2010 Best Set-Piece Nominees

Not every set-piece can be placed squarely into a stock box, sometimes the most impressively staged moments of a movie isn’t necessarily going to be a chase, a fight, or a shootout.  That’s what this category is for; it’s a miscellaneous category for scenes that feel like action scenes but which think outside the box.

  • Snake- Buried: Most of the set pieces here are all about big stunts, big effects, and big ideas, but this nomination is all about generating intense cinema out of something small.  Late in the hero’s ordeal he’s horrified to find that a seemingly poisonous desert snake has slithered into the coffin that he’s trapped in.  It’s a really suspenseful scene as there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide and you’re on the edge of your seat trying to figure out how he’s going to get out of this one.
  • Plane Scene- The Expendables: People go to movies like this looking for simple pleasures: they want to see people die, to see things explode, and to see improbable stunts performed by geezers.  This scene provides all of this.  We get Stallone jumping onto a plane, we get a plane circling around and machine-gunning the hell out of evil mercenaries, and for the coup de grace we get to see the people who somehow survived the machine-gunning get drenched in gas and then incinerated by an explosion that’s vaguely akin to the napalm scene from Apocalypse Now.
  • Opening Dream- Inception: Though Inception mostly focuses on one major heist that takes up the second half of the film, it’s easy to forget that it also opens with a wicked little dream heist scene that functions both as an exciting opening but also as a neat way of establishing some of the rules of the world of the film.  This part feels like a genuine spy film with Di Caprio stealthing his way through the hallway wasting fools with a silenced pistol, all leading up to some neat water effects and a cool reveal at the end.
  • Dachau- Shutter Island: For a second I thought about including this scene as a shootout, but the one sided nature of the scene ultimately made it more appropriate as a set-piece.  This is one of the psychologically loaded flashbacks from the film, in particular this shows the Di Caprio character’s experience as one of the soldiers liberating the Dachau concentration camp.  It ends with an unforgettable moment at the end which function both as a catharsis while being itself rather frightening. Either way it’s impeccably staged by a master.
  • Opening Robbery- The Town: This has proven to be a really good year for effective and exciting opening scenes.  This opening to The Town doesn’t differ much from your average run of the mill bank robbery, but the execution really turns it into something special.  The way that the actors move going in, the brutality of an assault towards the end, and (most of all) the extremely cool skeleton outfits that they choose for the robbers.

The Golden Stake goes to…