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Why we love Tony Scott

The Last Boy Scout (Tony Scott, 1991)


There’s the “Oh Captain, my captain” scene in Dead Poets Society, there’s Willem Dafoe dying in slow motion in Platoon and there’s E.T. going home, yet the scene that remains on top of my list of 80’s movie moments that’ll make a grown man cry is the one where Goose buys it in Top Gun.

So let’s drop the high-octane adjectives that are usually applied to Mr. Scott’s works for a moment and look back at what we really remember from most of his films. This should be easy because we’ve seen his films again and again. We’ve all been watching Top Gun at least once a year for the last fifteen years, we’ve all seen The Last Boy Scout five or six times and we’ve seen most of the rest of  ‘em (Spy Game,Enemy of the StateCrimson Tide) a couple of times as well. And let’s not forget Scott’s True Romance even though it’s invariably to be found in Tarantino box sets.

Have we been watching and re-watching these films because of the MiG 28’s 4g negative dives, the Chevrolet Lumina stock cars and the baddies falling into the blades of circling helicopters? Well, yes. Who doesn’t enjoy cars crash-landing in pools and derailing trains? Still, what we enjoy most in Tony Scott’s films are his everyday heroes and the scenes we remember best are the small-scale, well-dialogued exchanges in which Scott’s fondness for his characters is so effortlessly imparted on the viewer. It’s not only Maverick holding his dead navigator and friend, it’s also the next scene in which he has to tell Goose’s wife what happened. It’s Denzel Washington as veteran conductor Frank telling the new guy about his wife and children and it’s Gene Hackman’s Captain Frank Ramsey going on about the Lipizzaner horses in Crimson Tide.

We could get into the style-over-content debate surrounding Tony Scott’s work, or we could admit to seeing the flaws in his film and argue that they’re so much fun that people should just get over it and enjoy themselves, but the real reason we love Tony Scott is that he knows that Bruce Willis waking up next to a dead squirrel thrown into his car by the neighborhood kids is all the character introduction you need, in any film.