Cinematic visionary Michael Bay is back with one of the most Bayhem films to date, Ambulance.
Based on the 2005 Danish film of the same name, Ambulance follows Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) – a down on his luck Marine desperately in need of money for his wife’s surgery. When Will reaches out to his brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) for help, he’s reluctantly brought into a $32 million bank heist.
The heist doesn’t go as planned and all hell breaks loose. When the LAPD’s Special Investigation Section arrives, the brothers find themselves trapped. Their only means of escape is hijacking an ambulance and its two passengers – an EMT named Cam (Eiza Gonzalez) and wounded LAPD officer Zach (Jackson White).
With two unwilling passengers onboard, Will and Danny go on a high speed chase through the streets of LA.
Ambulance may be Michael Bay’s crowning achievement. He made a feature length car chase film entertaining. The foundation of the film is the relationship between two brothers – it has a very Cain and Abel feel to it. Bay surrounds that nucleus with insane action sequences and comedy, some of it unintentional, but all of it is wildly entertaining. There isn’t a moment of this film that doesn’t grab your attention. The movie literally never stops moving.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a star on the rise and this performance is proof. He’s got whatever ‘it’ is that makes a good leading man. Abdul-Mateen II is the sympathetic character in the film that’s used to keep the story grounded in some sense of reality. When he’s paired with Eiza Gonzalez, they are the heart and soul of the film and both performances are not only good, but necessary to keep the story from going off the rails.
The true stars of the film are Jake Gyllenhaal and those insane drone shots.
Who knew Gyllenhaal could play the perfect unhinged brother? Those roles are usually saved for Ben Foster. Gyllenhaal continues to prove why he’s one of the best working actors in Hollywood. Nothing in his portrayal of Danny seems forced or unrealistic. There are a few Danny outbursts, but most of who Danny truly is we only see bubbling underneath – that’s the genius in Gyllenhaal’s performance. If Ambulance was a serious drama, people would be talking about giving Jake an awards season push.
There are very few directors with enough guts and vision to try some of these crazy drone shots. What makes these beautiful shots work so well is them being coupled with what’s happening inside the ambulance. One moment, the camera is inside an ambulance that’s feels claustrophobic with four people yelling as they speed through LA. The next moment, there’s a wide shot of Downtown LA and the camera quickly drops and sweeps through traffic as it follows the speeding ambulance. The drone shots add an adrenaline rush to the action sequences. It feels like you’re on a rollercoaster following an LAPD car chase. It’s really incredible. On paper, none of this should work, yet somehow it blends beautifully and works to perfection.
Ambulance is a thrill ride from start to finish. Michael Bay makes you feel like you’re a passenger on the most insane joyride ever filmed…with an emphasis on joy. Cinema is supposed to be a fun two-hour escape into a fantasy world where anything can happen – that’s Ambulance. In one scene, surgery is performed in the back of an ambulance going 60 MPH through the LA streets. There’s also a scene where Will and Danny share AirPods and sing Sailing by Christopher Cross like they’re at a karaoke bar. Those two scenes are interesting, hilarious, and big WTF moments. That’s the full Michael Bay experience. Can’t wait to see what insane idea he comes up with next.