The beauty of a movie like Fast Five is its total disregard for reality in exchange for enhanced entertainment. From the opening scene to the climactic car chase, the stunts are over-the-top and death-defying, yet we allow it because the movie never asks us to justify it. Still, plenty of critical viewers hunt for logistics in even the most absurd moments.
To that end we spoke with stunt coordinator Jack Gill about some of Fast Five's most intense action sequences.
Gill was not a part of the previous four movies in the franchise, so he had no input in the now-infamous bus flip. If you are looking for answers behind the amazing stunt, you won't find them here. However, according to Gill, the legitimacy and reality of what you see on screen in Fast Five is unparalleled. In addition to his role on Fast Five, Gill is working on a show for SyFy that will open the lid on Hollywood stunts. He hopes the series will show audiences how a stunt is made by presenting one major sequence per episode. Each episode will explore the set-up, prep, rehearsal and final act of one stunt - with each sequence being entirely original (since many of the set pieces in movies are protected by the production studios).
Gill's main focus during our conversation was that of the bank vault scene in Fast Five. He stressed the practical nature of that scene, insisting the vault was never CG - as critics have claimed.
There was never once a CG vault. We had 7 different vaults that each served a different purpose. We had 4 week of prep for the scene, storyboarded everything and every camera angle was pre-determined. The tumbling safe on the first turn was real, not CGI. It was much more violent than we even expected.
Gill went on to explain that there were a number of stunts that were not shot, including an extended version of the bridge finale in which the vault hangs off the side of the bridge. The team quickly realized that even the enhanced Chargers could not support that much dead weight.
There were 3 or 4 more sequences not shot. We mapped them out, but either the action didn't work, it was not up to the expectations or it didn't mesh with the story.
A tough job for stunt coordinators is handling the many personalities that want a piece of the action. It is a truly collaborative position, but also one that needs to keep a finger on the pulse of story and entertainment value - two things that don't always mesh.
[Car coordinator] Dennis McCarthy always knows exactly what cars work for the action and script... When we came in, [director] Justin Lin was open to any and all action sequences we had. Nobody knew at first how the vault would react... Every actor wants to be in the stunt. We try to work you in, but studios and insurance weigh in their two cents. In the event they get hurt, my neck is going to be the one to swing.
For more on how the amazing sequence was ultimately filmed - check out an exhaustive behind-the-scenes explanation from NY Times writer (and car aficionado) Jerry Garrett.
When asked about the influence of 3D and CG on his career, Gill explained that the format both helps and hurts. According to Gill, the studios want more physical stunts now because audiences have grown savvy to reality versus CG. Yet, he believes CG helps his job because it can create the impact that is impossible to capture on camera in certain situations. The same goes for 3D, as it allows the action to move beyond the screen, but the stunts are redesigned to work for the camera.
Whether you scoffed at the stunts of Fast Five, or enjoyed every tumbling vault and flipping car, the action on screen was intricately designed with months of preparation. Hopefully Gill's upcoming show on SyFy will show those details in true form.
Does Jack Gill's commentary on the stunts of Fast Five change your opinion of the movie's key action sequences? Discuss the action in the comments section below.