Most films contain scenes or moments of dramatic intensity, where it's near impossible to turn your attention to anywhere but the screen. But to create an entire film where every frame is inherently captivating... well, that's not so common.
Films are all about pacing, after all; give audiences too much action, or ask them to stay at full alert for an extended period of time, and you risk losing them entirely. It takes a lot of energy to stay focused, so it's important for a film to ebb and flow. We desire those quieter and more cerebral moments just as often as we crave the more intense ones, after all - a difficult balancing act for any filmmaker to achieve.
And yet occasionally a director will throw caution to the wind in order to produce a film that attempts to keep the tension in the air for the sum of its entire runtime. A film that sets out to keep the adrenaline pumping from start to finish.
Usually this winds up going badly, and fatigue sets in after about 30 minutes (think Hardcore Henry, which felt like it had run its course with about an hour to go). But sometimes it does work, and what you're left with is the cinematic equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. The content is so original, so intense, and so absorbing, you dare not avert your eyes, not even for a second...
10. The Raid: Redemption
"Balls to the wall." There's no other way to describe The Raid: Redemption, a claustrophobic martial arts extravaganza set within the confines of a crumbing apartment block. It's a movie that, once it gets going, refuses to let you breath, piling on enemies with the audacity of a retro beat 'em up video game.
The story is perfect in its simplicity: a group of wanted terrorists have holed up in a tower block in the Jakarta slums, and Rama - played by Iko Uwais - is sent on a dangerous mission to clear them out... at any cost.
It's a plot that opens up the floor (or is that "floors?") for a relentless, bone-crunching array of fist fights that outright rivet you to your seat. The action scenes are incredibly realistic and brutal, shot in a way that makes you feel like you're right there in the tower, alongside Rama, dodging fists, bullets, and machetes.
And yet because Rama never leaves the tower, the tension never dips. By the time The Raid reaches its bloody climax, you can only sit, bleary-eyed, completely in awe at what are some of the most impressive martial arts sequences ever filmed.