Nothing raises the stakes of an action movie quite like a quality elevator sequence. Put some characters in a confined space that’s hanging twenty floors up by high-tension cables and you’ve got a grade-A set piece. But are these elevator sequences just a bunch of phony movie magic or do they depict plausible scenarios we may actually find ourselves in one day? In the newest installment of their series Reelistic, the movie lovers at CineFix sat down with a real-life elevator technician to analyze some famous elevator action scenes.
For the most part, Hollywood gets it surprisingly right. John Holzer, the resident elevator expert, explains how the elevator sequence in Speed is fairly accurate to real life, including the fact that rescue teams could realistically slide down elevator cables like a fireman going down a pole. He also notes that, in certain countries where safety standards are lower, an elevator could definitely decapitate somebody like it does in Final Destination.
There are, of course, certain liberties that action movies take when crafting elevator set pieces. For instance, there’s absolutely no reason why an elevator shaft would have extendable spikes at the top of it, like in Mission: Impossible, and John McClane probably wouldn’t be able to manually open an elevator door like he does in Die Hard. Also— readers may want to sit down for this —it turns out Willy Wonka’s flying glass elevator isn’t real. Hollywood has lied to you.