QOTD: Which Film Understands Cars Best?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
qotd which film understands cars best

In the comments for yesterday’s review of Baby Driver, a few people took umbrage with the excessively stylized nature of the car chases. Although the director took specific pains to avoid the kind of CGI cheese that keeps marring, say, the Fast and Furious franchise, there’s still an obvious and deliberate departure from reality in pretty much all of the film’s action shots.

Reading that comment made me think of another TTAC comment posted recently in which somebody expressed disappointment in Ronin, claiming that the car chases were both too long and too boring. This surprised me because Ronin, to my mind, is the absolute gold standard in automotive action filmmaking. It’s the only movie of that type I’ve ever watched where I agreed with the plotline, the physics of the various vehicular interactions, and the way the cars behaved. My only complaint was that the Citroen XM driven by the fellows with the suitcase seemed to have a whole lot of motor in it.

That’s my feeling, anyway. What’s yours?

Let’s start with the fact that no movie is going to do a perfect job of continuity in a car chase. Whether we’re talking the seven hubcaps coming off the Dodge Charger in Bullitt or the magical between-scenes dent repair that happens in damned near every movie you’ve ever watched, there are some things that are just not going to satisfy.

In that respect, it’s like fight scenes in movies. Most people need serious medical attention after just one solid hit to the face, and most people break their hands if they hit somebody in the head more than a few times. (Boxers wear gloves to protect their hands, not their opponents.) Yet it’s common in movies for people to endure the kind of punishment that would send 10 normal human beings to the hospital or the morgue and then jump right to the next action scene. So let’s not be too hard on filmmakers for not having the very first bump or scrape incapacitate a car the way it often does in real life.

I’m happy anytime I see cars driven in a realistic fashion that more or less obeys the laws of physics. I don’t want to see a lot of jumping, I don’t want to see cars up on two wheels or reversing at freeway speed. What will you accept? And what would you say is the greatest non-racing-related car movie of all time?

[Image: Ronin, United Artists via IMCDB]

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2 of 115 comments
  • Rogerquad Rogerquad on Aug 29, 2017

    Agree with Ronin for #1...How about Repo Man? "sometimes people just burst into flames" ...

  • 05lgt 05lgt on Sep 01, 2017

    Ronin. Didn't see Baby Driver, saw Logan Lucky and liked it, even as a car movie. Not sure Bark will appreciate the car dealer being the butt of so many jokes, but the Stang certainly sees some love. Jeff Gordon cameo, old Ford trucks do all the work... it's a car movie.

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