I recently rewatched Kingsman: The Secret Service in theatres and the element that stood out to me once again was the action. I feel as though many modern movies are overly reliant on shaky-cam when it comes to actions scenes. The Bourne films are heavily dependent on this technique. While this disorienting camera movement lends a sense of authenticity to the intense, frantic nature of hand-to-hand combat, it does no justice to the audience’s perception of the events transpiring.
There is a video game series –one which I’ve never played and plan to stay as far away from as possible‑ Kane and Lynch that attempts to use the camcorder, shaky-cam + found footage effect in gameplay. Luckily, this game is a minority, and a large population of games emphasize smooth, 60FPS action. This makes even the most hectic scenes digestible, allowing the audience and the players to truly appreciate it.
Kingsman takes cues from this style of actions, with flawless uses of slow-motion that would make The Matrix weep. The camera smoothly follows the action, whether it’s the arc of a bullet, the trajectory of a flying body, or the swing of a descending fist. It is an impressive feat that in all this camera movement, the action still reads as smooth and gamic. The camera is constantly moving, but it never becomes disorientating or pleasant in the way that shaky-cam tends to.
I believe shaky cam to be an interesting experimental technique which The Blair Witch Project rightfully owns, but it has become overused, and is especially questionable in big budget films, e.g. The Hunger Games. I sincerely hope the future of action and cinematography lies in smooth, dynamic camera work, a perfect experimental example of which would be the award winning Birdman