Do you know what the difference is between a good action scene and a bad one? When you boil it down to the fundamentals, it’s actually really simple: Action ought to reveal character. What puts this particular sequence in “The Adventures of Tintin” on another level isn’t necessarily what unfolds in the spectacle itself, but what comes after.
Surprisingly, the manic and seemingly undefeatable efforts of our heroes throughout the chaos leads to a stunning setback at the hands of Sakharine. Having come so close to retrieving all three scrolls but forced to choose between his prize or his captured friends, Tintin makes the selfless decision and allows the enemy to win. Following such glorious highs with their lowest of emotional lows is entirely the point here, as the deceptively sharp script uses this much-needed decompressing moment to walk both Haddock and Tintin through the concept of failure — and, more importantly, never letting it defeat you. Haddock, a lifelong cynic who drowns his self-loathing in alcohol, nevetheless aspires to the greatness of his forebear, Sir Francis Haddock. Tintin, an natural optimist buoyed by a career of successes, has never tasted defeat quite like this.
Put them together, and we get a sneaky origin story of a partnership that spans decades in the original comics and, in an ideal world, would’ve led to several successful sequels for this movie.
As /Film’s Chris Evangelista once accurately pointed out, “The Adventures of Tintin” is basically a series of action scenes strung together by the flimsiest excuse of a plot. And, no, that’s not a criticism when referring to a Steven Spielberg movie. But while any number of sequences could’ve easily become the focal point of this article — the car chase early on when Tintin is kidnapped by Sakharine’s men or the stunningly rendered ship-to-ship battle as a semi-sober Haddock remembers his grandfather’s war stories — this above all else perfectly represents the ethos of the entire story.
From the motion-capture animation to the wonderfully imaginative action choreography to the emotional beats that recontextualize everything we just saw, it’s clear that the intricate one-shot deserves to be ranked among the absolute best of Spielberg’s filmography … and among the best of all-time.