In the technical side of filmmaking, editing is arguably the most crucial part of the process. The purpose of editing is to blend images and sound to make the audience feel emotionally connected to what they are watching. The most interesting part of this filmmaking process is that it doesn’t stand out. Editing, is delicate because it’s usually unobtrusive to the untrained eye. In other words, it’s an invisible art, and takes an incredible amount of skill to do it properly. If noticed, it can quickly ruin the audiences viewing experience.
Ultimately, editing can make or break a film. Even though it is recognized within the industry, the job of the editor is definitely overlooked elsewhere. In order to shine a brighter light on this meticulous process and people behind it, here are several films where editing stole the show.
Although there’s no formulaic way of editing, they are certain rules in which editors abide by. Whiplash is a prime example how editing can elevate the storytelling aspect of a movie. Whiplash deals with the battle between two obsessive characters committed to their craft of jazz music, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and Terrence Fletcher (J.K Simons).
Recognized as one of the most exceptional films of 2014, this film made a splash at the 87th Academy Awards with a total of 5 nominations and 3 wins. One of those wins went to the editor, Tom Cross and the editing consequently became a topic of discussion among cinephiles and critics around the globe. Editing techniques such as cutting to tempo, cutting to chaos etc. are used to deliberately suffocate the audience and create tension and are masterfully executed. Tom Cross was also able to control this tension throughout, decreasing and increasing it at the right moment.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Shot in India with Indian actors, Slumdog Millionaire made Hollywood open its doors to thousands of Bollywood co-productions. Based on an Indian novel, this movie tells the story of Jamal (Dev Patel), a teenager who reflects on his life after being accused of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
This movie had an enormous impact in the United States and went on to win 8 Oscars (yes, you read that right). Including an award for best editing. This film employs standard editing techniques, but it’s the TV style editing, and overlapping editing (extending the action of the scene) that makes the film truly shine. If Slumdog Millionaire had not been edited the way it was, the story would have unfolded differently. The editing also revealed to the audience a limited amount of information at a time, making them emotionally invested in the story.
Baby Driver (2017)
With an A-list cast Baby Driver went on to be praised by critics and movie goers. At one point it even scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Baby Driver is a high-concept film about a young getaway driver who finds himself taking part in a heist that’s predestined to fail.
Directed and edited by Edgar Wright, this movie made a statement for its unique editing. His choice of cutting from one sequence to the next while matching with the soundtrack, makes it resemble a music video. While watching, it seems like every piece of the action is built around the chosen song. The editing in this case adds excitement to the story causing the audience to live that experience as if they part of it.
Don’t Look Up (2021)
Released on Netflix at the end of 2021, Don’t Look Up, quickly rose up on the top ten chart and became the number one choice for streamer’s to watch. In spite of the mixed reviews, the movie had great feedback from an audiences’ standpoint. This controversial film is about two low-level astronomers that try with all their efforts to warn mankind of a fast approaching comet that will annihilate planet Earth.
From a critics’ perspective, the film aimed too high and never managed to deliver. But the jurors at the Academy Awards ignored that and went on to choose Don’t Look Up as a nominee for best editing. Hank Corwin‘s editing techniques were extremely unusual. Techniques like cross-cutting between stock footage from animals to real time scenes might have had many people puzzled, but he stuck to his choices and was promptly recognized for it. Similar to Baby Driver, this film did not go on to win the Oscars, but it surely achieved an innovative form of telling a story.
Black Hawk Down (2002)
Perhaps the oldest of the films previously mentioned, Black Hawk Down is different from any other war film. It doesn’t idolize the soldiers or have any heroic foreground figures like most films of this genre. Black Hawk Down tells the story of a U.S. military raid that went disastrously wrong during the war of Mogadishu. The movie serves its purpose tremendously well, and it couldn’t be done any other way.
The combination between editing and cinematography made this movie shine. The scenes and images are powerful. Specially the visuals of dead bodies been dragged through the frame of the shot in a very casual manner. But this film’s biggest accomplishment is that it records as accurately as possible what it was like to be one of the soldiers in that mission. The poetic rhythm of the editing sets the pace of the story and helps transport the audience to that brutal war zone. The slow-motion shots accentuate the dramatization of the scene.
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