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The best film scenes of 2015

Not every great movie has a standout great scene, just as not every great scene comes from a great movie. That’s our convoluted way of saying that The A.V. Club looked both high and low for the best scenes of 2015, culling from a whole spectrum of films—some likely to appear on this week’s best-movies-of-the-year list, others unlikely to appear on any such list, and at least one certain to get called out in our public shaming of the year’s worst movies. If a scene works, in or out of context, it had a shot at getting mentioned in the unranked love fest below. Proceed with caution, of course: When talking great scenes, spoilers are inevitable, though we did manage to highlight our consensus pick for the best of the bunch—a grand finale, just like our number one choice last year—without giving away where it goes (though those looking to preserve the surprise should skip the clip, or any of the other sporadic few YouTube videos we included).

Scene of the year
“Speak low…,” Phoenix

A perfect ending is something more than a lit exit sign for the audience; it’s the place where the movie has been packing to go the whole time, its arrival both unexpected and inevitable. The ending of Phoenix, our contributors’ pick for the best scene of the year, is one of these. Part of what makes German director Christian Petzold’s pulp psychological thriller so special is the way it wrings complex shades of suspense and disquiet out of very basic techniques, and its finale—the most sublime gasp moment of the year in film—is a master class in simplicity of form, cut almost entirely from just two angles and carried by stars Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld, whose performances have been building to this one exchange of subtleties. A less confident director would have gone for flashy theatrics, but Petzold’s pure staging makes every cut, eye movement, and change of posture count, gracefully letting the riveting drama of what’s actually going on overwhelm the film. The result is unshakeable. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Border crossing, Sicario

Car chases have been a staple of action movies since the medium’s inception, but few filmmakers have taken advantage of the potential for tension offered by a stop-and-go traffic jam. Denis Villeneuve stages Sicario’s most remarkable set piece among a slew of cars creeping along at about one mile per hour at the U.S.-Mexico border, with FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) watching in alarm and disbelief as the men in the task force to which she’s been assigned identify and train weapons on possible assailants in adjoining lanes. Eventually, a full-blown firefight breaks out among the gridlock, and Villeneuve somehow manages to make it appear at once surgical (from the perspective of hitman-for-hire Benicio Del Toro) and chaotic (as experienced by Kate, who can’t believe this is happening in a sea of innocent civilians). That every vehicle is utterly trapped in its current location only heightens the feeling of ominous inevitability. [Mike D’Angelo]

The sex scene, Anomalisa

Almost as soon as Charlie Kaufman’s animated mood-piece hit the festival circuit, audiences started buzzing about “the puppet sex,” which—phrased that way, quasi-jokingly—doesn’t even come close to describing what the scene’s all about. The sex in Anomalisa is both believably and hilariously mundane, with two strangers awkwardly pawing at each other in a Cincinnati luxury hotel. But the way Kaufman and his co-director Duke Johnson stage the tryst helps explain more about Lisa, the woman who spends the night with the movie’s depressed hero Michael Stone. Throughout the film, Lisa comes across as shy and self-deprecating, but when she’s in bed with Michael, she tells him exactly what she wants. It’s one of this movie’s many subtle shifts in perspective, suggesting that the drab world Michael perceives is all in his head. [Noel Murray]

Off Santa Monica Pier, Jem And The Holograms

Could one of the year’s most memorable scenes be in one of its worst films? The one saving grace of Jon M. Chu’s Jem And The Holograms is that it’s so visually inconsistent that it actually manages to produce a small handful of really striking images and one 45-second sequence that briefly knocks the movie into a different, more stylized universe—perhaps the one where its story of a pop group going on a scavenger hunt with a robot would make perfect sense. Caught trespassing at the Santa Monica Pier, the characters leap, breaking into an underwater pop dream-world of echoes and slow motion, where the lights of a Ferris wheel glimmer overhead like an aurora borealis. Light glides in purples and greens, bubbles hang like glass sculpture, and, for the length of a held breath, viewers (that is, the few who actually saw the movie before it was pulled from theaters) find themselves in the kind of idealized cartoon fantasy Jem could have been. Perhaps the scene wouldn’t stand out as much in a movie that didn’t mostly look like a cruddy Disney Channel tween flick; then again, that’s what makes it so transportive. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

