What: Superspy James Bond chases the bomb-maker Mollaka through Madagascar in this nine-minute chase scene from the 2006 remake of Casino Royale:
Why: After decades of too-cool-to-sweat Bondage, Daniel Craig proclaimed his version would be frequently shaken and easily stirred. Craig's Bond is a superball of fury, ready to explode with energy at a moment's notice. This Bond would do two things previous Bonds rarely did: he would bleed, and he would run. In this early scene from his first mission as a "double-0," Bond finds Mollaka (played by Sébastien Foucan) at a pit fight, where a mongoose and a viper foreshadow Bond and Mollaka's showdown. Tipped off by a clumsy agent, Mollaka bolts. Bond bolts after him, and we are treated to a parkour chase through the city. The two racers could not be more dissimilar: Mollaka is graceful, bouncing off objects as if they are placed to enhance his flight. Bond is a bruiser, smashing through things as if they weren't there. He knows he's outmatched in these environs, but makes up for it with pure ingenuity. The centerpiece is a rumble through a construction site, starting with a bulldozer attack and ending with wild leaps between cranes. The struggle ends with Bond trapped in the Nambutu Embassy… but this is James Bond we're talking about, and in a flash of fire, he is gone.
Impact: The chase announced the revival of the series with authority. Director Martin Campbell, who previously helmed GoldenEye, embraced the rule of the reboot: keep what's cool, jettison everything else. He made Bond something he had never been, an action hero. Audiences loved a Bond who ran and bled, and came in droves. The series switched directors to the less skilled Marc Forster for Quantum of Solace, and there's nothing as stunning as this chase in the new film. (There is the worst travel destination of all time, though. Don't let Expedia book you into the Hotel del Explodo.)
Personal Connection: For three decades, I inhabited an alternate universe in which, after Sean Connery retires his license to kill, On Her Majesty's Secret Service star George Lazenby fires the idiot agent trying to persuade him that the franchise would fade. Instead, he makes the seven more Bond movies the producers offered him, and Roger Moore never ruins the character. Since I lived in that universe, I never saw a Bond film after the unwatchable A View To A Kill. So when Casino Royale came out, I had to be dragged to see it. Not the second and third time, though.
Other Contenders: Jason Bourne chases Desh through the second stories of Tangiers buildings in The Bourne Ultimatum (abbreviated here); Morpheus, Trinity, and the Keymaker flee badguys on a specially constructed freeway in The Matrix Reloaded; Luke and Leia get some Ewokian assistance during the speederbike chase in Return of the Jedi; Kitty Pryde learns exactly who the Juggernaut is in X-Men 3: The Last Stand; The Pie wins The Grand National in National Velvet; Kurt Russell chases a car with Zoe Bell strapped to the hood in the Death Proof half of Grindhouse.