I want to ride my bicycle

‘I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.’ Freddie Mercury, Queen.

Whether you’re gunning the throttle feeling the wind in your air or simply pushing pedal power to the max, there’s something free-spirited and rebellious about a bike. And if you disagree, you probably haven’t ever ridden one. Or forgotten what the feeling is like. tomasEither way, shame on you. Dust off your leathers or stabilisers (delete whichever appropriate) and read this piece.

Recently I was gallivanting around Cat Ba island, Vietnam on a motorbike and it was, oh so much fun. Ok, well, it was a scooter, but I still felt like a young tearaway, trying to look cool with my big shades and little helmet. Aiming for more Easy Rider than total disaster, but who knows how I looked to locals. Particularly given the fact I was exploring the island with a young Austrian chap who was the epitome of cool; a cross between Steve McQueen and Errol Flynn (see the picture). Anyway, as you might imagine my little two-wheeled jaunt in Asia inspired me to dedicate this piece to my pick of bike scenes from movies I love.

The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
An intelligent, dreamlike, almost melancholy drama that caught most moviegoers and critics unawares, anchored by strong performances from Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling. The latter playing motorbike stunt rider Handsome Luke, who turns his hand to bank robbery to support his newborn child. In the clip below Director Derek Cianfrance breaks down a key scene, where Luke’s world begins to unravel as he desperately flees a bank robbery.

Terminator 2
This scene in question sees a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) being chased by the creepy, unstoppable T-1000 (Robert Patrick) in a juggernaut lorry. Closely followed by the achingly cool T-800 (Schwarzenegger), calmly reloading his shotgun one-handed before launching his Harley off the edge of a wall. Somehow he lands it then zooms up the inside of the lorry to scoop Connor off his bike, seconds before the T-1000 crushes them both. Quite simply, Director James Cameron at his best. A controversial statement given Titanic and Avatar, but I’m sticking with it.

Skyfall (2012)
Bond films need a big, brash opening scene to set the tone. Happily Sam Mendes delivered this with gusto and glee last year, in this breathtaking, rollicking ride; a bike chase across the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Watch this fascinating behind the scenes look at how the stunt coordinators and team put this chase together.

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
Ok, I’m putting it out there. The Last Crusade is the best Indy film. There, I’ve said it. Connery, Ford, Nazis, what’s not to like? Well maybe not Nazis, but everyone loves to hate a baddie right? So in that sense, Indy sticking it to the Nazis on motorbikes is an easy win. The scene where Dr. Jones (Junior and Senior) flee the Nazis on a bike with a sidecar is action at its best. Particularly the inspired use of a flagpole for jousting.

The Goonies (1985)
Let’s all sing together, ‘good enough, Goonies ‘R’ good enough, ya, ya, ya, ya!’ C’mon you know the words. Written by Spielberg and Chris Columbus and directed by Richard Donner with a fantastic Cyndi Lauper soundtrack, this film was a defining coming-of-age flick. I sincerely mean that. This scene sees Mikey (Sean Astin) escape his older brother Brand (Josh Brolin) to begin their adventure. One of the best kid’s films of the ’80s.

Matrix Reloaded
Can’t believe this film is ten years old now. Let’s face it, the Wachowski siblings set the bar extremely high with the original and, following the first film, the trilogy did somewhat lose its way. What with an overcomplicated plot involving Zion, the machines and whatnot, we all began to lose interest, slowly but surely. That said, Reloaded has some fantastic action scenes, In particular Carrie Ann-Moss’s Trinity racing the wrong way down a freeway.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Problem: your car has broken down beyond all repair, what do you do? Well, in Batman’s case you hit the self-destruct button and from the wreckage of the Batmobile the Batpod bursts forth. A vast beast with 20″ front and rear wheels. Cue a Chris Nolan speed chase special, with the dark, winged one in full pursuit of Heath Ledger’s manic Joker. ‘Now there’s a Batman.’

The Place Beyond The Pines…Schenectady

130412CutdownPines_7474218When mentioning that I was going to see The Place Beyond the Pines I referred to it as ‘the latest Ryan Gosling movie’, which is fair, given the trailer. However, it’s not an out-and-out Gosling movie, not entirely. I’ll explain, but first, the setup.

Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a motorcyle stunt rider who works for a travelling fairground. We start with the obligatory ‘Gosling torso shot’, then the camera follows him in one long tracking shot from his trailer through the fairground into the main tent, he then climbs onto his bike. The shot pans up to his face. He’s cool, he’s moody, he’s a modern-day Steve McQueen – a promising start.

Luke then pays a visit to old flame Romina (Eva Mendes) and learns she has a son and he’s the father. He vows to stick around and provide for them. Beyond-The-Pines1However fairground work doesn’t pay well, so he strikes up a friendship with mechanic Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), who suggests he robs banks using his motorcycle skills to get away.

Needless to say he gets in over his head and crosses paths with rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).  The narrative then spins in another direction following Avery’s journey. Initially I thought the film was done with Glanton’s tale, however his character’s presence is felt throughout. As the trailer states, the film is ‘an exhilarating epic of fathers, sons and consequences’, which is apt. The film explores the legacy – for better or worse – that fathers leave behind for their sons and how it affects them.

After Avery’s tale, the film changes tack again, focusing on AJ (Emory Cohen) and Jason (Dane Dehaan), the sons of Cross and Glanton respectively. place-beyond-the-pines-bradley-cooperBoth young lads put in strong performances, the former reminded me of a young Tom Hardy – an intense screen presence. The latter, Dehaan, delivered another mature performance, following his strong turn in one of the most impressive, yet underrated films of 2012, Chronicle.

Gosling can confidently add The Place Beyond the Pines to his ever-growing list of classically cool characters. Cooper, too, can hold his head high. After an exemplary performance in Silver Linings Playbook, this may be a career-high.

In terms of script and direction, Derek Cianfrance has been quite clever. You’re likely to discover more depth and meaning with a second viewing. That’s not to say those things aren’t present first time round, it’s just that, with the plot switching focus roughly each act to new characters, you spend your first viewing working things out. A second viewing should allow you to sit back and soak up the experience more thoroughly.

emorycohendanedehaanIn terms of cinematography, it looked quite beautiful. The landscape in and around the town of Schenectady (which literally means ‘the place beyond the pines’) was incredibly green, lush and fertile. Scenes were filmed in a sort of watery light and dreamlike manner, with a lot of handheld camerawork. I suppose to bring a sense of realism.

Whatever the motives, overall The Place Beyond the Pines came across as a tender, heartfelt, beautiful-looking tale with real depth – one that will mature with repeat viewings. Cianfrance coaxed sterling performances from the cast – particularly Cooper and Dehaan – and, with this and Blue Valentine to his name, I’m excited to see what he does next.