BFI Thriller, a season of mind-blowing movies, has premiered BFI Southbank from October to December 2017.
Some of the most exciting moments in cinema happen when the characters go on a journey. Think James Bond’s world journey, epic missions found in fairy tales, or thrillers and action movies with thrilling static scenes on cars, trains, boats, and planes.
Traveling from A to B is an essential aspect of a lot of storytelling, but in film, an art form that captures images and moving objects through space, the motion of flight is the medium distilled into its purest form. This is why the dangers of traveling through dangerous places have a particularly profound quality when experienced through a camera. We can learn about the dangers of a dilapidated bridge or a high-speed vehicle losing its balance and deal with them head-on.
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Pure survival is the primary tension behind most cinematic journeys, but the most memorable journeys typically involve other layers of influences, be they existential, spiritual or political. The perilous journey across mountain roads by two trucks carrying the sensitive and explosive chemical nitroglycerin in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s suspense classic The Wages of Fear (1953) is not only one of the most tense films imaginable, but also features the philosophical text on the value of a man’s life, with drivers doing On a dangerous mission due to financial desperation.
With the newly available Nailbiter Clouzot on Blu-ray and DVD In 4K digital restoration, prepare for ten more dangerous cinematic journeys.
The Lady Disappears (1938)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Your average train ride might not immediately come to mind as the most dangerous, but Alfred Hitchcock—unparalleled in his ability to draw suspense from the seemingly innocuous and mundane—returns to it again and again, whether they are places of spoilers for chance. On corrupt (Strangers on a Train, 1951) or enclosed spaces filled with sexual tension (Northwest, 1959).
The Lady Vanishes feature their long train journey, in which soon-to-be-married Iris (Margaret Lockwood) meets elderly Miss Furry (Mae Whitty) in a cabin during a transcontinental journey, only to be baffled by the latter. strange disappearance. The tension arises from the environment of claustrophobia and relentless chatter on the tracks as they try to solve the mystery, while the crossfire between brave British passengers and oppressive European forces reflects the anxiety of a nation preparing for another world war.
The rocky terrain is essential to the legends of the West, and what better way to trace this landscape than with a bus trip? This is Jon Ford’s mentor setting up forming the formula, as a group of unlikely passengers, including outcast prostitute Dallas (Claire Trevor) and convicted cowboy Ringo Kidd (turned star of John Wayne) are brought together while traveling east from Arizona to New Mexico. .
This was the first time Ford used Monument Valley to film the location, which will go on to provide the backdrop for many of his future films and shape the iconography of the genre for decades to come. Conceived as a hostile wilderness that must be traversed in order to reach civilization and build more of it, it is inhabited by the insidious and menacing presence of the Apache Indians, who – at the film’s thrilling climax – car-attack long, expertly oriented fixed balls full of life.
Sierra Madre Treasure (1948)
As in The Wages of Fear, the protagonists of the John Huston Adventure classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre are forced to take on a risky venture through the lure of money, but their ambitions go beyond merely avoiding poverty: they intend to obtain fortune by mining for gold in the mountains of Sierra Madre.
While they face many threats along the way (particularly from a gang of Mexican bandits who “don’t need foul badges”), the most serious danger confusing the gold prospectors in this cautionary tale is the inner threat of greed. Heston’s tale of the reckless pursuit of the American Dream ends with a note of cosmic absurdity – as treasure hunters’ spoils blow like dust in the wind.
Cold Ice in Alexandria (1958)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Captain Anson (John Mills) has to go a long way before enjoying an ice-cold beer at the end of the British wartime thriller, in a scene later made famous by the Carlsberg ad in the 1980s. Stationed in North Africa as part of the Western Region campaign during World War II, he finds himself trapped in dangerous territory aboard a humble ambulance. Along the way are a first sergeant, two nurses, and a suspicious South African soldier (Anthony Coyle) as they try to reach the safe haven in Alexandria.