“I Want It That Way,” Magic Mike XXL

Much more so than its Steven Soderbergh-directed predecessor, Magic Mike XXL aims entirely to please. Putting its returning cast of male strippers on the road within minutes, the film dispenses with most conventional notions of drama or conflict, preferring instead to just bounce from one giddy encounter to the next. The best of these moments is also the one that best exemplifies this sequel’s entertainment-first philosophy: During a mini-mart pit stop, Mike (Channing Tatum) challenges Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) to make the day of the frowning clerk (Lindsey Moser) behind the counter. As the Backstreet Boys’ hit ballad “I Want It That Way” serendipitously comes on over the radio, Richie improvises a joyously silly (and snack-abetted) striptease for his audience of one, while the rest of the boys cheerlead from the parking lot. The scene ends with a perfect punctuation—the big, goofy grin this impromptu routine inevitably inspires in the “client.” Her happiness is a mirror; like this elated stranger, all we can do is smile ear to ear. [A.A. Dowd]

“A Summer In Ohio,” The Last Five Years

Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s stage musical contains about four big numbers that are among the year’s most memorable scenes (even though the film itself is pretty spotty). “A Summer In Ohio,” though, is the best showcase for Anna Kendrick’s dynamic, heartbreaking performance. Shot partly as a fantasy and partly as a video-chat, “A Summer In Ohio” finds Kendrick’s aspiring Broadway star Cathy working in a theater camp, and telling her novelist husband, Jamie, back in New York all about “slowly going batty / 40 miles east of Cincinnati.” In The Last Five Years’ time-jumbled structure, the song comes after a scene in Ohio where the couple’s on the verge of breaking up (which itself comes after the opening number, where they’re already divorced). In retrospect, being miserable in middle America will be one of the happiest moments of Cathy and Jamie’s marriage. [Noel Murray]

The body-splitting, Bone Tomahawk

S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk is an unassuming genre hybrid, and the impact of its finale is magnified by the fact that, for most of its 132-minute runtime, it plays out like a lackadaisical The Searchers-inspired Western throwback about a group of noble frontiersmen (Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins) on a mission to rescue a maiden kidnapped by unholy savages. A dialogue-driven affair, it moseys along at a leisurely pace until its finale, during which Russell and the surviving members of his crew are captured by the fiends they seek. While locked behind bars, they become witnesses to the true otherworldly brutality of their adversaries, which is epitomized by one of the villains turning a captive upside down, bludgeoning him in the crotch, and then literally tearing him in half. It’s a moment that thrusts the proceedings into full-on horror territory, and delivers such a shock to the system that the film’s portrait of frontier violence proves unforgettable. [Nick Schager]

The football bet, Focus

Fresh from a successful Super Bowl weekend marathon of con games, con artist Nicky (Will Smith) and his lover/protégé Jess (Margot Robbie) settle in to watch the game. They start to make playful bets with each other about arbitrary members of the crowd, attracting the attention of a nearby moneyed gambler (B.D. Wong). At this point, compulsion takes hold—it looks as if Nicky is willing to gamble away the couple’s entire haul. What starts out as a flirtatious side scene escalates into the central set piece of Focus, reveling in the outlandish behavior of cons and gamblers while also skillfully creating a sinking feeling to mirror Jess’ panic. To say more would ruin the sequence’s effectiveness, but it makes particularly great use of Wong, who steps into the film like a snazzy guest TV star, and “Sympathy For The Devil,” a song it might have seemed impossible to deploy in a new or interesting way. When the scene caps off with a classic con-movie post-mortem, it morphs into a sly meta-commentary on the assembling of a movie caper. [Jesse Hassenger]

