We need to stay on point. Now that Whistler has routine traffic jams every Friday and Sunday, it's probably only a matter of time until someone snaps and goes berserk like Michael Douglas did in the often overlooked 1993 Joel Schumacher flick Falling Down.
Remember that one? Douglas is just a regular guy trying to get to his kid's birthday party when a traffic jam sends him violently over the edge. What makes the movie work is Douglas is a pretty normal guy — the everyman — and even when he snaps, he's not always wrong.
But if a simple afternoon birthday party can turn a guy with a good job and a kid into a domestic terrorist, imagine what could happen on a big pow morning with northbound gridlock from Creekside to Powerline Hill? All those turns going to everyone else... the danger is real.
In any case, I've spent enough time stuck in Whistler traffic lately that I've compiled a list of the best traffic jams in movies to help get you through that stop-go gridlock hell.
A meandering, almost plotless examination of life's horrors in the expanding class divide of Western capitalist society, Weekend is about two nasty people en route to collect an inheritance from a relative who has taken his time dying. Progress is hindered by a massive traffic jam, which director Jean-Luc Godard captured via a single seven-minute dolly shot as the couple weasels their way to the front of the line. Soundtracked almost exclusively with car horns and pissed off shouting, this jam also features zoo animals, sailboats, a chess game, black humour and a great payoff ending.
Office Space (1999)
Much like Falling Down, this is another flick about reaching one's breaking point. The opening traffic scene pokes good fun at white, nerdy gangster rap fans, but it also perfectly illustrates the natural law regarding the forward motion and speed of multiple lanes merging: namely that the fastest lane is the one you are not in, and life may or may not be futile. The solution, of course, is to stop going to work — don't quit, just stop going.
Final Destination 2 (2003)
While the collapsing Lions Gate Bridge scene in Final Destination 5 (the best one) also technically includes a traffic jam, the second instalment wins the spot on the list because the traffic jam is an integral part of the story. After a horrid premonition involving a logging truck accident, the sole survivor of the first movie purposely stalls her car and creates a traffic jam to save everyone's life. Of course, they all die brutal horrific deaths anyhow so it just goes to show there is no such thing as a good traffic jam.
12 Monkeys (1995)
Traffic comes to a standstill as giraffes, lions, elephants and other released zoo animals run wild in this short-but-cool traffic jam scene. The end of the world always comes with a traffic jam (see also: Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, The Stand, etc.) but foreign beasts roaming the streets seem to best sum up the chaos.
Songs from the Second Floor (2000)
The Europeans tend to be less violent or defeatist with their cinematic traffic jams. In French director Claire Denis' Vendredi Soir, a jam is an opportunity for two strangers to fall in love, and Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson sets an entire film amidst a city-wide jam in Songs from the Second Floor.
Frustration permeates the film but Andersson portrays the jam as a chance to examine ourselves rather than lash out at others. Speaking about the film in The Guardian, he said, "Perhaps we should start to accept that we have, ourselves, created these circumstances which render us helpless. When you see Songs From the Second Floor, you should get an idea of how stupidly we behave — when you see it, you are really looking at yourself."
This makes sense, but how is that going to help us empty-space-loving mountain people on a congested Saturday morning (or Friday night, or Sunday evening, or Tuesday morning on the way to work)? With only two roads in and out of the valley, Whistler's traffic problem is going to require some creativity and a lot of cash.
My vote is for an underground bullet train with good coffee and all these traffic-jam scenes playing on loop so you can feel good about how much the train ticket cost. Until then, lets all just be glad we don't live in Britannia Beach. Do they even really need that stoplight?
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