If you were to take a survey about the most impressive scenes in film and television over the last decade, you’d likely get a lot of answers picking from Game of Thrones battles, Tom Cruise’s insane work in the Mission: Impossible movies, car chases in the Fast & Furious franchise, and the fight scenes in John Wick.
And while all of those are great answers, if you’re asking us, another one worth considering is from True Detective Season 1, a scene that many critics and fans simply call “The Shot.”
The scene comes from Season 1, Episode 4 of True Detective, titled “Who Goes There,” and features Matthew McConaughey’s character Rust Cohle helping to rob a drug stash house, and then escaping the dangerous neighborhood as he’s chased by gangsters and cops—all while taking a hostage, a bike gang member named Ginger, played by Joseph Sikora, along for the ride. What makes the scene so incredible isn’t just the pulse-pounding action and strong acting from McConaughey, it’s the fact that the scene goes on for six entire minutes without a single cut—it’s entirely done in one shot.
Why should you care about this scene from 2014 now? Because the director of that episode—and the entire first season of True Detective—Cary Joji Fukunaga, was named the new director of James Bond 25, now titled No Time To Die. The producers of the film announced that Fukunaga will take over for Danny Boyle, who left the film over creative differences, and that the film is now scheduled for an April 8, 2020 release—which was later delayed to November 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The actual logistics of shooting the scene are impressive, but what makes the scene work so well and reach another level of quality is that the style of it—the one take with no cuts—also fits into the narrative of the story in True Detective Season 1. The one-shot take transports you into the world of McConaughey’s character Cohle, who has once again gone undercover with a dangerous biker gang, as he tries to fight his way out of what basically has become a war zone. The tension of the one-shot take makes you feel what Cohle is feeling in the moment.
As Vulture critic Matt Zoller Seitz previously wrote, the scene “feels like a long-delayed eruption of deeply buried madness. In the rest of this episode and most of episode three, we’ve been watching Cohle contrive, very carefully, to ‘lose it,’ as if willing himself to re-become the deep-cover agent he’d been several years earlier, at the expense of his family and anything resembling a stable, ‘normal’ life.” All of that finally comes to a head in this scene.
Fukunaga is an intriguing choice for a Bond film, as he’s mostly worked on smaller budget movies, and more dramatic and artistic films like his debut, Sin Nombre, the adaptation of Jane Eyre, and the Netflix film Beasts of No Nation, which starred Idris Elba as an African warlord. Since then, Fukunaga also directed all the episodes of the Netflix series Maniac, starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.
Even though Fukunaga has never worked on a project with the budget and scale of a James Bond film, his work on True Detective—and this scene from Episode 4 specifically—has us excited about what he can bring to the table. In this scene, Fukunaga had to plan out the movement of dozens of crew members and actors, coordinate the action, and make sure the proper sounds and gunshots occurred at the right time, all while actually physically shooting in a neighborhood that also had people living their normal lives while filming was going on.
I spoke with Sikora about shooting the episode and how Fukunaga handled the scene. Sikora said that he was impressed with both McConaughey’s work in front of the camera and Fukunaga’s work behind it.
“Let’s not forget that McConaughey was just coming off of his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, so he was just putting the weight back on and was still quite slender,” Sikora told Men’s Journal. “That six-minute single tracking shot was no joke in terms of what it called for physically—people often underestimate how difficult it is to be manhandled and crab-walked for hundreds of yards. Cary Fukunaga and the crew meticulously figured out how to film the sequence, then we rehearsed it during the day and filmed it that night. I think we did it seven times and ended up using the fourth take. Matthew was a real champ and after every one of the takes, he said to me: ‘You got another one in you, Ginger?’ And I just kept thinking if he can do another one I can do another one. I really enjoyed working with him and would work with him or Cary again in a heartbeat.”
Fukunaga described the experience in an interview with The Guardian: “If the whole thing wasn’t working I knew I had to abort it really quickly, and so we only got through seven takes,” Fukunaga said. “We had stunt guys coordinating with stunt drivers to pull up at the right time, special-effects guys outside throwing foam bricks and firing live rounds The first three takes were aborted and that was disheartening but finally, on the fourth, we went all the way through and pretty much almost everything landed. The euphoria from the hundreds of people who were around the blocks was pretty amazing. But it was exhausting.”
Now, imagine what Fukunaga could do with a massive budget, a huge stunt team, and enough power to shut down entire locations to film scenes for James Bond. While no plot details have come out yet about the next Bond, Fukunaga’s past work on True Detective has us looking forward to what’s next. Hell, maybe even McConaughey could pop up as a Bond villain.
Update: This post was written when Fukunaga first came on — the plot of the film has since been released: When Bond 25 starts up, James Bond will be out of active service and living a quiet life in Jamaica. But that peaceful time will be short-lived: Soon, Bond’s old friend Felix Leiter (a returning Jeffrey Wright) from the CIA finds him and asks for help with a mission. Bond follows along and finds that the “mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.”
No Time To Die is set for a November 2020 release after being delayed for the coronavirus.
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