Within the first five minutes of this film I was hooked. Sitting at a diner, a woman awaits someone but the audience knows right away that the person who shows up is not the one she wants. She fights him with a precision and a violence that can only be described as awesome. She then takes a hostage and the camera follows them into his car with as much out of breath shakiness as the hostage has. However she is not mean to this hostage. Instead she tells him her story and how she got to be in that diner and in that fight. The rest of the story is just as “awesome” as the first five minutes. By the time I was done with the film, I felt I watched one of the most effective action films I have seen in a while.
The fight scenes are my obvious favorite scenes. In particular the scene that is highlighted in the trailer between Carano and Fassbender is the best fight scene in the film. Although you don’t know why Fassbender is contracted to kill her, you notice the impending doom expressed in Carano’s actions and face. They enter the hotel room and almost immediately the shit goes down. The sense of space, the progression in the fight, the various movements in the characters and the haunting soundtrack all contribute to this fight scene. You know almost nothing about Fassbender’s character except he is the same type of operative as Carano and that he is somehow tangled up in something, but you don’t need to know. All you need to know is the threat that he represents for her. She takes him down in an unemotional progression of choking with her legs (one of my favorite moves of hers in the film, do they do that a lot in MMA fights? It is so bad ass!), fists and finally a gun to his head. The care that Soderbergh takes with her fight scenes is masterful. You can tell that they spent ages perfecting every move of the actors and the camera. I know this is cheesy to say, but a good fight scene can evoke the same thrill out of me as a great conversation or a dance sequence in a ballet.
Soderbergh has always been an interesting director to me. Although I don’t like every film he has made, when he decides to tackle a genre like a heist film or a revenge film, he does it in a fresh way that makes me want to give everything he tries a chance. He doesn’t always succeed and I will never watch Solaris, but he is one of those filmmakers that critics will be talking about for ages to come for many reasons. He improves genres and that is what a great director needs to do in order to make his mark.