When Yves met Jacques, Saint Laurent

French writer-director Bertrand Bonello is a poet of all things widely considered nocturnal: dreams, dancing, hard drugs, anonymous sex, people packed tightly into corner tables, exhausted bodies stretched out on beds and couches. A lot of these elements converge in one of the standout sequence of Saint Laurent, his oblique biopic of designer Yves Saint Laurent. An extended, wordless nightclub scene composed of looks, carefully timed cuts, subtle gestures, thrashing bodies, and super-cool musical cues (including The Four Seasons’ great ’70s single “The Night”), it re-constructs an entire lost world of hedonism and desire in order to frame the first meeting between the fashion icon (Gaspard Ulliel) and Jacques De Bascher (Louis Garrel), with whom he’d have a short, self-destructive affair that’s one of two main focal points of the movie. Conveying that first glance of mutual attraction as a tracking shot over a crowd of dancers, it’s a perfect example of the kind of thing Bonello does more purely than just about any other living filmmaker. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

The bear attack, The Revenant

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s visceral frontier survival saga contains no less than three or four contenders for scene of the year, most of them bursts of bloody combat, captured through a handful of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s famously protracted Steadicam shots. They’re all worthy of inclusion, really, but the one that seems to drop the most jaws is the devastating woodland encounter between Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the mother bear that mauls him halfway to death. The camera follows Glass as he creeps quietly through the foliage, notices a couple of cubs, and is then too slow to escape the protective charge of the adult animal. Lubezki never cuts as the CGI beast tosses DiCaprio around like a rag doll, pins him to the ground, leaves him for dead, returns to finish the job, and is eventually knifed into submission by its screaming, determined victim. Far from just a bit of showboating spectacle—though it definitely is that, too—the scene captures the moment-to-moment horror of the attack, locking us into Glass’ harrowing ordeal, making us feel every passing minute of this nature-run-amok nightmare. [A.A. Dowd]

“We’re not ugly people,” Carol

Well obviously not, as said people are played by Kyle Chandler and Cate Blanchett, the latter done up in full bourgeois hauteur to play a society wife in 1950s New York. This line serves a dual function in Todd Haynes’ precisely measured melodrama: Carol’s plea to her husband—who is trying to initiate court proceedings to keep her from seeing their daughter—expresses her fear at being shunned due to her not-so-secret fling with a fetching shop-girl (Rooney Mara) and her hope that the man across the table will put basic decency ahead of his wounded pride. It’s a devastatingly emotional moment in a film whose characters mostly keep their feelings close to their chest. [Adam Nayman]

Taxi argument, Love

The thing about Gaspar Noé’s overlong, sexually explicit 3-D relationship drama, Love, is that its sex scenes are largely unimaginative and extraneous, serving only to give an edgy flavor to a movie that’s really just two shrill caricatures arguing about petty shit. But whatever its shortcomings as an exploration of sexual boundaries or personality types, Love is nonetheless dazzling as a portrait of nightlife, using 3-D’s multiple planes to paint loud parties, esoteric drug ceremonies, and, in the most remarkably example, a screaming match in the back of taxi. Strikingly silhouetted against the movement of streets and tunnels, central couple Murphy and Electra for once look exactly like the monumental archetypes the movie is trying to make them out to be, and as their squabbling reaches new lows of viciousness and abuse, they become riveting—proof of how much drama can depend on an effective backdrop. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Cold open, Wild Tales

Of the six thematically related stories (all involving revenge) that make up Argentina’s Oscar-nominated anthology Wild Tales, it’s the first, “Pasternak,” that proves the most unforgettable. Two passengers sitting across the aisle from each other on a flight—one a catwalk model, the other a music critic—start idly chatting, and a coincidence emerges: The critic, while serving on a conservatory jury, had ruined the musical career of the model’s ex-boyfriend, a man named Gabriel Pasternak. Overhearing their conversation, a woman nearby remarks that Gabriel Pasternak had been an incorrigible student of hers many years earlier. Soon, it becomes clear that everyone on the plane has wronged Pasternak in some way. When director Damián Szifron wrote this pitch-black comic sketch, he couldn’t know that his absurdist punchline would be echoed in a real-life tragedy less than a year later. The scene plays a bit more chilling now, but its step-by-step escalation of mounting horror still packs a wallop. [Mike D’Angelo]

