The great thing about action movies is that we get to witness people doing things that us normies, what with our overdrafts, jobs, bowel-voiding cowardice and such, would never, and could never, do.
The downside, because we have no actual frame of reference, is that action movies have, over time, distorted our perception of reality - in some cases, dangerously so. For instance, thanks to movies, people are led to believe a hero can fire a machine gun on full-automatic for around ten to fifteen years before even having to consider reloading. The reality? The clip of an AK-47 would be empty in four seconds. FOUR. Movies have LIED to you. God forbid you ever find yourself in an actual alien invasion scenario - it’s misinformation like that that’ll get you killed, or worse, rectally probed until you’re lucky enough for old age or a massive brain aneurism to come and release you from your miserable, bum-in-the-air existence.
Action movies propagate similar lies all the time, so we thought it was high time someone called them on their bullshit. Or, at least, tested a few of their bold claims to find out where reality ends and Hollywood bollocks begins. Consider it a public service.So, let’s get out our clipboards and hi-viz jackets and get sensible for a while, shall we?
Scenario: John McClane leaps from the top of Nakatomi Plaza with a fire hose tied around his waist. He then fires a gun through a window so he can tumble through it to safety while looking cool and saying something sarcastic.
In Reality: Dr Jonathan Hare of the University of Sussex tested this using ‘Energy = Force x Distance’, to work out whether it would indeed be possible to survive. He calculated that the forces acting on Bruce’s midriff at the point of the hose becoming taut would be equal to over 100 Bruces, all centred right at the navel. In short, he would have been carved in two like a chunk of balding firewood in a mucky vest.
Safety Tip: If German terrorists take over a building you’re in, hide.
Scenario: Murtaugh goes for a dump under the impression, quite understandably, that the worst case scenario is being caught sans bog roll and having to sheepishly shout a family member to fetch immediate aid. Imagine his chagrin, then, when informed that there’s a bomb wedged under the bog, primed to give him the worst case of ring sting experienced by a single person since the end of The Spanish Inquisition. To escape, he and Riggs dive into the bath and pull a bomb proof sheet over themselves to protect them form the blast. They survive, and celebrate by bickering.
In Reality: The TV show Mythbusters recreated the situation under laboratory conditions and measured the air pressures inside and outside the bath at the point of detonation. Outside, air pressure reached 180 psi (known scientifically as ‘death squidge o’clock’), while inside it was only 8 psi, which, besides ruptured eardrums, is only dangerous to those with dodgy tickers. Survival!
Safety Tip: Either invest in a reinforced bath or give up shitting. Your call.
Scenario: Pop quiz, hotshot: The bus cannot dip below 50 mph, or it will explode. If anyone tries to get off the bus, it will explode. If Keanu Reeves attempts to convey emotion dramatically, the universe will explode. But! There is a gap in the freeway, because the people in charge of planning the bus’s route are just terrible at their jobs, so there’s no choice but to make the leap. Can the peasant wagon float gracefully to the other side, an unlikely 50 feet away?
The Reality: Buses are heavy, about as aerodynamic as Ayers Rock and not particularly fast to boot, so it seems unlikely this could ever happen without voodoo, juju, or a potent combination therein. But, if you watch the film, the bus hits an incline the second before launch. In reality, of course, this bit of Hollywood trickery wouldn’t be there, and the bus would hit the ground face first like a tin accordion full of idiots. With an incline of even 5 degrees however, at a speed of 68mph and not taking wind resistance, the bus rolling mid-air or the damage sustained on impact into account, it’s just about possible. Just about.
Safety Tip: Don’t risk it. Buy a car.
Scenario: Luke has battled Vader in Cloud City and, this being Star Wars, the scrap ends up taking place above a bottomless pit. Vader lops off Luke’s wanking hand and then tells him he is, quite literally, The Daddy. Luke sees no alternative but to leap from the platform, plummeting hundreds of feet before aiming his descent into a ventilation tube, down which he skitters quite painlessly.
In Reality: The loss of a limb will normally cause death within 4 minutes or so – around 4 pints of lost claret and you’re haunting your enemies – but if lightsabers cauterise wounds this may help extend life for a little while longer. In reality, cauterisation is explosively painful (causing the body to go into serious shock) and causes secondary infections often as fatal as the blood loss itself. This wouldn’t affect Luke’s too much, though: assuming Bespin’s gravity is 1G, Luke would reach 95% of terminal velocity in around seven seconds, so even after being sucked into the vent and taking his Jedi hardman creds into account, the chances are his coccyx would have been catapulted up through his brain like a champagne cork. The last, best hope: arse + head = dead.
Safety Tip: You know all those things Luke did to get to this situation? Yeah, just don’t do any of those.
Scenario: This is one of the most common events in action cinema: a huge explosion occurs near our protagonist which either causes them to run and dive onto the ground at the last second, walk cooly away from it without even looking back, or to be flung from it in extravagant and acrobatic fashion. In MI:III, diminutive despot Tom Cruise is hurled into the side of a car by a missile strike just behind him. Sure, it looks like it hurts a bit, but otherwise, he’s fine.
The Reality: The phenomenon responsible for tossing Tom, the explosion’s blast wave, is the same thing that would almost certainly be the end of his reign of terror. Ear damage aside, any moderate explosion (above 25 psi), even at range, would cause fatal haemorrhage of the lungs and/or intestines, while the combined effects of the initial blast wave impact on Tom’s frail frame, together with that of the collision with the car, would mush his insides, leaving him resembling a fun-sized tub of mental pâté.
Safety Tip: If there’s the slightest chance of an explosion occurring, leave friends and loved ones behind and run away.