When director Tony Scott jumped to his death on Sunday, from a suspension bridge over Los Angeles harbour, it brought to a close one of the most admirable careers in the modern-day movie business.
Scott, who was reportedly suffering from terminal brain cancer at the time of his death, often lived in the shadow of his Oscarwinning brother, Ridley, though he developed an unmistakable filmmaking style all his own. Once a director of TV commercials, Scott often kept the action in his films at full throttle, an approach he developed though the use of ultra-fast editing and hitsong soundtracks.
At the time of his death, Scott had gone two years without a director's credit on his resumÃ©, though he was active as both a film and television producer. His career as a director will remain foremost in the minds of movie fans, however: Scott is a pioneer of glossy, big-budget actions films, some of which set high-water marks in the 1980s and '90s.
Needless to say, he - and his movies - will be missed. Here's a selection of his best work.
1 Top Gun (1986). Scott's most memorable film is also one of the biggest hits of the 1980s, a fighter-pilot blockbuster that launched the careers of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, among others. Scott had directed just one film prior to Top Gun (the 1983 vampire flop, The Hunger) but he made his second shot count. Top Gun remains a rip-roaring action film with a cult that continues to grow, due in large part to the widescreen vision and high-wire action masterminded by Scott.
2 Man on Fire (2004). A brutal and violent action yarn with longtime Scott collaborator Denzel Washington (who made five films with the director) in the role of a lifetime, Man on Fire didn't catch on with critics. Audiences, on the other hand, loved seeing Washington play an amoral bodyguard on a bloodthirsty revenge mission. Say what you will of his heavyhanded delivery, Scott's colourful treatment gave the film - which was shot on location in Mexico City - a sweaty, visceral, almost paranoid feel.
3 Crimson Tide (1995). Scott was a trusted director for Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the production team who worked with the British director on a trio of projects. Their best collaboration was this submarine thriller, a war film portrayed as the ultimate ego clash between a by-the-book lieutenant (Denzel Washington) and his old-school captain (Gene Hackman). Its razor-quick editing earned an Oscar nomination, but the real star here is Scott - who never lets the breakneck pace drop for even a second.
4 True Romance (1993). Quentin Tarantino's screenplay was given to Scott before the writer was himself a household name, so the end result is a curious mix of styles. Though considered a failure at first, the film has matured nicely over time. Not only does the zippy Tarantino dialogue pair nicely with Scott's breakneck narrative, the all-star cameos (Brad Pitt as a stoner; Val Kilmer as Elvis; Gary Oldman as a pimp) make it one of the director's starriest - and most memorable - efforts.
5 Enemy of the State (1998). Scott reunited with Gene Hackman for this Orwellian thriller about a lawyer (Will Smith) attempting to clear his name from a government surveillance program tracking his every move. Enemy of the State's high-tech hijinks haven't aged well, but the film still crackles with a non-stop intensity - a Scott trademark that carries nearly every one of his films.
6 Spy Game (2001). Despite the headlinegrabbing combination of Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, together for the first time, Spy Game remains one of the lesser-known films on Scott's resumÃ©. That's a shame - from a storyline standpoint, Spy Game is akin to some of the best Cold War thrillers, with enough twists to keep fans of the genre guessing. Scott has his foot on the pedal for the majority of the film, but there's enough downtime to learn what makes the two lead characters tick.
7 Unstoppable (2010). With a worldwide box-office take of nearly $170 million, Unstoppable was a surprise hit for Scott, whose final film was based on the reallife story of a runaway train and the engineer (Denzel Washington) and conductor (Chris Pine) who race to rescue it. Scott's best film in some time was pure popcorn-picture entertainment - not that there's anything wrong with that.
8 Days of Thunder (1990). In the years following his Top Gun breakout, Tom Cruise had become an Oscar-nominated A-lister, so his decision to re-team with his star-making director for a laughable but wholly entertaining NASCARthemed action movie was a bit curious, to say the least. In any event, Days of Thunder has the look, feel and sound of a Scott movie - which is to say it should be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. It wasn't exactly high art, but it did the trick for summer blockbuster audiences.
9 The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009). Denzel Washington plays a New York subway dispatcher who becomes a source of fascination for a sinister bad guy (played with mischievous delight by John Travolta) who takes control of a train full of hostages. Even though the plot is weak (despite being based upon a 1973 book, 1974 film and 1988 TV movie) it was a hit upon release. Though not their best work by a mile, give credit to the unbeatable team of Washington and Scott, who perform admirably.
10 Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). Eddie Murphy was on top of the Hollywood heap when he made the sequel to Beverly Hills Cop, the intelligent crime-comedy that made him a star in 1984. The sequel was much less worthwhile, even though Murphy performs well under the pressure and Scott pulls out a few of his trademark tricks. It all feels familiar, however, in spite of the star power involved.
Tony Scott obituary, page C7
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