The top 10 shots of 2012: part one

I decided to do something a little different with the shots column for this, its sixth year (and finally imitated — we're flattered). I thought I'd go with a metric of instinct rather than analysis.

First let me introduce the overall concept for those perhaps unfamiliar. Every year I recap the year in my own unique way. Film is, after all, about the image first, and so what better way to put 12 cinematic months in a time capsule than to feature the most striking single images of the year? But what is striking to one is always not so much to the next. Like all of this, it's in the eye of the beholder.

For my part I would always try to give my perspective on shots that might seem, well, unexpected to others. I would posit that an Eric Gautier shot of an eagle picking away at a carcass in “Into the Wild” says something about a country weighing on the soul; or that an unassuming Anthony Dod Mantle shot crammed into a frenetic “Slumdog Millionaire” montage better sums up character motivations than any other frame; or that the simplicity of Anna Kendrick riding slowly away on an airport people-mover as seen through Eric Steelberg's lens in “Up in the Air” speaks elegant volumes.

Of course, room for sheer aesthetic beauty has often been made. A devastatingly gorgeous Luc Montpellier capture of Patricia Clarkson in “Cairo Time,” for instance, or an iconic Wally Pfister distillation of The Dark Knight in, well, “The Dark Knight.” I've even argued for a Ben Seresin angle on Megan Fox against a glass bottle wall in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

Then there are the stunts that dazzle. Jason Bourne leaping from window to shattering window in “The Bourne Ultimatum” had a hand in inspiring this annual column, while complex takes from “Let the Right One In,” “The Secret in Their Eyes” and “The Adventures of Tintin” have stood out in respective years.

And now, our sixth year. As I said, I decided to try something a little different this year. Typically I would set aside a frame of time to specifically look back at many films and note the imagery. A revisit purely for this column's purposes. This year, both so I could get the piece out sooner than usual (oh how hungry you can be — though that didn't end up happening, anyway) and so I could simply shake up the way I build it, I shot from the hip and went with the gut.

I always keep a bit of an eye out on first viewings, almost subconsciously, for potential contenders for this piece. But this time I let those stick sooner than usual. I let whatever struck me first survive, and when I had 10, that was it. Along the way this included inevitable revisits, which mostly just strengthened the original take anyway, but the point was I wondered what a first blush would look like rather than a (perhaps over-)analyzed take.

This is what I came up with…


Director of Photography: Masanobu Takayanagi

“I remember it was a very tiny space to shoot. We shot on the section of the plane that the art department had cut and placed. We didn't really fake the spacing of the seating or anything. It's the real aisle space. And Joe had this idea of going through the fuselage and we start seeing the breath of the people. Not to make a big statement but just we'd see the breath and then land on Liam [Neeson]. The crew came up with a great little dolly that I was sitting on, much skinnier than a normal dolly. It was really done in a quick, elementary way. We had the plane beforehand in the prep stage and we went up there with my crew and decided to do that shot.”

– Masanobu Takayanagi