Point Break

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

22 October

 

 

World’s first parachute jump, 1797

On this day in 1797, André-Jacque Garnerin made the first descent by frameless parachute. Ascending from the Parc Monceau in a basket attached to what looked like a large furled umbrella, itself attached to a balloon, Garnerin got to around 900 metres (3,000 feet) before unpacking the chute and severing a cord attaching him to the balloon. His descent was ungainly and his basket fell rapidly and swung wildly. He arrived back on the ground with a thump but unhurt. Garnerin was not the first person to dabble with the parachute however. There are pictures from the mid 15th century in the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo Da Vinci which show what has since been proved to be a workable design for a parachute, and one from 1470 by an unknown person of a man suspended below what looks like a a cone-shaped contraption which looks like a parachute but which wouldn’t have broken his fall very well (the “chute” in the word parachute being the fall, and the “para” meaning protection). However Garnerin is the first recorded instance of it having been done with what we would today recognise as a parachute and so wins the prize. His daring feat caused a sensation and made his name. Garnerin was later named Official Aeronaut of France and toured England, making one ascent from Lord’s Cricket Ground and arriving, reportedly, in Chingford 15 minutes later. Considering it’s 17 miles away (27.4km) there must have been one hell of a side wind that day, or someone has embellished the facts.

 

 

Point Break (1991, dir: Kathryn Bigelow)

Here we are in 1991, when Keanu Reeves was Lovely Keanu, young, surferish, just a bit Bill & Ted still, waiting for the next phase (which came with Speed) of his dance with fame. Point Break is a key film in his career, as it was in the career of Patrick Swayze, who went from Dirty Dancing to Road House to this, and then…
It’s also a major film for Kathryn Bigelow, transitioning between the pop-smart vampire flick Near Dark, the girl-in-jeopardy cop flick Blue Steel and into limbo until The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty reminded the world how good she was. So, Point Break, a kinda dumb, kinda mad film about an FBI rookie inflitrating an LA surfer gang who pull off bank jobs in their spare time, disguised in American presidents’ masks. Heading the gang is Swayze, as Bodhi, a Zen surf master, bank robber and sky diver. Swayze is always good for some easy laughs, but he is actually a lot better than that ridiculous surf/rob/jump precis suggests. The film is best known for its shots of surfer guys riding waves, and sky divers freefalling to earth, but it’s noticeable at this distance how much energy Bigelow puts into even the most basic sequences, while Reeves and Swayze both do their best with a script that’s a full wheel of cheese. With Point Break it’s full marks to the hairstylists, the body doubles (though Swayze did a lot if not all of his own skydiving) and California for being California, dude.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Keanu and Swayze in their prime
  • Who says women can’t direct action?
  • Gary Busey and John McGinley adding flavoursome support
  • A soundtrack of old-school rock including Jimi Hendrix, Love, Deep Purple

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

Point Break – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Point Break”

  1. Point Break is one of those films that everybody loves, but that nobody actually talks about all that often. It is a film that if you mention it in conversation, everyone else around is bound to say how much they enjoyed it.

    The film’s two main assets are unexpected ones, in the form of the direction and the script. The direction by Kathryn Bigelow is nothing short of excellent. Her handling of the action and suspense scenes is exciting and riveting. The two sky-diving scenes are brilliant as is the foot chase through the streets (and houses) of the city. The script, by W. Peter Illif, is also very good and the best thing about the film. The plot is multi-layered and has an original relationship between the hero and the villain. The way the story resolves itself and the ultimate resolutions is excellent, by the standards of most Hollywood action films.

    This film deserves to be remembered as one of the better actioners of the nineties, not up there with Die Hard 2/3 or Speed, but better than 90% of the action junk made nowadays. At least this film has a plot.

  2. Movies are like Bands. People come together–maybe they’re not even the greatest musicians individually–but together, something meshes and they make great music. It takes more than great musicians to make a great band. Just so, some movies, no matter how much money, talent, and horsepower is brought to bear, just don’t coalesce. Others, like Point Break, come together with an ineffable "rightness" that defies any of the parts, logic, or analysis. This is one of my favorite movies. Period. Everything "works." This movie ROCKS.

  3. Thirteen years on it sounds a little trite – an FBI agent examines his inner self whilst trying to bring down a gang of surfer bank robbers by infiltrating their scene. But dude, how Point Break pulled this off!

    In what can now safely be regarded as one of the more generation-defining cinematic moments of the nineties, Point Break serves as not just a credible well-paced action thriller spectacle, but also as a voice for advocates of the adrenalin rush. The movie’s sleeper popularity at the time would no doubt have helped issue in a new generation of ‘X’ sports for a new generation, as hungry sponsors leapt at a new market.

    Kathryn Bigelow takes some key pointers from then hubby James Cameron and paces the movie brilliantly. There are many key moments of unique action – that chute-less jump from 4,000 feet being the highlight – that filled the trailer, but it is the cumulative effect of bringing these moments together that adds to the picture. For so many films the denouement is a gross failure but Bigelow controls the films peaks and troughs expertly and the ending is genuinely well handled, something that appears to be a real struggle for Hollywood today.

    In what will go down as Patrick Swayze’s finest moment on film, he plays the adrenalin guru Bodhi with glaze-eyed and silver tongued expertise, and manages to pull off the very difficult assignment of being both sane and insane simultaneously with accomplishment.

    You can almost feel pulled by Bodhi’s enthusiasm for a sensation ‘as close as you get to God’, and as a result can excuse the decade for being labeled that of the ‘slacker’ generation. The nineties weren’t about slacking, just looking for a different kind of high.

  4. OK, sure it is just a big action film with a flimsy script and crazy stunts but…. it is filmed so great. It feels so summer in Cali. It makes you want to forget your blah zaa blah job, move to the beach and surf your azz off and have summer bonfires all night and party the night away. I have been reading others comments on why they can't understand the guilty pleasure about this movie…. Duh that's the whole idea. Yes you can like movies that have you thinking about this and that at the end. You can have movies that astound you. And of course you can have movies that can make you feel like you had a great F'N experience. This is what this movie is. Eat your popcorn. Dive into it AND have a great time. Who cares about the social impact. Enjoy it and think about this. Sex Wax! If it's in the movie, it's a FUN movie! Holla

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