NICK BARTLETT AT /FILM PICKS HIS FAVORITE DE PALMA SET PIECES
Last week at /Film, Nick Bartlett picked his 15 favorite Brian De Palma set pieces. "Brian De Palma is the undisputed king of the cinematic set piece," Bartlett states in the article's introduction, adding that De Palma "has an innate sense of cinematic storytelling, using his technical ability to communicate meaning through the use of creative camerawork and editing. Where De Palma truly excels is in self-contained cinematic moments. In some cases, these set pieces redeem the film in which they appear, while others are elevated to masterpiece status. There's a kinetic, dynamic feeling to these sequences, where the editing, music, and performances all work together in perfect cohesion."
Bartlett kicks off his list with Snake Eyes at number 15:
"Snake Eyes" has been much maligned over the years, and a lot of this is deserved. That being said, Brian De Palma has always been a director who thrives on the technical side of things, and the opening shot shows he'd lost none of his ingenuity. Beginning with a TV news report on screen, De Palma pulls us back into a stadium and seamlessly merges into a 12-minute seemingly uninterrupted Steadicam shot. It follows corrupt detective Ricky Santoro, played by a wonderfully animated Nicolas Cage, who almost worked with De Palma again on a canceled "Untouchables" prequel. As Santoro interacts with several characters, only breaking from the shot once the assassin's bullet finds its target. It's a sequence full of De Palma's signature style, with incidental details gaining greater significance later on.
There's a sense of misdirection to "Snake Eyes" which gets clearer as the subterfuge of the fight becomes apparent. The pre-fight events are continuously replayed "Rashomon"-style as the film goes on, so it's fitting that we initially see everything in one go. It's like a magician showing you the trick before explaining how he did it. It's a superbly frenetic start to the film, one that draws attention to itself as audacious, unsubtle, and very fun.