Thursday, July 18, 2024

Chasing the Gold: Best Editing Shouldn’t Cut Out ‘The Fall Guy’

Editing is what makes movies really come to life. A static shot or a tracking shot can evoke a lot of emotion or wizardry when it comes to staging a scene, but there’s nothing more satisfying than when a character looks off-screen, and there’s a cut to exactly what or who they’re looking at. It could be the killer, finally coming after the last woman standing. It could be the character’s lover arriving home from a long separation. It could be something outlandish that the character just mentioned was impossible, but lo and behold, there’s a zebra walking down Main Street. It’s a moment of magic that holds the audience in a state of heightened emotion until that cut is made.  Editing molds the disparate ideas of screenplay and filmed scenes into coherence. It can be hard to tell what is great editing as the art is meant to be seamless. You’re not supposed to know or think about how the film was stitched together. Yet, the art of the cut can shine through because of the artistry of the craftsperson behind it.

One of the best edited films of the year is The Fall Guy, edited by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir. This film is the fifth collaboration between Rolandsdóttir and stuntman-turned-director David Leitch. The previous four are John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and Bullet Train. These films have reshaped action cinema for the past decade. It’s obvious that Leitch has found a terrific collaborator for his particular brand of action cinema. The Fall Guy is the pinnacle of this partnership, not only for the fabulously stitched-together stunts but because it acts as another example of Ronaldsdóttir’s proficiency as an editor. 

There is a lot of action in The Fall Guy, but a strong and utterly charming romance is taking shape within it, too. It seems like the love story could distract from the action, but it really heightens the drama of what’s taking place. This plot piece requires a more delicate touch, and Ronaldsdóttir captures something magical between our two leads (Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt) in a couple of particularly exceptional scenes.

At one point in the film, Colt (Gosling) is caught unawares when Taylor Swift’s song “All Too Well” comes on the radio. The film shifts to a montage of the budding relationship between Colt and his ex, Jody (Blunt). The scene is a typical montage, but what sets it apart is the fact that it shifts The Fall Guy so beautifully and seamlessly from action comedy into romance. The scenes chosen are silly and sweet and suddenly heartbreaking because we hear the song’s lyrics, and we know that Colt is sitting in deep pain. It’s a masterful feat of tonal shift. That feat is only topped by the split-screen scene that follows it.

Split screen is often gimmicky and not always utilized for the best purposes, but in The Fall Guy, it works. Elísabet Rolandsdóttir found a way to make the scene feel like all we need is the two frames in front of us. The scene works because of the chemistry between the two leads and also because of how intricately matched their individual sequences are. Colt and Jody have a matched set of movements, not only camera angles. It requires a lot of skill to get the timing and position of the actors just right for these two simultaneous sequences. Rolandsdóttir’s editing makes the scene look effortless, much like the film as a whole.

She is also responsible for making the incredible stunts look stunning and easy to follow, which she does with aplomb. The film has many action set pieces, and each one looks fabulous. It would be ludicrous to ignore such a masterful display of the craft. The Fall Guy has charmed critics and audiences. It needs recognition for the incredible talent behind it. And Editing might just be the perfect category for it.

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