A look into how the legendary action director Kathryn Bigelow created the singular greatest achievements in cinema ever!
In honor of Women’s History Month let’s take a look back Point Break a classic piece of action cinema directed by Kathryn Bigelow. This is the movie that solidified Keanu Reeves as a movie star and reminded everyone why Patrick Swayze had been one for so long.
What makes Point Break so great? I could say everything and while that would be cliche it wouldn’t be wrong. Point Break is the kind of action movie all action movies only dream of being.
From Patrick Swayze to Keanu Reeves
We can talk about Keanu Reeves all day. He’s a national treasure. A hero who doesn’t wear a cape but let’s start by talking about Patrick Swayze. If he’d only done Road House he would be an action icon but he went on to do so much more and transformed himself into a legend. Point Break would be the cherry on top of his entire career. His performance as the bank robbing, righteous surfer Bodhi was a transcendent moment in film history. The idea of a charismatic villain, while not original (James Earl Jones in Conan the Barbarian) became an action staple from Raoul Silva in Skyfall to Villanelle on the TV show Killing Eve.
Bigelow brought out some great work from both actors along with the rest of the cast. Lori Petty also stars as Tyler Endicott and despite being the only key female role she makes it immensely memorable. Lori Petty, recently starred on Orange is the New Black, but after roles like this and Tank Girl she deserved so much more from Hollywood. She made every scene better and actually had some chemistry with Reeves, a rarity in most of his films. Beyond this movie and Speed I can’t recall a single Reeves film that had real, honest chemistry. Love Keanu but not quite one of his strengths. Sorry Ted “Theodore” Logan.
Bigelow also creates some incredible action scenes. That’s why we’re all here right? The action! And this action is flawless. The bank robbing scenes certainly feel like they must have influenced Michael Mann’s Heat. No small feat considering how well respected that film has become. The action is visceral, the camera keeps moving and the editing never gives you to time breathe while also making sure you as the audience never gets lost.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Ultimate Masterclass
The action is impressive enough but Bigelow also had to masterfully figure out a way to film the various surfing scenes. This is no small task. Prior to this film the biggest surf movie was the documentary Endless Summer, hardly the movie you’d take notes from for filming heart-pounding surf footage. She handles the surfing moments with a confident style that immerses you in the scenes.
The fact that you might never consider the effort that went into these scenes is reason enough to celebrate and acknowledge this monumental effort. It’s hard to say what’s more edge of your seat, the action or the surfing. It’s enough to keep you hooked no matter what’s happening on screen.
This glorious piece of celluloid would be nothing if not for the talent of one Keanu Reeves. His aggressive almost angry approach is the perfect reflection of Swayze who is as Zen as you would expect him to be. Reeves’ one-liners from his brooding Johnny Utah character becomes one his most well-remembered characters right next to Neo and John Wick.
A Beautiful Aerial Ballet of Action
The movie culminates with an aerial ballet that for a short time felt like the thing Hollywood would try and emulate to little success much like the copy cats of Die Hard, primarily with the film Drop Zone. No need to discuss that. The scene itself is one of a kind filled with tension, drama and real character stakes. It isn’t simply punch and shoot. They fall and they argue and they argue some more. This divergence of character philosophies is not only a highlight of the scene but also a strong point of the movie.
It’s something that helps separate this film from most others of its time. You can have all the action scenes you want but if they’re not grounded in something empathetic the audience won’t care as much. This isn’t to say those movies can’t be fun (ie Firewalker) but a little empathy can go a long way.
Bigelow took Point Break from what could have been an average, almost forgettable film to something truly earth shattering thanks to some great casting and her fearless approach to taking charge of every scene. Thanks to her talent nothing falters. She leads the way and ensures that this film is nothing short of classic.