Check the IMDB page for Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. You’ll learn that Tom Cruise clung to the outside of an Airbus A400M at an elevation of 5000 feet, held his breath for six minutes underwater and performed dangerous driving scenes all without the aid of an on-camerahttps://metronewsca.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php stuntperson.
It’s not that he is trying to break the stunt union or put anyone out of work. Instead it is Cruise’s commitment to making sure the stunts in his films have a true, palpable sense of danger to them.
Much of what we see on screen these days is computer generated, illusions made up of bits and bytes, but many of the truly eye catching images we’ve seen in movies this summer were created the old fashioned way.
Remember the “car drop” scene from Furious 7? Stunt co-ordinator (and former Knight Rider stunt driver) Jack Gill actually arranged for autos to be launched out of a C-130 Hercules four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. They shot the scene twice. First aerial photographers in parachutes followed the cars as they dove from an altitude of 12,000 feet and then again from 8000 feet to get helicopter shots. The result is a wild sequence that feels like a rollercoaster ride with real cars.
After years of “following the CG evolution,” using computer generated images to create beautiful animated films like Happy Feet and Babe: A Pig in the City, Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller says he was keen to go back to “old school” filmmaking “with real cars and real people and real desert.”
That means, unlike the Avengers and their ilk, respecting the laws of physics by using practical effects and keeping the action earthbound. In other words, in a call back to the original Max films — Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome — when a car blows up it doesn’t rocket into space. Instead it explodes spectacularly but organically. The wild action you see in Fury Road are actual stunts performed by stunt men and women and not generated by a clever computer operator in a studio. “It was like going back to your old home town and looking at it anew,” Miller says.
Nicholas Hoult, who plays Nux in Fury Road, says having the stunts performed for real added to his performance.
“Because it was all real it actually makes your job a lot easier,” he said. “Rather than being on a stage and having to pretend that things are happening around you and react to nothing, things are actually happening and your reactions are real.”
Carla Gugino says there was quite a bit of greenscreen action in her earthquake movie San Andreas, but adds director Brad Peyton “wanted to do as much in camera as possible.”
In one pivotal scene she and Dwayne Johnson are in a helicopter flying above the carnage.
“The helicopter was in a stage, on a greenscreen,” she says, “but was on a gimbal many, many feet up that literally dropped, dove and spun. We were twenty-five feet off the ground.”
“I think it makes a difference in watching the movie too. It feels much more viscerally connected.”
So filmmakers and actors love giving audiences the real deal thrill of practical effects, but how did Tom Cruise, what feel about hanging on to the side of an aircraft in full flight?
Carla Gugino was living in New York in September 2001. Every day she would look at the Twin Towers from her window, and then, one morning they were gone. The rush of emotions she felt on 9/11 stayed with her as she filmed her new movie, the earthquake disaster flick San Andreas.
“I thought about it a lot in the way Dwayne Johnson’s character and my character reconnect in this movie,” she says.
In the film she plays Johnson’s estranged wife who teams with him to rescue their daughter from a devastating earthquake that rips California in half.
“What I found so smart and well done is that they connect not in a cliché way or in a sentimental way; they reconnect because they may not be alive the next day. In those moments, which was very much the case with 9/11 and what happened that morning, you realize you want to go help people. You want to be with the people you love and you want to not sweat the small stuff. It contextualizes life in such a radical way.”
Warner Bros chose not to change the release date of San Andreas in light of the recent deadly earthquakes in Nepal. Instead they’ve used the film’s trailers and ads to raise awareness about relief efforts and have vowed to match donations made by their employees. “There were always going to be public service announcements after the trailer and the film,” Gugino adds, “but then they were specifically geared toward Nepal.”
“This is a movie that does not take Mother Nature or her tics lightly,” says Gugino, “and I think it’s about the triumph of the human spirit, which is what always amazes me. At 9/11 and seeing this terrible situation in Nepal the thing you are reminded of is the resilience of the human spirit.”
The actress, best known for her roles in Spy Kids and Sin City, lives in New York but spent twenty years living in Los Angeles on top of the shaky San Andreas fault line.
“I’ve been in a couple of big ones in LA and they are intense,” she says. “The first one I ran outside which is exactly what you are not supposed to do. That is a good thing about San Andreas, you actually learn some stuff too—the whole under a doorway, or under a desk ting. Or under Dwayne Johnson. That is one of the advantages of his size.”
Where’s Irwin Allen when you need him? He was the Master of Disaster, a director and producer who gave us misery masterpieces like “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno,” films that gave cinematic calamity a good name. Allen’s mastery of the form is sorely missing from a new earthquake movie that rumbles but fails to shake up the audience.
In “San Andreas” Dwayne Johnson, the actor formerly known as The Rock, goes head to head with his biggest foe ever—the tectonic fault line that runs through most of California.
He plays Ray, a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot who tries to save his wife (Carla Gugino) and daughter (Alexandra Daddario) in the wake of a devastating earthquake in San Francisco. How big is the quake? “Even though it is happening in California,” says a seismologist (Paul Giamatti), “you will feel it on the East Coast.”
Cue the wild action, crumbling buildings and Johnson’s trademarked strained neck muscles.
Come to see The Rock! Stay for the collapsing digital buildings! “San Andreas” is an orgy of CGI with pixel dust billowing out of hundreds of buildings made of bits and bytes. There is much computer artistry on display, but sadly little artistry of any other kind.
Johnson is tailor made for big action movies, but here he is done in by a script that uses lines like, “I know this sounds crazy but…” as a crutch to push the action forward. Unfortunately the big set pieces actually get duller as they get bigger. Not enough variation—Look everyone! There’s yet ANOTHER building falling apart!—and lackluster 3D make “San Andreas” on of the most visually uninteresting action flicks to come along in some time.
The only thing less interesting than the look is the dialogue, which consists mostly of the actors mouthing, “Are you hurt?” or “Oh, this is not good,” or my favourite, “It’s an earthquake!” The only cast member given more to do is Giamatti, who, as Mr. Exposition, must explain, ad nauseam, why earthquakes happen. “Lost” screenwriter Carlton Cuse, appears to have used only half his keyboard to peck out the script.
“San Andreas” is a natural disaster picture but it didn’t have to be a cinematic disaster. Johnson is charismatic and funny, so why not give him a chance to flex those muscles here? The movie is too earnest by half, from the schmaltzy score that swells underneath the scenes of chaos to the heartfelt reconciliation scenes between Johnson and Gugino—Ahhh… don’t you have something better to do, like rescue your kid, than discuss what went wrong in your marriage right now? Instead, why not have some fun with the over-the-top action? Perhaps it would have been funny to see the snooty woman Gugino is lunching with when the first quake hits get eaten up by the splitting ground. Alas there is no such campy pleasure to be had in “San Andreas.” As it is I hoped the ground would open up and gobble up whole the movie. What a disaster.
Richard Crouse interviews Carla Gugino on starring in the action film “San Andreas”
Gugino on women in action films: “In the 1950s women did draw at the box office then a lot of things changed but I think we’re coming back to the place where one does not preclude the other. You don’t have to just have men kicking ass and women being passive because that is not something today that women relate to. Women are not passive in general.”