I briefly considered a post about deaths at residential schools and the recent discovery of another 215 corpses of indigenous children. I have decided not to for a complex reason that I’m having trouble putting into words, but it goes something like this: the survivors of the residential school system have been trying to tell everyone this for decades, and I still doubt our country’s intention to fully own what was done to these children and their families in spite of the apology and starting to pay reparations.
Abrupt change in topic.
We’re going to talk about my favourite fight scene of all time. Why? All I have for you is: I haven’t got a single new or useful thing to say about residential schools that hasn’t been said, over and over, by far smarter people than myself.
The hallway fight scene at the end of the second episode of Daredevil (‘Cut Man’) is on-screen comics gold. This is an homage to the Korean psych thriller ‘Oldboy’ where the lead guy fights a bunch of thugs in a hallway all in one take. The clip is down at the end of this post, and if you haven’t already seen this, you need to watch the whole thing. There’s another contender later in the series, but this was the one that made my jaw drop.
Here’s why I love this fight scene:
One shot. It is one shot: a single take of film with no cuts in it whatsoever over five and half minutes. If filming was an olympic event, this would take the gold medal. Every actor and stunt person had to do their piece perfectly and the cameraman had to move forward and back through that hallway without tripping, catching any gear of walls, doors, wreckage of flying bodies. The cast and crew pulled off this olympic event after sever or eight takes. Just take a moment to run through that sequence and imagine how tired they would have been after only ONE attempt. Now try it seven more times to get to the perfect take;
Body swap. They pulled off a brief switch of the show’s lead for a stunt double for a portion of the fight, and then switched the double back for the lead actor before the end of the shot. The switch had to be pulled off in real time when they moved outside the camera’s frame ever-so-briefly and make sure it worked BOTH TIMES;
Show, don’t tell. It is still very early in the series, so they are taking the time to show us how Daredevil does his thing. He pauses repeatedly to listen, and does things like touching the wall to hear, feel and smell how many people are inside and how they are positioned within the room. You can see him assembling that mental image and coming up with a plan of action before he breaches the door;
Comic book colour and lighting. The green and black could not look more like comic art, with some green-is yellow lights to add to the creep factor. There are two points of red: the horrible red light at the end of the hall where the child is crying, and the tiny pop of red on the exit sign. These two points help keep us oriented through the action.
Gritty, messy, inelegant fighting. While I enjoy pretty fight choreography as much as the next person, there is something about this style of battle that feels so much more convincing. No one attempts to make this a “fair fight”… they gang up on Daredevil and attack him from behind. Daredevil doesn’t take each person down with the first blow, he has to hammer at them over and over again and they keep getting up. He ends up lying on his back on the floor, panting, at one point. He falls over. He slides down a wall limply. YES. Thank you. This isn’t easy. He’s not super-powered (muscularly, at least), he’s a normal human and he needs to work hard for the win. He hurts, and this costs him;
Goal-centric. The camera is determined to get to the end of the hall where there is a door, behind which is a kidnapped child. It feels like the camera wants to get there every bit as much as Daredevil does, because the camera isn’t very interested in the action in the rooms adjacent to the hall. Matt tries to look less terrifying before entering the room, to comfort the child, and that soft moment is outside our view, the camera unable to intrude. When Matt comes back down the hallway with the child in his arms, it’s the ultimate hero’s walk, even as he steps over wreckage and bodies;
Use of a wrench and a microwave. I will probably go the whole rest of my life without seeing anyone hit with a microwave again. Therefore, it is only logical that I should savour this rare gift. And while fight scenes with a massive spanner are not unheard of, they are always a delight. I do not know or care why that wrench was in that room. It brings me joy that it was there to be used;
- Off-screen violence. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for off-screen violence played for comedic effect; and
- Underdog in action. Matt’s a mess heading into this scene. They’ve already had a discussion about how he needed to be in a hospital based on his injuries already BEFORE he starts down this hallway. He’s tired, blind, and beaten up and he still runs this gauntlet because the kid needed him.
Claire Temple: I really wouldn’t try to move too much. You’ve got two or three broken ribs, probable concussion, some kind of puncture wound, and that’s just the stuff that I know about. And your eyes, they’re nonresponsive to light, which isn’t freaking you the hell out, so either you’re blind or in way worse shape than I thought.
Matt Murdock (Daredevil): Do I have to pick one?
If you want to learn more, here’s an interview with Phillip Silvera, the stunt coordinator.
None of these jokes are mine, but they need to be repeated for posterity.
Captain America: I can do this all day.
Daredevil: But can you do it a hallway?
Loki: I have an army
Tony: We have Matt Murdock in a hallway.
Loki : (runs away)
Black Panther: Evacuate the city, secure all defenses… And get this man a hallway!