The second boxing match, Creed

Boxing has been a mainstay of cinematic sports movies for decades upon decades, but modern cinematic depictions of the boxing matches themselves are often rife with clichés. Maybe the worst and hardest-to-avoid crutch: tuning into the breathless play-by-play of the fake televised commentary. Creed ends with a relatively traditional (if still exciting) match in that regard, but around the film’s midpoint, director Ryan Coogler stages a more audacious fight. Composed as a single unbroken shot, the scene follows Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) as he squares off against Leo Sporino (Gabe Rosado) in the ring—his first major fight following an undefeated run of matches in Tijuana. Coogler’s camera circles its way through the ring, staying in close on the fighters but keeping the geography of their fight clear, occasionally panning over to catch the reactions of the fighters’ trainers. Without TV-style cutting, the scene also tosses out TV-style commentary; the whole thing unfolds with great immediacy, aided by sound design that simulates the camera’s position in the ring, rather than an evenly mixed macro perspective. For a few minutes, Creed’s whole world is contained within the boxing ring, and the audience is right there with him. [Jesse Hassenger]

Contract negotiation, Fifty Shades Of Grey

The movie as a whole isn’t that great, but there’s one five-minute stretch in the middle of the erotic(ish) drama Fifty Shades Of Grey that suggests what might’ve been, had the filmmakers remembered they’d hired a skilled comic actress as their lead. Dakota Johnson actually gets to be funny in the scene where her Anastasia Steele goes item-by-item through the detailed S&M contract that Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey demands of anyone who wants to be his girlfriend. The staging is abstractly stylish, with Ana and Christian sitting at a mod dining table, partially backlit. Just visually, the scene expresses a lot, showing the life of upscale privilege that Christian’s offering. All Ana has to do then is read the fine print aloud and decide just how much “fisting” she’s willing to endure to keep her Prince Charming. [Noel Murray]

Porridge, Crimson Peak

It may be a ghost story, but Crimson Peak’s true fiend isn’t an undead specter but, instead, Jessica Chastain’s Lucille Sharpe, who shares her family’s crumbling English manor with brother Thomas (Tom Hiddleston). When Thomas’ new wife Edith (Mia Wasikowska) learns that Lucille has killed her husband’s past spouses by poisoning their tea, she attempts to flee, only to get caught in a storm and wind up bedridden. There, Lucille arrives to care for her, first with the toxic tea—from which Edith turns away—and then with porridge, which she spoon-feeds Edith while recounting how she cared for her mother after her father had broken her legs. In a cooing tone that suggests both malevolence and madness, a riveting Chastain comes across as the sort of villain content to carry out her devilish plans with methodical patience. In the way she slowly scrapes her spoon against the edges of the porridge bowl while talking about shattered bones, she manages to intimidate—if not outright threaten—in the most terrifyingly calm manner imaginable. [Nick Schager]

The confrontation at Donut Time, Tangerine

For most of its runtime, Sean Baker’s iPhone-shot Los Angeles comedy keeps its various characters apart, watching as they embark on solo odysseys across the city. It’s when the film finally brings them all together—at the hole-in-the-wall Donut Time, where the movie began—that Tangerine really reaches its screwball zenith. It’s here that the recently paroled Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) finally confronts her pimp fiancé (James Ransone) about the affair he’s supposedly been having with one of his prostitutes (Mickey O’Hagan). But they’re not alone in the tiny restaurant, not for long; quickly entering the fray are Sin-Dee’s bestie Alexandra (Mya Taylor), smitten cab driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian), and the latter’s outraged wife and mother-in-law—to say nothing of the exasperated Donut Time employee, stuck working alone on Christmas Eve and dealing with this shit show. Baker stages the group showdown with the comic chaotic flair of a David O. Russell movie, bouncing the characters he’s introduced off of each for a few vibrant minutes. It’s the ideal climax for a film that sees L.A. as one big stage, its people an ensemble of big personalities with big passions and desires. [A.A. Dowd]

Explaining the rules, It Follows

Having unexpectedly been chloroformed by her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), immediately after they first have sex, Jay (Maika Monroe) awakens to a nightmare: She’s in her underwear, tightly bound to a wheelchair parked inside a creepy ruined building. “I’m not gonna hurt you,” Hugh insists, however, and he isn’t… not any more than he already has, at any rate. He’s only incapacitated Jay so that she can see for herself the curse that he’s just sexually transmitted to her, and the focus of her terror quickly shifts as a naked woman appears outside the building, slowly walking toward them. Alternating between static shots that emphasize the decrepit landscape and traveling shots in which the camera is fixed to the front of the wheelchair, writer-director David Robert Mitchell finds a terrifying means of conveying necessary exposition. It’s not so much “show, don’t tell” as showing and telling simultaneously, to a captive audience. [Mike D’Angelo]

