by Jody B. Movie
Maybe you can’t beat cinematic car chases for heart-stopping action, but going back to basics can provide just as much adrenalin and raise the heart rate with unbearable tension…
5. 28 Days Later (2002)
Confronted with the empty streets of London after waking up in a hospital bed, Jim (Cillian Murphy) enters a church and finds no consolation, just the remains of what used to be the city’s populace, now infected with a rage virus. The chase through the quiet streets, Jim wearing his hospital greens and clutching a plastic bag containing his only possessions, and with no understanding of the world he’s woken up to, is physically and mentally terrifying. The soundtrack builds as the fast-running infected are set alight by Jim’s rescuers, and the chase comes to a climax with Jim’s words, simple but saying so much: “Please tell me what the **** is going on.”
4. Marathon Man (1976)
The ordinary life of Babe (Dustin Hoffman) is shattered when he becomes embroiled in his older brother’s world of espionage and Nazi diamonds. After surviving dental interrogation by Nazi war criminal Szell (Laurence Olivier), in one of movie history’s most infamous torture scenes, Babe’s training as a marathon runner comes in handy when he escapes the henchmen tasked with getting rid of him and hits the underpasses, overpasses and wet streets, hotly pursued by William Devane. Hoffman’s desperation and terror as he outruns and outmanoeuvres his far more experienced pursuer is palpable.
3. Hanna (2011)
With a pumping track from the Chemical Brothers, Hanna’s (Saoirse Ronan) escape from the underground facility where she’s being held, for reasons yet unknown, and from her captors, is given a soundtrack that elevates the heart rate and provides the noise that underscores the insane and unknown world that Hanna has entered. The camera-work, revolving and jumping, spinning and hypnotic, provides the backdrop by which so much is revealed about Hanna to both the audience and to Hanna herself.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Leatherface’s pursuit of lone survivor Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) is one of the most relentless and adrenalin-pumping chases put on film. Having despatched Sally’s wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain), the chainsaw wielding maniac takes off in pursuit of Sally through the woods, clearing branches as he goes. Clad in lurid white bell‑bottoms and with her blonde hair flowing behind her, Sally is clearly visible in the darkness and her screams of horror still chill the blood, no matter how many re‑watches.
1. Apocalypto (2006)
We may never see another Mel Gibson-directed movie, but with Apocalypto he has left us with a brutal and beautiful masterpiece. Told in the Mayan language, it’s a story of invasion, slavery, and human suffering, but is also about family, friendship and hope in the face of hopelessness. The final 30 minutes of the movie are given over to a chase through the forest as young warrior Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) races against time and his cruel captors to reach his imperilled pregnant wife and son. It’s part action flick, part history lesson, and part commentary on the encroachment of civilisation on gentle lives. Brilliant.