Do you find car chases exciting? Well, I suppose that depends on what you're watching. If it's on the news, you might be pretty bored, but if it's in an action movie, you're probably pretty hyped up. That's because instead of one continuous aerial shot of the high-speed pursuit, filmmakers use a ton of great choreography, car stunts, and most importantly quick editing to make the action more kinetic, dramatic, and exciting.

Knowing how to construct a great car chase in the editing room can be a valuable asset to have, and in this video essay, Zach Ramelan breaks down how Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss cut together the insane chase sequences in Edgar Wright's Baby Driver.

Even though editing is a bit of an enigmatic skill (some of the greatest editors say they cut based on if it "feels right"), there are still many practical ways to approach it. In Baby Driver, many of the car chases look like your run-of-the-mill action-packed chase scene, but thanks to Amos and Machliss, they don't feel like one. They are actually incredibly emotional and great builders of character and story, elements that are often missing in modern action set pieces. 

Here are a few of the ways Amos and Machliss, as well as Wright and DP Bill Pope, made the chase sequences in Baby Driver more emotional, dramatic, and exciting:

  • Chase scenes were cut to music
  • Almost every shot was less than a second long
  • There were action shots as well as reaction shots
  • There were lots of close-ups and punch-ins
  • The audience is given a break from the quick edits with longer shots
  • There were many different shot sizes

These car chases are the result of great collaboration between Wright, Pope, Amos, and Machliss. Directors, DPs, and editors have to really work together to make something as complicated as a car chase successful. Think about it: without a good director, those reaction shots may never get shot, and without a good DP, there may not be enough shot sizes to choose from, and without a good editor, the viewer may feel claustrophobic looking at three minutes worth of close-ups (because there aren't enough wides and mediums to go around).

Keep that in mind when planning a film with action sequences. Make sure you've got a great, collaborative team that can turn a bunch of random shots into action-packed awesomeness.

Source: Zach Ramelan