With 21 Bridges starring Chadwick Boseman out on Home Entertainment Release today, its cinematic roots are grounded in the Manhunt movie. As old as cinema itself, the genre is inherently cinematic; suspenseful, thrilling and always with a gripping ending.
The manhunt film is too a dexterous genre for directors. Whether you are a first-time auteur, such as Coralie Fargeat or a defined master of the craft, like David Fincher, the genre always offers all types of directors a form to express their style and further the genre. Here are some of the best.
21 Bridges is available to download and keep now, and out on Blu-ray and DVD 30th March.
M (Fritz Lang, 1931):
A pivotal work to German Expressionism, Fritz Lang’s M is one of the first manhunter films to blend a thriller narrative with an idiosyncratic style, specifically unique to the director. From its pioneering sound design through to Peter Lorre’s riveting central performance, this is a classical film that still stands the test of time.
The manhunt within the film carries a great deal of pathos, given a serial killer is targeting young children. With this, a whole city turns against one man and the seedy underworld of Berlin arises to find this man too. A timeless tale of how communities bind together in the search for truth and justice, M is a formative work that still influences films to this very day. Alongside all this, it is also a defining look into a compelling era of European history in the Weimar Era.
Se7en (David Fincher, 1995):
Evoking a medieval morality play mixed with a dark film noir, Se7en is not any generic manhunter film. Primarily in Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay, it is a hyper-aware work conscious of the narrative tropes of the hunter vs the hunted balance. Earning him an Oscar Nomination for Best Original Screenplay, it’s a work that brought the best out of the whole cast and used the genre to the best of its abilities.
Still, the final scene in David Fincher’s masterful thriller toys with the audience like a puppet. Building up suspense for the whole film previously, Kevin Spacey’s serial killer lures his two cop hunters into a situation they or the audience will never forget. The box that is given to Brad Pitt’s detective by the killer becomes an ode to Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly. Never showing what is in the actual box, only Pitt’s reaction, it still remains one of Fincher’s finest cinematic moments. Tension and atmosphere are key to this slow build in the final scene, with it characterizing this timeless genre.
Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017):
Taking the female rape revenge narrative and transforming it into a self-reflective tool to show masculinities’ vulgarity, Fargeat’s film – for most of its runtime – is consumed with hunting down a grotesque man who deserves justice. Unlike other female revenge tales, such as Kill Bill, the violence in the film is all from a female gaze, linking its themes to the TimesUp and MeToo movements. This specific gaze means that the director casts a Barbie-esque protagonist, Jennifer (Matilda Lutz), knowing only her beauty is idealised and no other characteristics. Such an act means that when she violently starts to track down her target, it becomes a truly violent act of revenge.
Cinematically, the gory practical effects hark back to a Cronenbergian sensibility and the lavish free flowing cinematography from Robrecht Heyvaert captures Jennifer’s inherent rage. All round, it is a unique feature in blending so many styles and subverting them against the audience’s expectation. Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold.
Heat (Michael Mann, 1995):
Including one of cinema’s defining scenes between two method acting greats of the medium, Michael Mann’s Heat is a quintessential manhunt film. The tale of cat vs mouse, Al Pacino searches down Robert De Niro’s crook who simply just loves the thrill of heists and bank robbing.
What truly makes Mann’s film so special is the innate tension created in the two central leads. These are two men in their respective lines of criminal or lawful work that are dedicated to their jobs, even over genuine human relationships. Pacino is simply magnetic in his charisma and undeniable energy to track down De Niro’s Neil McCauley. Throughout his career, Mann has created a cinematic language that is heavy on style but beneath the surfaces conveys character through action. What is at stake in the film is not just money but two people’s emotional connection to something they truly adore. For De Niro that is escaping the cops and with Val Kilmer’s Chris Shiherlis they lead a rampant escape through downtown LA in a shootout sequence that one will never forget.
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979):
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Ridley Scott’s Alien has one small problem in hunting down an ultimate killing machine that seems to have no weakness. From a rather quiet beginning, Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece then proceeds into the depth of fear of the unknown and confronting them. To most of Nostrand’s crew, they lose their manhunt of the titular creature. However, the constant narrative switch of Ripley as the hunted to the hunter and vice versa with the Alien is a trope that features heavily in the genre. Nevertheless, H.R. Giger’s iconic character design subverts the image of the hunted as destructible or attainable. The overwhelming sense of dread that is omnipresent is a direct result of the creature, as well as the claustrophobic setting of a dark and damp spaceship.
In the final confrontation, this specific feeling of dread reaches a near breaking point when the creatures crawl out of the dark and pounce on Ripley. Even in the last scene, Ripley is still the hunted and the hunter. Chiefly in this merging of tropes of the manhunt genre, Alien excels as a sci-fi and thriller all rolled into one. Only through the eternal void that is space is the Alien defeated.