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The Essentials: 5 Amazing Joe Wright Scenes You Need To Know

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist November 15, 2012 at 1:14PM

In just five movies, British director Joe Wright has established himself as a master stylist with an almost painterly eye for shot compositions and spatial geography. On the eve of his newest film, "Anna Karenina," we thought we would go through the five most amazing shots in his oeuvre (whittling them down was something of a challenge). As an added bonus, we got to talk to Seamus McGarvey, the cinematographer behind behind three of the five scenes, including the one from "Anna Karenina," about what it was like crafting these truly unforgettable moments. We've included the scenes where possible, but of course, you can check out each of these films on home video.

Hanna Eric Bana
Hanna – The Subway Showdown
There's a moment, right before the third act really kicks into high gear, in Wright's "Hanna" -- a quasi-science-fictional tale of a young girl (luminous "Atonement" co-star Saoirse Ronan) trained by her father (Eric Bana) to become a killer -- where Bana's character, fleeing CIA goons, descends into a German subway station. The camera tracks him as he leaves a building, past posters adorned with eyes, scribbled or sprayed in graffiti (symbolism ahoy!), and agents trying their best to look inconspicuous but failing miserably. (At one point Bana looks back at them and they try to appear casual but end up looking like a menswear model from a fifties mail order catalogue.) When Bana gets down into the subway, the camera swirls around him as the goons make their advance. Bana incapacitates them handily, as The Chemical Brothers' brilliant score blares, stabbing, shooting, and generally kicking their asses.

What makes this sequence so thrilling is that, with the unbroken shot and the balletic camerawork, you know for sure that it's Eric Bana and not some dude from the stunt team doing all the work. It makes things more immediate and dangerous, with the camera oftentimes feeling like one of the agents trailing Bana (Brian De Palma understood this brilliantly). The sequence is the slickly realized antithesis to Paul Greengrass' shaky-cam intensity, which occasionally borders on seizure-inducing cubism (Wright consulted with Greengrass before taking the gig; Sam Mendes would do the same thing before signing on to "Skyfall").

The subway sequence is the last big bravura moment in "Hanna," which from here until the bloody climax, is choppier but also more breathlessly adrenalized. This is a brief and still incredibly violent pause (photographed by European cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler and a king of a Steadicam operator) before things really start to vroom. And it's totally amazing. 

This article is related to: Anna Karenina, Joe Wright, Features, Feature

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