It’s no secret that movies get a lot of things wrong when it comes to firearms and how they’re utilized in combat. Filmmakers have long valued what looks cool over what is actually possible in their work, and it’s hard to blame them. From every 80’s protagonist refusing to shoulder their rifles when they fire, to the seemingly infinite magazine capacity in every hero’s gun, filmmakers have long valued what looks cool over what is actually possible in their work, and it’s hard to blame them.
The Three Most Lifelike Firefights Ever Filmed in Hollywood
After all, diving sideways while firing handguns from each hand seems fairly awesome, even if it’s probably the worst thing a firefighter could do. When it comes to Hollywood’s depictions of firefights, there are, of course, exceptions to the rule–movies that manage to offer a realistic image of how armed conflicts truly play out while also providing the viewer something to get excited about. These films may not be realistic from beginning to end, but each contains at least one realistic firefight that causes even the most experienced warfighters to lean forward in their chairs.
Delta’s time to shine: “Sicario”
The border scene in 2015’s “Sicario” is worth studying from a variety of perspectives: as a filmmaking exercise, it’s a masterclass in building tension, and while some of the circumstances may not be entirely realistic, the way the ensuing firefight plays out provides a concise and brutal introduction to the capabilities of the types of men who find their way onto a border. Unlike previous Chuck Norris depictions of Delta, these men are short on words and heavy on action, employing their skill sets to not just neutralize opponents, but also to keep the crisis confined. Despite the operators’ apparent nonchalant demeanor, the tight build-up and quick end leave the viewer with the same sense of ongoing stress that everyone who has ever been in a fight can relate to, even after the shooting stops. It’s less about being unfazed and more about getting the job done, as real special operations would attest–but to the rest of us ordinary mortals, it looks pretty much the same.
The Gold Standard: “Saving Private Ryan”
I recall my parents going home early from their long-planned date night when “Saving Private Ryan” aired in 1998. My father, a Vietnam veteran who had long struggled with aspects of his service, had been looking forward to the new Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg wartime epic, but found the opening scene illustrating the gruesome truth of World War II’s Normandy invasion to be too realistic to bear.
My father, who never spoke about his time in the military, left the theater and sat quietly in his room for the remainder of the evening. This list is, in spirit, a celebration of realism in film, yet reality carries a weight with it that can be difficult to bear at times. A lot of veterans have repeated my father’s feelings about the film (which he did finally view at home by himself), describing the film’s opening sequence as one of the most difficult scenes they’ve ever watched.
Val Kilmer helps train Green Berets: “Heat”
For good reason, the tense ten-minute firefight in “Heat” has become legendary in Hollywood. Every Saturday and Sunday for six weeks, the film’s production team shut down areas of downtown Los Angeles to transform the city into a battle zone, and the actors came prepared to play their parts.
At the nearby L.A. County Sheriff’s combat shooting ranges, the production brought in real British SAS agents to train the actors in real combat tactics. Val Kilmer reportedly did so well in training that a shot of him firing in several directions and reloading his weapon (without the scene cutting) was presented at Fort Bragg as part of American Green Beret training.
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