The 1903 film, “The Great Train Robbery” is considered the first movie to tell a story. It is also credited as the first film to feature camera movement, on-location shooting and editing techniques still used today. It also featured a chase.
Movies since then, action and otherwise have featured chases. From silent films to 3D space operas, at some point or another, somebody is chasing somebody else.
And with each technical advance in filmmaking, the chase has evolved.
1920’s “Way Down East” traumatized audiences as Lillian Gish’s lover saved her from certain death in a chase across the ice flows of a raging river.
1939’s “Stagecoach” stretched the titular vehicle’s pursuit over much of the film’s length, with the action helping reveal character and theme in kinetic ways that dialogue scenes could not.
By 1960, those elements had been refined to the point that seeing only the chariot race in “Ben Hur” is enough to understand all you need to know about the characters of Ben Hur and his tormentor Mesalla.
The modern film chase was reimagined in 1968’s “Bullitt”, and became the standard that had to be topped three years later in “The French Connection”.
To be honest, it’s hard to find a film from the 70’s that didn’t feature a car chase. And while some like “Vanishing Point” and “Two Lane Blacktop” became classics, the sameness of most of the rest brought us to “Smokey & The Bandit” and “The Gumball Rally”.
This Summer’s Mad Max re-boot “Fury Road” reimagined the chase once again. And while some critics and cinephile snobs have dismissed the film as “one long chase” whose elements have all been seen many times before, those smarter about film-making, like writer William C. Martel have recognized how the film has set the bar very high for all who come after it.
That means that as movie goers, we’re likely to see some wondrous things in future chases. Perhaps it’s a good time to take a moment to reflect on what got us here.
Enjoy Your Sunday.