Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has always been one of my favourite action films. For me it has everything, a few good light-hearted moments the quest for the holy grail. Indy kicking more Nazi butt and best of all it has Sean Connery as his father.
Harrison and Sean’s on screen charisma just shines for me, whenever I sit down and watch the film. They complement each other bringing a light hearted feel to the whole adventure. Who can forget when they are escaping in the German plane, being chased – Sean turns around to Harrison and proclaims: “Sorry Son I think they got us”. Even though it was Indy senior who had accidentally shot the plane!
For me this film has everything, action, comedy and a strong cast who manage to shine all the way through.
When I was asked to recommend my favourite action film, it took me a while to settle on one to write about. I always had one thing clear in my mind though. It would have to be a James Cameron film. This is for the simple reason that no one does action films better than James Cameron. I toyed with the idea of picking Terminator 2, because, let’s be honest, it’s an incredible film, but I eventually settled on his other sequel: Aliens.
What makes Aliens so special is, despite the fact that it’s seen as a quintessential action film, it actually bends many of the conventions of the action genre, particularly in the far superior cut of the film used for the Special Edition. Yes, it has all the necessary components of a great action film – a brilliant, hard-as-nails protagonist, a great script, Bill Paxton, fantastic set pieces, blood, brawn and bad language, memorable characters, a ton of instantly quotable lines, and a truly threatening villain. But Aliens is so much more than that.
Despite its fast paced, adrenaline pumping action sequences, for a lot of the film’s runtime, Aliens is in fact a slow burning character study, focusing on Ripley’s struggles to cope with post-traumatic stress and the death of her daughter, and the fact that Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for her role shows just how well the film deals with these difficult subjects.
And it doesn’t just stop at Ripley, either. The scenes set between those aforementioned action sequences are practically all quiet, dialogue driven scenes, full of character beats that helps to make the hapless squad of Marines some of the most memorable characters in sci-fi. And that is very rare for an action film. Usually character development has to be scarified to make way for all the explosions, but Cameron is able to balance the two perfectly, making sure that when the film does erupt into another exquisitely filmed and jaw dropping action sequence, when all hell breaks loose and the bullets start flying and the blood starts spilling, you really care about the people stuck in the middle of it all.
Aliens performs a rare trick of combining heart pounding action with thought provoking character development, and makes the two seem perfectly natural together. Dripping with suspense and bursting with adrenaline, it is a masterpiece of a film, with a solid cast and a real heart at its centre. Despite being released almost thirty years ago, the film still acts as a yet to be beaten benchmark for both the science fiction and the action genre.
There are two reasons to enjoy this film: the dodgy gun battles that feature flanking tactics that are ill-advised with moves that make no sense (there’s a particular flip Cage does near the end of the film that was pointless and super ridiculous in the middle of a heated gunfight) and John Travolta and Nicolas Cage’s acting. Face/Off is the kind of ballsy 90s action film that is the epitome of action films from that decade – impossible plot, impossible fighting – that I am happy to watch again and again.
If you think about it, this film was made before the first face transplant even happened and so the “science” in it always makes me chuckle. Anti-inflammatory drugs make the face switching of Archer and Troy’s faces take hours, not months or years. They’re able to go and raise merry hell just hours after undergoing major surgery. The idea that swapping someone’s actual face is depicted as more feasible than using prosthetics and make-up in order to track down a bomb!
Little of the plot makes any real sense, but watching Travolta and Cage start in their respective roles and then completely switch them and their mannerisms is why you watch this film. You watch this films to see them both act crazy and shoot people in impossible ways.
And due to the presentation that Cage and Travolta put on, you can forgive it for being a little brainless every now and then.
When told about the theme being “action movies” for this week’s topic, my brain commenced a savage spin cycle as to what would result in being my pick. After countless revolutions (three, in fact), I’d settled on the action film that perhaps changed me instantly as soon as I’d watched it. James Cameron’s The Terminator, I choose you.
Definitely a film made way ahead of its time, Cameron’s vision made a potential B Movie into a true classic. Dark, violent and an action packed cat and mouse affair, with a soulless machine arriving from the future to 1984 by a sentient computer system to track down Sarah Connor so she may never have her son, John, the leader of the resistance movement against the machines in 2029. In turn, John sends back Kyle Reese to protect Sarah and stop the machines plan. On paper it should have been abysmal, but with the right casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator and the general grittiness of the movie as a whole set it head and shoulders above what came before it.
The action never lets up in the slightest, from the Tech Noir showdown to the thrilling climax with a healthy measure of vehicular destruction and a one man obliteration of an entire police precinct thrown in. Reese’s explanation of the machine sits true. “It will not stop until you are dead”. The pacing is perfect, allowing you a few seconds for you to catch your breath before Arnold’s menacing figure shows up once more and the chase resumes.
It was never the blockbuster that it’s sequel became, but the story it told with the budget it had was more satisfying. I still watch it now as if it’s the first time. None of the magic is lost in the slightest, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that if there was ever a list of gold standard 80’s action movies, then The Terminator can gladly sit high amongst them.