Best Set-Piece is a strange little category which is basically meant to be a catch-all for what are big impressive sequences in movies, but which don’t really fall into my three other action categories and which aren’t mere character scenes or musical sequences. It’s also a place where I’ll put action scenes which sort of straddle the line between some of the other categories.
- Airport Battle – Captain America: Civil War: The scene that Captain America: Civil War was largely sold on was a battle royale at an evacuated German airport in which almost all of the established Marvel heroes face off against one another over the fate of The Winter Soldier. This fight employs a cornucopia of superhero fight moments including Ant-Man entering into Iron Man’s suit and sabotaging it, Scarlet Witch pulling cars out of a parking ramp, War Machine being shot down, and of course Ant-Man surprising everyone and becoming Giant Man. Basically the scene comic geeks thought Hollywood would never be able to give them.
- Dog in the Car – Don’t Breathe: Don’t Breath is largely a suspense based thriller but for a little while it leaves the dark house it’s primarily set in and becomes more of a kinetic kind of experience. During this scene our heroine is chased by a vicious dog and tries to find refuge in a random parked car. Realizing she needs to retrieve her bag she comes up with a McGuyver like solution to her predicament involving a rope and the car’s trunk, which works but not without some suspenseful hiccups.
- The Kidnapping- Nocturnal Animals: Though it lacks the production value and size and scope of some of the other set-pieces here, this scene from the “book within a film” of Nocturnal Animals definitely had most of the same tension that drives the best scenes of the year. In it a family is driving through West Texas when he’s more or less run off the road by a gang of redneck hooligans and what follows is an extremely tense standoff that will have you squirming in your seat with discomfort.
- Final Delivery – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Coming after a pretty impressive fight on the planet’s surface, this sequence is sort of the icing on the cake in which the death star plans have been transferred to some kind of futuristic flash drive and various rebels must rush to deliver them somehow or other. This is of course interrupted when Darth Vader himself decides to take matters into his own hands and begins light sabering the living shit out of everything in his way. One last rebel is narrowly able to pass it through a door before being sabered, and it is then passed along until it finds its way onto a shuttle that’s able to break free and escape… transitioning into one of the most famous opening scenes in film history.
- Plane Crash – Sully: Selling an entire movie around the promise of a single scene isn’t an impossible task, but if you’re going to do that then that scene better deliver in a big way when it comes. The crash scene in Sully certainly does and is impressive in meticulous recreation of this real life event from multiple perspectives. It’s full of interesting little elements like the flight attendants chanting “brace brace brace” or the first evacuees kind of hesitating as the break off the emergency exits or the big DeMille shot at the end of it all where we finally get a full view of the wreck after everyone is safely off. What’s most impressive about it is how it generates so much excitement from an event that actually want’s a kinetic rush so much as an orderly evacuation.