The best action scene in Ryan Coogler’s record-breaking Marvel movie “Black Panther” occurs fairly early on in the movie’s runtime. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) infiltrate an underground casino game in Busan, South Korea on a mission to apprehend the black-market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). A shootout erupts when Okoye’s cover is blown, but all the chaos taking place becomes thrillingly clear as the camera glides through the casino to the many different action beats all taking place at once. It’s a moment so pure in its delivery you might not even notice the camera never cuts.
Coogler has been rightfully hailed as one of the most humanist storytellers working today, but he’s also become a technical wizard as displayed by his love for one-take action scenes. Coogler is not a showboat; his “Black Panther” one-take allows the viewer to understand the spacial distance between each character, and it creates an intensity that cutting simply would undo. When the camera moves from T’Challa fighting to Okoye, to Nakia, and back to T’Challa, their individual fights take on a continuous intensity. Even when the camera is no longer on T’Challa, for instance, his fighting and the intensity created by that fighting persists because the camera hasn’t cut and you’re still aware in real-time that it’s going on at a different part of the casino.
In a video interview for Vanity Fair, Coogler broke down the entirety of the casino action sequence, including his decision to make a one-take the centerpiece of the set piece. The director was adamant the crew not rely on VFX work for the moment, so they rigged the camera to a cable so it could properly glide throughout the space. Coogler even created a model of the casino and used action figures prior to filming so he could map out the choreography of the camera.
“It took several takes,” Coogler said of the shot. “What we had to do is we had to float a camera up with a cable rig. There’s no green screen here, it’s all happening live and direct.”
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