As Non-Stop demonstrates, director Jaume Collet-Serra has a knack for tense thrillers in extreme locations. His latest, The Shallows, stars Blake Lively as a woman seeking refuge from a shark by clinging to a buoy. Here, he shares his Five Favorite Films, placing particular emphasis on the importance of a John Wayne classic and a Bruce Willis action-fest in the development of his career.
This might be the first movie that I saw. I remember watching it when I was five or six — I shouldn’t even have been watching it — and I saw it in a theater. I grew up in a small town and they had one of those small town theaters, and they put Westerns and whatnot onscreen. It’s one of those movies that made me think it would be very cool to work in movies. I don’t know if I understood the concept of being a director, but I understood the concept of someone making movies, and this movie did it for me. Other people say Star Wars or Indiana Jones. For me it was this one. That’s why I have an emotional reaction to it.
It’s the perfect genre movie. It’s brilliant I every aspect. It deals with some very complex subjects and is done masterfully. Even the dream sequences were so advanced at the time, the way [director Roman Polanski] made it surreal like a dream has to be, but very economic. I love every aspect and I watch it over and over again.
I have to mention this as one of my favorites. I’ve been lucky enough to work with [producer] Joel Silver. It rewrote the rules on the modern thriller. It set the stage for the expectation that every question needs to be answered, and it has to be big, fun, and emotional, and a movie that can do everything. I try to do Die Hard in every movie that I do, by fulfilling that promise of delivering from the first frame. Obviously many more movies have done that — like Hitchcock — but as a movie that potentially could have gone many ways, it became a masterpiece. Before this movie, you could potentially believe that the bad guys are just bad guys; they don’t have motivation or are dumb. This guy had smart plans and dialogue, and set the bar high. Other movies have met it, but this was one of the first ones and I was blown away when I saw it. As much as I’ve liked other movies, at that time, Die Hard has had more of an influence on my work than the other ones of the time.
This is such a complete technical movie about such a simple idea done so beautifully. It’s a thriller with very few elements and it’s a deconstruction and pure poetry. The sum of the parts is more than each of the parts individually and it’s so simple, yet the pieces together blows your mind. It also places a big emphasis on shooting because every shot means something, not one shot is wasted. I strive to do that. I think it’s very important that every shot has to have a meaning.
This is what film is about. It’s pure art. It’s the movie that expresses why movies are important. We can have fun, we can have movies that touch us, movies that are an experience, and then we have 400 Blows. And then you understand why film will transcend every other art. I could never make a movie like that. It’s the ultimate expression of artistry.