Max holds Furiosa’s rifle, Mad Max: Fury Road

A graduate-level thesis could be written about this fleeting but significant bit of staging, in which Tom Hardy’s Mad—and this time out, rather Sad—Max comports himself as a prop so that Furiosa (Charlize Theron) can more easily take aim at the bad guys pursuing their caravan across the desert. Much has been written about the feminist bona-fides (or lack thereof) in Fury Road, but this small, perfectly choreographed instance of inter-gender action-hero collaboration—with the weapon wielded by a distaff badass whose aim is true—would seem to settle the argument once and for all. Also: It’s super-cool, right? [Adam Nayman]

Paddleman, Arabian Nights, Volume 3: The Enchanted One

“Paddleman possessed an excellent reproductive system which ensured the upkeep of the species on its own… But Scheherazade knew none of this due to living in the palace, far away from the rocks where Paddleman moved and procreated.” The opening stretch of the final volume of Miguel Gomes’ ambitious anti-epic is choked with stories, non sequiturs, and bizarre characters, none goofier than Paddleman, the airheaded hunk who travels “the Baghdad Archipelago” on a surfboard, accompanied by his brood of French-speaking children and a personal soundtrack of ’60s and ’70s pop deep cuts. (Elvis, the break-dancing bandit, comes in a close second.) Given that Arabian Nights is mostly about austerity-era Portugal—and that the bulk of Volume 3 is taken up with a documentary about competitive birdsong hobbyists—it’s easy to understate how funny it can be. The short section of Volume 3 that deals with the whirlwind romance between the legendary storyteller of One Thousand And One Nights and a beach bum who lives only to reproduce is Gomes at his silliest and most playful, functioning as a self-contained absurdist short. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Never Have I Ever, Unfriended

If the fiendishly clever horror sleeper Unfriended is about anything more than its own ingenious construction—the way it seems to credibly unfold, in real time and with great realism, within the frame lines of a laptop computer—it’s about how the internet has allowed people to indulge their worst impulses with anonymity and impunity, behaving ways on the web that they never would in “real” life. That’s what’s so wickedly satisfying about the centerpiece scene, in which the surviving teens are forced to play a life-and-death game of Never Have I Ever, either confessing their sins or risking a swift demise. The film’s “villain” is using the very medium her oppressors employed as a mask to force them to actually reveal themselves to each other. Like an honest-to-God mashup of the cold open to Scream and the polygraph episode from Community, it’s a set piece as darkly funny as it is suspenseful—and the rare moment when this genuinely radical genre movie is impressing through content instead of technique. [A.A. Dowd]

Cab-driver seminar, In Jackson Heights

Frederick Wiseman’s latest documentary is a sprawling portrait of the most ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhood in Queens, and probably in New York, and quite possibly in the world. And its funniest interlude takes place among students hoping to join the most clichéd profession for immigrants almost anywhere: cab driver. Thankfully, the source of the comedy isn’t the aspiring drivers (who hail mostly from India, Pakistan, and Nepal), but the class’ magnificent teacher, A.J. Gogia, who treats his course as if it were a first-rate stand-up routine even as he gets the necessary information across. “I knew that I’d led a clean and moral life when God gave me that sequence,” Wiseman acknowledged in an interview, and it’s a testament to his passion for Jackson Heights and its diversity that he continued making the movie he’d originally envisioned rather than ditching it for a raucous, inspiring profile of Gogia. Maybe someone else will step in? [Mike D’Angelo]

