Every once in a while comes a movie scene, where the audience can't take their eyes off the screen because of the sheer imagination behind it. And then as we dig in to how the scene was finally accomplished, we only have more respect for the filmmaker, editor and the cinematographer. These may look simple or not, but just the sheer visual quality adds so much to the film.
Here are 15 such complex sequences which were executed to perfection by our favourite filmmakers:
1. Inception - Hallway sequence
Christopher Nolan and team actually set up a rotating hallway to give the illusion to the audience that Joseph Gordon Levitt was climbing the walls, ceiling in zero gravity.
Joseph Gordon Levitt was more than game for Christopher Nolan's vision of filming a zero-gravity sequence in the second level of a dream, as he volunteered to wear a harness and jump around in a set called the rotating hallway. Known for his use of practical effects, Nolan didn't want to leave the sequence at the mercy of VFX, and hence decided to film it in this created hallway, as JGL fights Cillian Murphy's subconscious security while all of them are airborne. Watch the scene here.
2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - Burj Khalifa sequence
Tom Cruise outdid his previous stunts from the Mission Impossible movies, as he scaled the world's tallest building with a pair of sticky gloves.
Cruise is Hollywood's most famous action star and not without reason. Making the fourth installment of his Mission Impossible series, the then 50-year-old actor took the challenge of hanging out at the Burj Khalifa, literally. He scaled up the world's tallest building using nothing but a safety harness (which is invisible in the final cut), and makes it look so believable that your heart was pumping much more blood than usual. Watch the scene here.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Centrifugal set
Stanley Kubrick's centrifugal set remains one of the most mind-boggling sequences ever achieved on film. Never mind it was done in 1968!
Stanley Kubrick has fascinated nerds for over five decades with the beauty with which he pulled off making this scene. The scene sees an astronaut running across the circumference of the aircraft. There are umpteen blogs on how Kubrick championed this illusion, those interested should read up. Everyone still marvels at how neatly edited it is, maintaining perfect acceleration, inviting theories that he moved the cameras at the exact same speed the astronaut was running. Watch the scene here.
4. Casino Royale - The sinking house
Martin Campbell's Bond film saw the crew build an expansive set only to sink it in the climax of Casino Royale into the canals of Venice.
Casino Royale was in many ways the reinvention of Britain's cheesiest spy, and there was great emphasis on rooting it in real blood and sweat. Director Martin Campbell did exactly that in the climax of the film, as he built an entire building in the canals of Venice and sank it. It looks extremely difficult to pull off as Bond has to beat a bunch of guys in a building about to fall apart in 5 minutes and under. Watch the scene here.
5. X Men: Days of the Future Past - The Quicksilver sequence
Bryan Singer stamped his authority on the X Men franchise with this one scene, reminding fans why they had missed this brilliant director.
Even though it's high on CGI, the Quicksilver sequence in X Men: Days of Future Past is quite possibly the most memorable scene of the film. Quite unanimously, the audience sat back and marveled at the genius of Bryan Singer - as our superhero who can move at a speed faster than light, plugs in his earphones, runs around the room, changes the direction of pistols, and gets something to eat, all this in the split second before a shootout ensues. Quite brilliant. Watch the scene here.
6. Jason Bourne - Las Vegas car scene
Director Paul Greengrass shut down the Las Vegas strip and got a SWAT truck to plow all cars in its way, as it tore down the road.
Jason Bourne's latest installment might have received mixed reviews, but the one sequence in the climax which made everyone sit up with concern was the chase involving Matt Damon and Vincent Cassel's character where the latter is in a SWAT truck which *literally* plows cars off the road. Stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell knows the exact number of cars that got blown up to get this sequence right - 170. Talk about perfection. Watch the scene here.
7. Lakshya - Rock climbing sequence
Farhan Akhtar managed the impossible by filming the highest crane shot at 18000 feet in his sophomore effort, Lakshya.
Lakshya might not have been a commercial success, but has been revived partially by a cult following 12 years after it released. One of the most amazing sequences in the film remains the rock climbing scene in the climax where Farhan Akhtar and cinematographer Christopher Popps made it look like they had attempted the most historic crane-shot at 18000 ft, when in fact they built a six floor-high 'fake ridge' which the 'soldiers' climbed. It was amazing at how convincing they made it look. Watch the scene here.
