A Few Words About The Heart Attack-Inducing Six-Minute Tracking Shot From Last Night’s ‘True Detective’

10 Tracking Shots As Visually Impressive As The One On ‘True Detective’

I used to have this joke that wasn’t really a joke that I told during the final season of Breaking Bad. The gist of it was this: For as much as I loved the show (NOTE: very much), it was probably taking 2-3 months off the end of my life with each episode. Every moment was completely saturated with tension thanks to the four previous seasons of meticulous character development and foundation-laying by Vince Gilligan and company, and the stress of it all left me half a wreck as each installment rolled into the credits. It was a good stress, and the payoff at the end was worth it all for me, but those months are probably gone now. Adios. Write in “Murdered by that Nazi desert stand-off scene” as the cause of my death and prosecute Vince Gilligan if he outlives me.

I bring this all up because last night’s episode of True Detective — specifically the jaw-dropping, six-minute tracking shot of the stash house heist at the end — probably shaved off at least that much, and probably more. Cajun Boy posted this in his recap earlier, but if you missed the explanation of how director Cary Fukunaga pulled it off, read it now:

Reading Nic Pizzolatto’s script for “Who Goes There,” Fukunaga knew almost immediately that the heist was the scene to make his oner. All he had to do was convince the entire crew that it wasn’t impossible to pull off.

To cover as much ground as he wanted to in the sequence, Fukunaga needed to shoot in an actual housing project, and that was the first complication in planning the oner. It took weeks to even get permission to film on-location, but once he received it, Fukunaga went straight into mapping the shot and finding “the most interesting path, but also the most logical path” for Cohle to escape with Ginger. That interesting and logical path eventually takes Cohle and Ginger over a chain-link fence, a maneuver that proved to be the most complicated of the intricate sequence.

Watching just the fences portion of the oner back, the camera floats over the high barrier in a movement that almost looks effortless. Getting the shot, however, was anything but. Because the location was an actual housing project, the “True Detective” crew wasn’t allowed to take down any portion of the fence, so they had to improvise. “At one point, we were going to build a ramp, and the operator was going to walk up it,” Fukunaga said. “But that wasn’t very safe.” The solution ended up involving placing the Steadicam operator on an elevated jib, or a weighted crane, which carried him over the fence and back down to earth. [MTV]

You can watch the scene below, for now, until it gets pulled down. (Which, I mean, 3… 2… 1…) It’s really just about perfect. The show carefully placed the tracks down over the first three and a half episodes, and then, between a combination of technical film-making and acting prowess (just give McConaughey all the Emmys now, if you weren’t planning to do so already), it sent the freight train barreling down them. I’m still having palpitations. I might not make it to 40 if they figure out how to keep this up.

Screw it, I’m going to watch it again. Tell my family I loved them.