Fast and Furious and Movie Car Chases

Posted on April 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm

The release of the eighth “Fast and Furious” movie inspired Business Insider to come up with a list of the all-time greatest movie car chases. Some of my favorites are on the list, including the early Steven Spielberg movie, “Duel,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Drive,” “The French Connection,” “Bullitt,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but I’d add “Children of Man.” And “Transporter” is still my favorite:

On the other hand, Matt Singer says that movie car chases have gone, well, downhill.

These days a really good car chase is almost as rare as a Talbot Lago Grand Sport. Even the films that routinely feature car action, like the Fast and Furious series, focus much more on outlandish CGI effects (like cars fighting with tanks or falling from the sky and jumping between skyscrapers) than one car pursuing another.

That’s the biggest reason the car chase has fallen from grace, particularly in Hollywood. The studio franchise economy in 2017 is predicated almost entirely on the supernatural, the superheroic, and the fantastic, all of which are created by computers. Great car chases, in contrast, are created by real people doing real things with real cars. Big Hollywood movies these days aren’t about real people; they’re about aliens and mutants and transforming robots and boss babies and super soldiers and Vin Diesel as an immortal warlock with earthquake powers.

He gives a bad example: “From Paris With Love.” (I agree — awful movie.) He says:

It’s nonstop cutaways to multiple close-ups, multiple angles of cars spinning, cameras spinning, and the shots are all fractions of a second. Modern taste for chaotic, hyperkinetic editing does not jive with car chases. Even if there was impressive driving going on here, you can’t tell. If you can’t tell what’s going on, it’s hard to care about what’s going on….The imperfections in The French Connection remind us that what Popeye Doyle’s doing in that chase is incredibly difficult. His car is bound by the rules of physics, which will only bend so far. Superhero and fantasy movies are about effortlessly breaking those same rules. And if you can break the rules effortlessly, why bother doing it the hard way?

For more on the cars in “Fate of the Furious,” including the Lamborghini with no snow tires being chased by a submarine over the ice, check out this article from the Florida Times-Union and IndieWire’s piece on the crazy self-driving car pile-up in New York City.

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