PGCMAs: Best Chase and Best Set-Piece (2013)

Posted: January 22, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson PGCMA 2013*The above image represents 2012’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

Best Chase

This award looks chase secenes whether they be a race, someone trying to escape another force, a struggle against the clock. Both foot and vehicular chases are eligible.

Grabbing the Codex, Man of SteelUnlike other Superman films, in Man of Steel we spend a considerable amount of time on Krypton before leaving to Earth. As Zod makes his play to conquer the Kryptonian Council, Superman’s father Jor-El makes a desperate effort to escape Zod, steal the Krytonian Codex, and send his son off planet before its eminent doom. We may not know what the Codex is or why it’s important yet, but this is a very exciting scene and a unique way to open a Superman movie.

Leaving the Bank, The Place Beyond the PinesTwo years ago I gave this award to Drive for a scene where Ryan Gosling flees from cops and now this scene is being nominated for essentially the same thing. As cyclist Luke Glanton makes a motorcycle getaway after a botched bank job, a rookie police officer chases him down. This is a very exciting chase sequence which is very well shot and ends on a powerful note. It’s also worth noting that this scene is a major turning point in the film.

Rescue, PrisonersThis happens pretty late in the film so my write-up will be brief to avoid spoilers. In a nutshell, Detective Loki has suffered an eye injury and has to drive a wounded person to a hospital in inclement weather. It’s a straightforward scene, but Denis Villeneuve elevates it to something really special in Roger Deakins’ cinematography is especially great.

Second Boarding Attempt, Captain PhillipsAfter their initial efforts to board the Maersk Alabama are thwarted, the Somali pirates return to seize the ship. What’s amazing about this scene is that as an audience, we know the pirates will eventually board, yet Greengrass crafts a very tense scene out of the situation anyway. They key here is watching Phillips and his crew use various tactics to keep them off. There’s some intuitive stuff and you almost believe they might get away.

The Wall, World War ZWorld War Z is not a particularly good film, but it did have a number of fun set pieces. My favourite is this scene where a cluster of zombies pile on top of each other in order to scale a massive wall and enter Jerusalem. Despite some poor CGI, it’s still an exciting scene with an intense, frantic energy.

And The Winner Is

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Captain Phillipscaptain-phillips-domestic-poster

This ultimately came down to a close race between Captain Phillips and The Place Beyond the Pines. Both scenes are expertly crafted, but the former ultimately had greater challenges. First off, it’s very tricky to make something suspenseful when the audience knows the outcome. However more importantly, it’s hard to make a chase scene involving a big boat in the middle of the ocean a nail biting scene, just as Jan de Bont. A chase with dirt bikes and cop cars is inherently exciting, the scene in Captain Phillips isn’t, which makes the execution all the more impressive.

Best Set-Piece

This category could also be called “other”. Basically it refers to action scenes which fall out of conventional parameters like shootouts and chases.

Batman vs. Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight ReturnsI considered nominating this in the fight category, but there’s ultimately too much going on for it be a normal fight. Watching the resourceful tactics Batman uses to keep up with Superman is interesting and their fight is all kinds of awesome on a surface level. Beyond that though, the scene works as a clashing of ideologies as it takes these two iconic characters, pushes them to their extremes, and then sets them loose against each other.

First Jam, The EastWhile most of the nominees focus on the large and the loud, this scene is a lot more quiet and intimate. Here we see the titular gang infiltrate the party of a major drug company and poison their employees. It’s a well-executed scene which stands out by virtue of being different.

Fruitvale, Fruitvale StationIt was this scene that elevated Fruitvale Station from a good film to a great one. Everyone watching knows Oscar Grant’s life comes to an end at this point, and yet the scene is still incredibly gripping and ultimately chilling. In fact knowing how things play out give the proceedings an added sense of doom. It’s a great scene which works viscerally and emotionally.

The Onslaught Begins, GravityAfter a remarkable few minutes where we meet our protagonists and acclimatize to the outer space setting, shit hands the fan fast as mission control comes on the radio to urge the astronauts to return to their ship and leave the area. Next thing you know debris begins to rain down on their position. Not only is this a very intense scene on its own, but it also sets the tone of misfortune and chaos which ensues over the rest of the film.

Train, The WolverineI don’t know what it is about trains that lead to them being pivotal to superhero film action scenes, but it’s an interesting trend. First we had Spider-Man 2, then Batman Begins, and now we have The Wolverine. What’s great about the scene is that despite of the speed of the train, the action never turns into fast paced lunacy. Instead Wolverine has to outsmart his enemies. It’s a fun action scene which is both intuitive and thrilling.

And The Winner Is…

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Gravitygravity-imax-poster

The question was never really if Gravity would win this award, but rather which set-piece from Gravity would win. From the moment the debris begins to ran, Gravity is essentially a series of top-notch set-pieces. All of which are excellent, but it’s the first one that really won me over. It’s a shocking moment which really took my breath away on first viewing as well as set the stage for what was to come. Additionally, the scene is put together masterfully with great cinematography and great music really adding a lot.

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