Top 5 Tense Movie Face-offs

Some of my favourite scenes in movies happen when two actors get a chance to face off and confront each other. They might be about to shoot it out or engage in a kung fu tournament to determine the fate of our world, but the really thrilling part is the expectation built up as the characters look deep into each others eyes and face their enemies. Heres the top 5:

1. Dead Mans Shoes

In this scene the phenomenal Paddy Considine faces down the small town crime boss and local thug. Considine is astonishingly good throughout this move, and his performance in this scene is nuanced and subtle. Here he shows absolute determination and confidence in his ability to get revenge on the gang of thugs, but as well as showing bravado he plays this scene with a touch of fragility and even looks a little intimidated. By the end though you’re left in no doubt who’s in control and who’s in over their head. The power of Considine’s performance in this movie and its shifts of tone between dark humour and brutal realism make it one of the best movies to come out of the UK and this scene is one of the best face offs ever committed to film.

2. Heat

What can you say about this scene? Two screen legends sit and have some coffee in a scene film fans have wanted to see for years.They seem to like each other but both are absolutely unwilling to back down and they’re both on a collision course. Both are resolved to their course, and the fatalism that goes through the scene is undercut with repressed, foreshadowed violence. Paccino is more talkative and drives the encounter, but its Deniro who recaptures some of his past glory and his assured, matter-of-fact attitude makes you sure he absolutely means everything he says.

3. Unforgiven

A truly great movie about the difference between the legend of a gunslinger and the reality as well as the implications of violence and the nature of redemption. In this scene we get a brutal but ugly gunfight that seems much more realistic than the average hollywood depiction of wild west shootouts. Guns misfire, people miss with the notoriously inaccurate six shooters of the day and the guy who survives is the one who stays calm and has the most experience of killin. Before that fight though there’s a great stand-off between Eastwood and Hackman. As the corrupt Little Bill tries to take the moral high ground, Munny admits to all his killing and wrongdoing. He’s done bad things to people, and he’s about to do more.

4. Tombstone

In this scene, the apparently sick Doc Holiday recovers enough to take Wyatt Earps place in a gunfight with legendary gunfighter Ringo. Knowing Earp is no match for Ringo, Holiday overcomes his illness to defeat an overmatched and nervous Ringo who wants to back down but can’t. It’s a strange scene, Kilmer chews scenery throughout the movie and Michel Biehn’s death scene is bizarre as he becomes some stumbling zombie after being shot. It’s the underlying weirdness that works in this confrontation and the whole thing has a dreamlike quality. Criticisms aside, the foreshadowing and mood of this scene make it compelling and Michel Biehn plays it beautifully as he first tries to back out, then adopts his mask of insanity to face Holiday.

5. Christine

The soundtrack plays a huge part in this unnerving scene. The movie is one of the better Stephen King adaptations, but this particular scene is by far the best part as Dennis Guilder tries to win back his old friend Arnie Cunningham from the influence of the malign car, Christine. The story is classic King and so plays on turning mundane items we experience every day into terrifying adversaries. In this scene though the scope of the film seems to broaden and you feel the story could go anywhere. Their conversation turns to the dark side of love and you feel Artie is about to reveal profound truths about a supernatural world he has caught a glimpse of. The tense exchanges of the terrified and loyal friend and the nerd pushed to madness is engrossing and the flashes of the green speedometer with the empty night road is reminiscent of every late night drive you’ve ever had to make to a bad place.

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