8. The Revenant - Horse-riding sequence
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu composed one of the most complex action sequences with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeszki.
It's insane how The Revenant looks like it all takes place in one long sequence even though the director, cinematographer and editor are cheating the audience with their extensively rehearsed long takes. One such take shows Leonardo DiCaprio rescue a girl, shoot French soldiers, flee the spot and then fall down the cliff on horseback. Innaritu and Lubeszki make it look seamless. Watch the scene here.
9. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 - The Bride vs Crazy 88
Quentin Tarantino relishes his dream of a blood-bath in the climax of Kill Bill Vol. 1 as the Bride takes on O-Ren's more than able 88 sidekicks.
Tarantino doesn't know how to take half-measures, much to the liking of his fans as he choreographed a near 10 minute sequence of the film's leading lady taking on her opponent and before that her 88 sidekicks who are master assassins themselves. Quentin Tarantino goes fully indulgent as our leading lady goes about wielding her sword slicing, chopping and blood showers which ensue. Watch the scene here.
10. Birdman - The Times Square scene
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's Oscar-winning film was one of the most claustrophobic movies of the year mirroring its characters, surrounded by their own demons.
Birdman was almost entirely filmed within the confines of the backstage as the camera navigated its way from the stage, to the corridors following characters almost magically coming into position, as a character enters a room and starts talking to a second person. This Times Square scene displays the sheer genius of Emmanuel Lubeszki. Watch the scene here.
11. Mad Max Fury Road - Chasing Furiosa
George Miller's post-apocalyptic chase movie shows one of the most intricately designed chase sequence which involves never before seen vehicles and desert terrain.
The fourth installment and as some said the franchise reboot, Mad Max: Fury Road was around 16 years into development before it finally got made and released. The sequence used more than 75 heavily customised vehicles to give extra power to them. The beauty of the sequence was its exquisite editing by Miller's wife Margaret Sixel who had to choose from more than 500 hours of footage to stitch together the best version of the film. Pretty mind-boggling. Watch the scene here.
12. The Matrix - The lobby sequence
The Wachowski twins filmed this sequence where Neo, Trinity go to save Morpheus. And this scene made The Matrix the coolest action movie of its time.
The Matrix's lobby sequence had plenty of special effects, but something that took the cake in this scene were the practical effects and the beautifully choreographed action. Both Neo and Trinity are almost superhuman as they round about a building full of FBI officers and manage to make their way in. Watch the scene here.
13. Spectre - Opening sequence
Sam Mendes getting an encore as a Bond director was historic, and he shows us why in Spectre's opening sequence in New Mexico City.
Possibly the only thing likable about the latest Bond film, director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema designed an expansive set for the Day of the Dead parade in New Mexico City, where in a single tracking shot we follow Bond make his way through it, follow a leader of an arms organisation and then Bond calmly walks along the ledge of adjacent buildings to close in on his target. The first four and a half minutes are riveting only to be concluded with an inverted helicopter. Watch the scene here.
14. Oldboy - Hammer sequence
South Korean revenge drama Oldboy had one of the most iconic sequences where the protagonist using a single hammers finds his way through a corridor of people.
Park Chan-Wook's revenge drama sees Choi Min-sik wade his way through a corridor full of assassins to get inside a building. The scene takes place within the confines of a corridor and that's why it's interesting how the director films it like a video game where the player has to get from point A to point B with obstacles in between. Watch the scene here.
15. Terminator 2: Judgement Day - Chase sequence
James Cameron films one of the most audacious chase sequences starring Arnold Schwarznegger as he rescues a teenage John Connor.
T2, as the sequel is fondly known among fans had one the most audacious chase sequences for its times. As one Terminator tried to kill the hope of humanity: John Connor, another tries to save him. The former is in a truck, while the latter is on a bike. And seeing Arnie save John, is quite easily still the best sequence of the franchise and in 90s action movies. Watch the scene here.