With Seb Montaz’s excellent new film, One Step Beyond - the true story of daredevil wingsuit-wearer Geraldine Fasnacht – finally available to download, we got to thinking about how the sport of BASE jumping has been depicted on the big screen through the years…
The Spy Who Loved Me and A View To A Kill
Five years after BASE pioneer Rick Sylvester skied off Yosemite Valley's El Capitan cliff and into the history books with his clunkily coined "ski/parachute jump”, Britain’s most famous secret agent copied the trick for one of his greatest ever pre-credits sequences in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. But it wasn’t until 1985’s A View To A Kill that BASE as it’s defined (namely a static jump from Buildings, Aerials, Spans or Earth) was demonstrated on film. Stuntman B.J. Worth stood in for Grace Jones as he leapt from the Eiffel Tower in a markedly more successful attempt than that of French tailor Franz Reichelt, who, in 1912, fatally attempted the same feat with his home-made ‘coat parachute’. BASE jumps have appeared in two subsequent 007 flicks, The Living Daylights and Die Another Day, but they were filmed using cop-out CGI.
Vin Diesel’s cheeky riposte to the perceived as fuddy-duddy James Bond movies crowbars in a huge number of outré action sequences, but few are as impressive as this automobile-aided BASE jump. Diesel’s Xander Cage, having stolen an open-topped car from a dodgy politician proceeds to explain his reasons for said grand theft auto before catapulting himself off Auburn, California’s Foresthill Bridge and landing safely on the ground below – the same, of course, can’t be said for the car. Diesel repeated the trick, sans parachute but with added Paul Walker and CGI, in Fast And Furious 5 a few years later.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life
A year after Vin Diesel tried to do for James Bond, another English icon got into the BASE jumping craze and proved that when it comes hitting the heights nobody does it better than the Brits. The 2003 Tomb Raider sequel found our plummy voiced, pouty lipped, Angelina Jolie-shaped heroine taking to the skies over Hong Kong as she leapt from the IFC Tower and, with the aid of some snazzy wingsuits, flew over the Bank of China before landing on a moving freighter. Not to ruin the movie magic for you or anything but in reality the stunt was performed by Swedish BASE jumpers Martin Rosén and Per Eriksson with the air-to-air camera controlled by fellow Team Bautasten colleague Mikael Nordqvist. Seems like even Lady Croft needs a little help looking good from time to time.
Strictly speaking, this isn’t actually a BASE jump, kicking off as it does from a shuttle on the edge of space - but then if it’s good enough for Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team, then it’s good enough for us. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) launch themselves from the edge of space onto a drilling platform many miles below to hand some alien baddies their asses, before getting themselves transported while freefalling to the planet below - kudos for the amazing action sequence and extra points for the awesome bloke-in-the-red-shirt-dies-horribly in-joke. Okay, so it wasn’t actually filmed as a real-life stunt but when special effects are this good we can let it slide.
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
Despite the fact this threequel is directed by Michael Bay (the kind of megaphone wielder who makes James Cameron and George Lucas look sparing in their use of CGI) perhaps the most impressive sequence in the whole robotic smackdown - involving a cadre of special forces soldiers BASE jumping in wingsuits from the top of Chicago’s Sears Tower - was filmed in actual, non-computerised, real life. The Red Bull Air Force team were called upon to inject a level of authenticity into the metallic mayhem and the extraordinary skill of the jumpers is there for all to see as they negotiate skyscrapers in downtown Chi-town in tight formation before all hitting the ground together on a tiny landing zone.
One Step Beyond
Sebastian Montaz’s beautifully shot film follows freeride ski and snowboarding and BASE jumping icon, Geraldine Fasnacht, as she pushes her extreme passions to the limit. Despite the tragic loss of her boyfriend in a jump accident and the various injuries and recuperation periods forced upon her close friends and herself (Red Bull-backed adventurer and close friend, Karina Hollekim, talks in candid detail about the fall that almost killed her), Geraldine’s drive and determination to climb (and launch herself off) every mountain results in a film that’s as awe-inspiring in its ‘never give up’ message as it is in the spectacular scenery. Every other entry on this list helps to highlight the sport of BASE jumping, but only this film comes close to explaining its undeniable allure.