“Ambulance” is perhaps the first big cinematic giveaway resulting from the COVID pandemic. Director Michael Bay, best known for the Benghazi movie ‘1 Pm’ and the ‘Transformers’ series, was set to embark on ‘Black Five’, his latest big-budget sci-fi extravaganza when the world collapsed and the film was cancelled.
After almost a year of sitting at home, Bay was eager to get back into acting, and Universal Pictures’ costumers informed him that they had the rights to a 2005 Danish thriller called “Ambulance.” After hearing the outline of the plot, Bay agreed to take on the film if he could do it quickly. “Chuck” creator Chris Fedak came in to write a script for Bay, and the two crafted their movie without watching the 2005 original or reading its script.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Watchmen”, “The Matrix Resurrections”) plays Will Sharp, a Marine veteran whose wife needs a $210,000 operation that his insurance won’t cover. He’s forced to turn to his evil brother Danny, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, star of “Jarhead” and the evil boyfriend who inspired Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well.”
The men were raised by a notorious bank robber. Will joined the Marine Corps to change his path in life, but Danny followed in his father’s footsteps and insisted that Will take part in a $32 million heist at a downtown Los Angeles bank. Will can walk away with $4 million, have his wife operated on, and never worry about money again. Easy in, easy out.
Things, of course, go terribly wrong, and the brothers end up trying to escape in an ambulance with a cop shot during the heist and an EMT, Cam Thompson, played by Eiza González (“Baby Driver”, “Bloodshot” ). What follows is a closed room drama (inside the ambulance) that takes place in a moving vehicle dodging law enforcement vehicles and helicopters on the streets of Los Angeles.
Nominally, we’re supposed to care about whether Will will ever see his family again and whether his wife will get the money for his surgery, but Bay is much more interested in pursuing any tech he can use on set to record this pursuit. and how amazing his three leads are on camera.
Filming began in January 2021 and was completed in 38 days on what, for Bay, was a tiny $40 million budget. This fast and dirty shoot led the director to rely heavily on old-school practical effects with real car crashes and on-set explosions. There’s a minimal amount of CGI in the film, and the legendaryly meticulous Bay wasn’t happy with how budget limitations prevented computer makeovers on a few shots from going exactly as he would have liked.
Bay told the French outlet Pathé Gaumont Cinemas: “All those explosions and cars overturning, it’s all real. It’s all real, real, ratchet. It looks very dangerous. It could be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Most of it is real It There are very few blue screen shots in the movie. There isn’t a lot of CGI. Some of the CGI is crap in this movie. There are a few shots I wasn’t happy with, okay ? OK.
Truth be told, all the action in the film is so spectacular that it was impossible to determine which scenes he was complaining about, okay? Good. These might be the best LA car chase scenes since the 1974 original.”I’m going in 60 seconds.” You might think you like the crunch of meta on metal, but it’s unlikely anyone likes that sound as much as Michael Bay.
Part of the amazing look comes from Bay’s use of FPV drones to film the action. These first-person vision machines are controlled by a pilot wearing a virtual reality headset and allow the filmmaker to get real shots that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
If you’re looking for a drama that sensitively exposes the medical crises facing veterans and their families, “Ambulance” isn’t the movie for you. If you don’t mind a character’s background as a Marine being used to prop up a few plot points in the roller coaster ride of a movie that’s more about how things go but doesn’t not particularly care why, Bay has delivered something of a masterpiece.
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