Thrillingly making use of its desert setting, Ice Cold in Alex is filled with tense, breathless, sweat-inducing sequences, most notably a guarded passage through a minefield and a near-lethal confrontation with quicksand while crossing the perilous Dropper Depression. Man may be at war with his companions, but, as suggested at the end of the film, the “greatest enemy” remains nature’s most terrifying force.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola’s insane mega-dream of a war movie is a long journey farther and farther into the heart of darkness that the source of Joseph Conrad’s novel suggests lies deep in the very soul of humanity. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) faces first-hand the worst of humanity when he is sent deep into the Vietnamese jungle behind enemy lines. On his mission to locate and kill renegade Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), Willard absorbs with increasing indifference the brutal and insane things people do to each other during war.
The trip upriver itself is a agonizing nightmare for lunatic lieutenants surfing in the heat of battle, sudden attacks of lurking tigers, and gun battles where no one seems to know what’s going on. After all, Kurtz’s confused chants about the “horror” of the whole thing sound rather twisted and horrific.
Das Pot (1981)
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
The scene-setting script at the beginning of Das Boot leaves no illusion about the dangers that await its characters: We’re told that of the 40,000 Germans who served on U-boat submarines during World War II, 30,000 failed to do so. home alive.
This sets the tone for a thriller that is as breathless as it is unemotional in its portrayal of war as a journey from which few return. A small crew of German soldiers sailed into the Atlantic to confront the British Navy, and spent much of the film that followed crammed thinly into the submarine’s small interior. Unbearable pressure of all kinds is applied when the boat has to dive below what is considered safe, in a slow descent into the isolated depths of the ocean that are among the cinema’s most tense moments.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Director: Steven Spielberg
From the legend of Arthur to Monty Python, the craving for the famous elusive Holy Grail has inspired many quests. Regarded as an Indiana Jones movie, all attention in Last Crusade is directed towards the entertainment thrills and the sweet thrill of flight, with Spielberg in top form bringing his keen eye for cinematic action to the chase sequence and booby traps.
Despite its irreverent tone, the hunt for the trophy is something of MacGuffin to hide the movie’s main theme – how about a Spielberg movie? The son and his estranged father rebuild their relationship. After all, Indy sets off for Europe not for the trophy, but to rescue his missing father, and the estranged but gently amusing couple stumble toward intimacy — with the help of the chemistry of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery — that is the movie’s true journey.
Lord of the Rings (2001-03)
Director: Peter Jackson
For all the warring kingdoms, a colorful variety of genres and vast cosmopolitan buildings that have seen it hailed as cinema’s best fantasy epic, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings basically boils down to one straight ride – the journey of Hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) that brings the One Ring to the volcanic Mount Doom so that it can be destroyed and the evil it embodies.
It’s this focus that gives such a big story a real sense of intimacy, as we learn about Frodo – as well as his loyal companion Sam (Sean Astin) – and become increasingly invested in their fate over the course of the three films. They encounter all kinds of obstacles and monsters in their path, but bravely persevere with an endearing sense of stoicism, serving as a ceremonial example of the incredible feats that even the most ordinary of people can achieve.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Director: George Miller
Between the tyrannical fortress run by the nefarious patriarch Emurtan Jo and the hordes of rogue biker gangs that lurk just outside, there are a few places to hide in the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max: Fury Road. So truck driver Furiosa (Charlize Theron) risks everything as she sets out on Fury Road in search of the perfect “green place” with five of Joe’s smuggled slave wives on board, and later returns to free the poor citizens of the castle.
Known for its amazing vehicle-to-vehicle fight sequences, the movie barely leaves the two-hour run as Furiosa and her companion Max (Tom Hardy) are pursued by all kinds of crazy motorists. Crucially, the risk seems very real thanks to the remarkable commitment to practical effects CGI. Each ludicrous action and thunderous explosion carries more weight thanks to the realistic, death-defying stunts behind them.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Crossing borders, from a place comfortably recognizable as home toward an unfamiliar land occupied by the “other”, was a particularly fruitful source of cinematic tension, with weThe Mexican border has been used as an instrumental setting for generations of thrillers, from Touch of Evil (1958) to No Country for Old Men (2007).
The most attractive scene in Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario exploits these fears, as FBI Agent and heroine Kate (Emily Blunt) joins a volatile character CIA Officer (Josh Brolin) and his quiet, mysterious Mexican companion (Benicio del Toro) on a drive from Texas to Juarez, Mexico, in pursuit of a drug lord. The tension deepens as they stray into unknown territory, past abject poverty and rotting corpses, all set to a burgeoning degree of impending awe.