Better than the Real Thing: Training Montages

The Best Part of the Rocky Movies. Or any movie, for that matter.

There’s something to be said about the training montage. It’s more entertaining than the actual event being trained for. Think about Rocky. The best (and most memorable) sequences are the training montages. Rocky working out in the Russian wilderness struggling to run in the waist-high snow, his triumphant jog up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the unforgettable scene in a meat packing plant where his punches break the ribs of hanging carcasses. And then the actual title events that he’s training for – his fights against Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago – are nowhere near as riveting as the scenes that led up to it. I prefer the preparations rather than the real thing.

Part of the reason I’m writing this blog is because I just saw the 1973 political thriller The Day of the Jackal starring Edward Fox as a mysterious and meticulous British assassin planning to kill French Prime Minister Charles de Gaulle. Almost the entire film is spent following the Jackal as he gathers the proper materials for his mission: foreign (forged) passports, hair dye concealed in cologne bottles, and a custom made four-piece rifle with hollow point bullets. It’s incredible stuff, and what I really enjoyed was the pacing. It’s slow and deliberate – just like how the Jackal works. Watch this clip below as the Jackal buys watermelons from a fruit stand to do a little target practice and gun calibration.

There’s hardly any noise except for the calm tweets of birds in the background. The Jackal doesn’t speak, he just loads the bullets and fires, making adjustments as needed. But the scene communicates so much: the assassin’s coldly efficient demeanour, his meticulous preparations, and the real threat on de Gaulle’s life, symbolized by burst watermelon.

Unfortunately, the actual assassination attempt is nowhere near as interesting as this sequence (and The Jackal makes a miscalculation, which feels false based on his meticulous preparations). The training is where it’s at.

The penultimate training movie is The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Half the film is different training sequences in a Shaolin Temple. But like all training films, it doesn’t just stop there. I think it’s about time that a film did.

Like training sequences? Here’s six minutes from The 36th Chamber.

Any other good training sequences you can think of?

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