The opening chase, Bridge Of Spies

Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller is largely in the vein of his Lincoln—that is, more concerned with the intimacies and intricacies of negotiation than with high-octane action. But Spielberg’s handful of forays into more traditional thrills sing with the confidence of a master. In the film’s instant-classic opening, Spielberg uses little dialogue as he follows Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) through what looks like a routine but also includes a tiny, crucial bit of spy-craft as he picks up a coin containing a coded message on a park bench. American authorities are on his trail, and pursue him through the New York City streets, shot with kinetic and music-free immediacy by Spielberg and his longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. The gamesmanship continues in Abel’s modest apartment, where the close attention paid to his earlier activities lends his attempts to hide that coded message an instinctive audience sympathy, even though he’s spying on the good old U.S.A. By observing a spy at the ground level (the camera swoops low around Abel’s pursuers’ feet, as if it’s combing the apartment itself), Spielberg establishes the humanity so crucial to the rest of the film. [Jesse Hassenger]

The anniversary dance, 45 Years

Andrew Haigh’s muted character sketch builds slowly to the 45th anniversary party for an elderly couple—played by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay—who’ve begun drifting apart over the course of the week they’ve spent preparing for their big day. The movie ends with friends gathering to celebrate a marriage that’s secretly on the rocks; and right up to the point when the two leads step into the spotlight for the first dance of the night, it’s up in the air whether this will be a moment of genuine reconciliation or just a bit of pro forma romantic theater. Throughout, Haigh holds close on Rampling, studying her shifting reactions as “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” plays on the soundtrack, in a dance sequence that’s both beautiful and tense—and that culminates in the emotional swell that’s been due since the opening credits. [Noel Murray]

“The Final Derriere,” The Forbidden Room

“I am plagued by bottoms” laments the tragic, eventually lobotomized ass-man embodied by Udo Kier in Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s delirious lost-silent-film homage/experimental mixtape movie The Forbidden Room. So desperate is he, in fact, that he wanders the streets to the musical accompaniment of Sparks, whose hilariously catchy, chorally sung ditty “The Final Derriere” becomes a kind of theme song for a film whose obsessions include—but are not limited to—the fluidity and immutability of desire, the way that obsession is branded upon the brain, and the impossibility of ever really, fully, truly reaching the end. [Adam Nayman]

The final shootout, Slow West

John Maclean’s stripped-down, hallucinatory neo-Western Slow West follows civilized Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) on a cross-country trek to find his lost love Rose (Caren Pistorius), who does not love him in return. He’s accompanied on that journey by roughneck Silas (Michael Fassbender), who secretly covets the bounty on Rose’s head—a sum also sought by rival bandit Payne (Ben Mendelsohn). After a trip marked by fragmentary dreaminess, these wayward figures converge at Rose’s remote home on the range, where gunfire, however inevitable, erupts in unexpected blasts, felling the noble and the wicked alike. In images of gunmen appearing and disappearing out of tall grass as if part of a giant Whac-A-Mole game, and of Mendelsohn placidly standing amid these killers while wearing a giant bearskin coat and a look of let’s-get-on-it-with-it viciousness on his face, Slow West’s climactic shootout exudes a strange and haunting ugliness. [Nick Schager]

The Vienna opera house fight, Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation

One of the chief pleasures of the Mission: Impossible series, at least so far, has been its procession of different directors leaving their signature on potentially anonymous material. At the outset, Rogue Nation’s Christopher McQuarrie seemed like the least distinctive hire so far, having often served as a go-to collaborator for star Tom Cruise. But McQuarrie made his mark on the fifth Mission by using it to develop his style, never more clearly than in the film’s sequence set at the Vienna State Opera House. In the most Hitchcockian section of the series since Mission: Impossible II knocked off Notorious, Ethan Hunt (Cruise), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), and a menacing bad guy knock around the opera—the sets, the rafters, the balconies—as Hunt attempts to find a terrorist and prevent an assassination. McQuarrie layers the action over several planes and drapes his actors in shadows, using darkness and flashes of color (like the billowing yellow dress that Ferguson wears or the blue lighting of the opera’s set) to bring clarity to a logistically complicated series of fights and chases, measures and counter-measures. The rising and dipping backstage platforms that occupy Hunt recall the Looney Tunes sensibility of previous director Brad Bird, but McQuarrie bathes the action in surprising lushness. Its 12 minutes or so are as terrific a bit of pure filmmaking as anything in the series. [Jesse Hassenger]