Stunt Double: World War Z

Back in June 2013 I reviewed World War Z here immediately after viewing it in the cinema, however it has always been my intention to give the film its own “Stunt Double” post on the blog in line with other such productions.

There’s not a huge amount to add to what I already wrote about the movie in my review, but to summarise Glasgow’s screen presence in World War Z: As has been well documented, the city doubles for Philadelphia and while CGI is employed to increase some building heights to American standards, landmarks like City Chambers and the Cenotaph remain untouched and instantly recognisable; What starts as a seemingly innocent case of traffic congestion on Cochrane Street descends in to chaos – reeling from an explosion in the direction of Buchanan Street, Brad Pitt’s Gerry rarely has time to draw breath before an out of control bin lorry violently clears the road of vehicles before coming to an abrupt halt at the corner of George Square; Gerry drives his petrified family through the path that has been cleared by the truck, swerving into the square where a moment of distraction leads to their Volvo’s collision with an ambulance; the family evacuate the car and see first-hand the carnage of people being attacked by the undead; Gerry commandeers an RV on George Street and the family make their break for freedom; as the military declares that Philadelphia has fallen we see a final, striking, aerial shot of George Square teeming with running figures.

Two updates that I do have to provide about World War Z from my perspective are:

–          My review was not particularly positive – largely due to very high expectations and some disappointment about the stark difference between the film and the book. However I have watched the movie again – more than once – and it has grown on me. While the main set pieces perhaps don’t sit too comfortably alongside each other, they do in the main each possess good individual qualities – from the classic American action of Philadelphia to the family drama on the aircraft carrier and the edge of the seat tension in the World Health Organisation facility.

–          I attended a Glasgow Film Festival 2014 event entitled “Film/TV Locations: Scotland on Your Screen” at the Centre for Contemporary Arts. The discussion, chaired by Nicola Balkind, covered many productions from both the small and big screen but due to its so far unsurpassed scale World War Z was naturally a key talking point – particularly with panellists Jennifer Reynolds (film commissioner at Glasgow Film Office) and Brodie Pringle (locations manager at Creative Scotland). Ms Reynolds introduced a Glasgow Film Office video about World War Z – now used to help sell the city as a filming location – which highlighted the numbers associated with the production’s spell in the city: 12 filming days, 94 local crew employed, over 500 extras employed, over 100 action vehicles, 14 city centre streets closed, 8,500 bed nights, £3.6 million spent locally. Furthermore it was stated that a subsequent survey of businesses in the area affected saw the majority report a positive impact on trade, while only five complaints regarding inconvenience were received. And the Glasgow World War Z experience was also credited as directly influencing the Fast & Furious 6 team to film in the city.

Stunt Double: Fast & Furious 6

I have to admit that before watching Fast & Furious 6 for the purpose of this blog I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen any of its predecessors in the franchise since watching the original The Fast And The Furious at Muirend cinema in 2001 – incidentally my final visit to that southside landmark. It’s not that I didn’t like the film, but my appetite for that particular storyline was satisfied with one instalment and I really just wasn’t that fussed about seeing the sequels. Still, the concept clearly works for many people – 12 years, six films with a seventh in the pipeline, each release going to cinema (not straight to DVD) with a decent amount of fanfare and decent box office returns all support this. Fast & Furious 6 alone reportedly brought in over $695 million worldwide during its big screen outing. Helpfully for out of touch viewers like myself the past 12 years of Fast and Furious action are neatly summarised in a montage of clips during the opening credits of Fast & Furious 6.fast and furious 4

This latest chapter begins with the main characters settling down to simpler lives with the money they have made in previous outings, but – as is the case with so many great action movies – being called upon to put their unrivalled driving skills to use in one more job, this time with high stakes for them personally and for the world as a whole.fast and furious

