amazes me each time.

Extended shots are amazing to watch and the next time you watch an action movie or a summer blockbuster, take note at the longest scene in the film. Most clock in at under a minute. So take time out and give credit to filmmakers that have mastered the art of the extended shot.

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