I know I’m late on this, but I haven’t had a chance to post it. I wrote this piece (there are some edits for this version) for my paper’s entertainment section last week. Enjoy!
Director Tony Scott, brother of Ridley Scott, was one of the most accomplished filmmakers of the last several decades. Tragically, he took his own life earlier this month. He may be gone but his films remain.
They are a testament to his talent, particularly in directing action films. He leaves behind an impressive catalog of work. These are five of his best pieces.
5 Spy Game (2001)
Spy Game was an underrated thriller revolving around CIA agents operating in China during the early ’90s.
CIA agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is captured in China on the eve of a major trade agreement between the U.S. and China. Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), the agent who recruited him, must rescue him to avoid an international incident.
It was quite clever spy movie at a time when people had mostly forgotten about 007 and the word “spy” was synonymous with Austin Powers, a caricature of the genre.
4 Man on Fire (2004)
The original Man on Fire was released in 1987, and Scott’s remake exceeds it in almost every aspect. It follows a former CIA agent John Creasy (Denzel Washington) as he guards a wealthy Mexico City business man’s daughter, “Pita” (Dakota Fanning).
Pita is kidnapped and the rest of the film is a pretty straight forward revenge tale. However, Scott’s stylized approach, dark tone and Washington’s performance, as well as bit parts by Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke, keep it from being a cheap Get Carter knock off.
3 Crimson Tide (1995)
Crimson Tide was one of Scott’s more well known films. It’s a military thriller, which takes places on submarine after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. Ultranationalist Russians take control of a nuclear missile facility and threaten a nuclear war.
The film is as much about tension and infighting on the USS Alabama as it is about nuclear war and tensions between the U.S. and Russia. The crew divides its support between the more experienced Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and his executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter (Washington), while the clock ticks.
Interestingly, Quentin Tarantino, who worked with Scott on True Romance, worked on the film as an uncredited writer.
2 True Romance (1993)
True Romance was written by Tarantino, exhibiting all of what would become his trademarks, intense, realistic dialogue and pop culture references, as well as Scott’s trademark tense action sequences.
It is purportedly a film about crime gone wrong, and, for the most part, it is. There are pimps, drug deals and shootouts. But it is mostly about love—albeit of an unconventional sort. The large ensemble cast including Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini turn in some incredible performances.
It is a truly unique film that has rarely been replicated.
1 Top Gun (1986)
Top Gun was easily Scott’s most well known effort. Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is a cocky U.S. Naval aviator chosen to go to the Top Gun flight school at Miramar.
Listen, you’re on the Internet so I don’t really have to explain the rest of Top Gun to you. There’s “Ice Man,” beach volleyball, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and jets. Basically, ‘Murrica.
Despite 80s-ness of the movie, the images of dog fighting MiGs and Tomcats have been burned into the minds of the country’s collective consciousness and redefined what an action film could be.