By Aditya Savnal. Posted on October 23, 2015
Be it the gory climax of Carrie or the pool room stand off in Carlitto's Way, Brian De Palma has a knack for staging elaborate action set pieces that start off on a relatively low note and culminate into an intense and bloody showdown.
One such memorable action set piece was the Union station scene from The Untouchables which sees Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and George Stone (Andy Garcia) face off members of the Al Capone gang resulting in an ugly showdown.
A video by Antonios Papantoniou deconstructs the camera angles, movements and shot duration used by De Palma. Among the various techniques used in the scene, Papantoniou particularly stresses on how De Palma uses POV shots and slow motion among other techniques to give us the one of the most tense and memorable action set pieces ever seen.
By employing minimal dialogues, DePalma creates an unforgettable cinematic experience that affects the viewer on a visual and emotional level. Though the tension is imminent from the beginning of the scene, De Palma paces the scene in a leisurely manner, leaving the viewer stunned and startled by the sudden turn of events.
The scene pays an obvious homage to the Odessa steps scene from Battleship Potemkin. And much like the Odessa steps scene, the Union station scene also makes a nod to inhumanity and helplessness faced by people in a grim situation.
Interestingly this scene was earlier planned as a gunfight that would take place inside a train carriage. But when the bosses at Paramount decided that building the set of a train would inflate the budget, De Palma decided to shoot in Chicago station. And what a great decision this was.
Do check out Papantoniou's Vimeo channel in which he has done shot breakdowns for several memorable films including Jaws and Cape Fear.