The Narrative Action Sequence

This refers to an action sequence with rules. One could say beginning, middle and end, but this shopworn phrase of course applies to anything. No, instead this is a sequence like a good story: when X does Y, Z responds by jumping from the car with nothing but a bic pen to unscrew the taillight to use the wire to make a knot in the shape of Z.

Examples follow, but generally action movies before The Terminator – the Bond films, the various raids on Entebbe, Navarone and Athena and escapes, great or otherwise – had action scenes with either a moralistic or ironic quality. The good guy would be undone or done by his trait or what have you, Mr. Steve McQueen hanging in the barbed wire so we can see him again as the Cooler King. Saw that movie a few years ago with someone who had never seen it and she remarked: ‘You do realize that it’s extremely depressing that everyone dies, right?’. It’s not that great, but semi-qualifies as a British War Film. Like the bafflingly loved Dambusters, an attempt to turn a minor failure into a war-time thrill.

Man, do I get side-tracked, even in the tiny bits here.

Raiders of the Lost Ark has the same kind of fait accompli quality of their sequences, but it gets closer with that fun, but ultimately mired-down chase from car to car. I haven’t seen The Terminator in a while, so probably just an implanted memory from Blade Runner, so let’s use the default: The Matrix, as each event in the spectacular roof top sequences leads to another: Mr. Fishburne runs to helicopter, Mr. Weaving anticipates movement, shoots Mr. Fishburne in leg, Mr. Reeves jumps out to catch him, now hanging from strap, Mr. Reeves uses the same strap to save Ms. Moss (as she shoots the carabiner that attaches the strap to the helicopter), etc. People get overwhelmed by the visuals (understandably) forgetting that it is a beautifully constructed sequence. More follows in Spielberg’s work (especially Minority Report) and anything Mr. Joel Silver produced post-1990, Mr. James Cameron.