I would say overall that I enjoyed this movie, but my review probably features praise and criticism in equal measures. The positives include an ensemble cast that work well together – they gel to make a convincing team. There is some good humour too, and in particular Tyrese Gibson as Roman delivers much of this. The film also makes very good use of the London setting, from impressive views of the Shard and the Gherkin glinting in the sunrise to grubby garages under railway arches. It’s a Hollywood production that nearly manages to avoid clichés in portraying London, but lets itself down somewhat on that front with the inclusion of a shamelessly snobbish luxury car salesman who has a distinct whiff of Tim Curry’s Home Alone 2 hotel concierge about him. And sticking with clichéd characters, there’s nothing wrong with Luke Evans’ portrayal of villain Owen Shaw, but are there really as many ex-SAS men that have gone bad as the film industry tends to make out? Other criticisms, which had me smirking rather than frowning, were Vin Diesel’s Dominic and Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty in the most ridiculous stunt I’ve ever seen (look out for the bit on the bridge) and a climactic runway scene in which the runway seems to go on forever. Finally there was a bit too much of “This is who I am”/”This is who we are”/”This is who you are” in the script and if all of the other films are full of that I won’t be rushing to see them.fast and furious 2

Fast & Furious 6 is set primarily in London but with action also taking place in locations as varied as Moscow, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Spain. The Spanish segments are set in “Canary Islands, Spain” – perhaps the choice of island is left to the imagination so as not to upset either Gran Canaria or Tenerife (both islands’ authorities are thanked in the credits) by highlighting one over the other – and at a NATO base in Lusitania. A Google search tells me the latter is fictional, and that Lusitania was in fact an ancient Roman Iberian province. Spanish geography issues aside however, what links this blockbuster with Glasgow?fast and furious 3

Glasgow doubles for London during certain points of a key car chase scene early in the film – the scenes were shot in the International Financial Services District during late summer 2012. The stunts are impressive, with Metropolitan Police cars being flipped into the air on Cadogan Street and a BMW being launched through the windows of a purpose built office complex on the Broomielaw. None of the principal actors were present for the Glasgow scenes, although that statement may not be entirely true to anyone who considers the cars to be the stars of these movies. Glasgow wasn’t alone in standing in for London, with Liverpool’s Mersey Tunnel taking part in the same chase scene, while London itself doubles for Moscow at the start of the film – the use of MI5’s distinctive headquarters Thames House as a backdrop for the Russian scene is odd given how familiar this building is through other movies and television programmes.

Somewhat disappointing was the omission of Glasgow (and for that matter Liverpool) from the closing credits of the movie. As mentioned above there are plenty of thanks given to the authorities and citizens of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, but no mention of the organisations in Glasgow who helped pull part of the film together.

Glasgow’s Super Bowl double whammy

On Sunday gone, an estimated 108.4 million television viewers tuned in to watch the biggest event in America’s sporting calendar – Super Bowl XLVII – as it was beamed live across the globe from New Orleans. The annual championship game of the NFL – this year featuring the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers – has become a massive commercial spectacle, from the live opening and half-time performances from the likes of Beyonce to the hugely expensive adverts rolled out especially for the event by various corporations. Alongside the beer, car and trainer commercials, the Super Bowl is often the place to catch first or enhanced glimpses of forthcoming film releases as the studios show off their most anticipated productions in lucrative “TV spots”. Super Bowl Sunday is therefore as exciting for the movie community as it is for the sporting community.

Given the scale of the event and its audience it is quite a coup for Glasgow that it can claim to have been visible in not one but two movie TV spots during the Super Bowl.

The very brief (34 seconds) trailer for World War Z repeats much of what we have seen before on this film’s previous trailer – one difference in the Super Bowl spot though is that we see the Lane family’s silver Volvo (like the one pictured on location here) speed off along Cochrane Street. There is also a brief glimpse of a supermarket interior – this may or may not be from filming that Brad Pitt did at a former Kwik Save store on Paisley Road.

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Another spot gave us the first look at Fast & Furious 6 – look out for a car crashing through the window of a specially constructed set on Broomielaw at 0:26 and a police car doing a somersault on Cadogan Street at 0:36. You will also see the curious looking vehicle filmed by Glasgow on Film at 0:35.