Tony Scott’s Commercial Work (2002-2003)

As he prepared for his next feature film, MAN OF FIRE (2004), Tony Scott embarked on (to my knowledge) two commercials that would allow him to further develop his style.

US ARMY: “SPECIAL FORCES- ICE SOLDIER” (2002)

Putting Scott and the US Army together for a spot is a no-brainer.  Who better than one of our most accomplished action directors to craft a spot about our real-life heroes?

The content is fairly typical for an army recruiting commercial– epic backdrops, helicopters, camouflaged soldiers with impressive weapons and gadgetry, etc.  Basically it looks like the coolest session of CALL OF DUTY you could ever play.

Visually, Scott’s style is a good mesh with the Army’s own aesthetic.  The extreme contrast and warm color tones complement the gritty action.  The handheld camerawork and rapid-fire editing reinforce the urgency of armed combat.  Scott even finds ample opportunity to indulge in his affinity for surveillance imagery.

The whole thing is wrapped up in a slightly cheesy rock score that’s reminiscent of Scott’s TOP GUN (1986).  All in all, a fairly effective, if not entirely memorable, ad.

“ICE SOLDIERS” is currently available in its entirety on Youtube via the embed above.

MARLBORO: “ONE MAN, ONE LAND” (2003)

In 2003, Marlboro contracted Scott to dip his English toe into the world of American cowboys.  Channeling his work on Telecom Italia’s “BRANDO” spot, Scott creates a veritable storm of images that are anything but the typical idea of cowboys out on the hot desert range.

The visuals oscillate wildly in color temperature, running the gamut to cold, warm, and completely desaturated.  Contrast is extremely high, creating a stark, dreary look.  The skies roil with ominous clouds, threatening the cowboys’ way of life.

Scott also continues to experiment with the visual notion of a “light leak”– letting bands of overexposed film smear the image.  He dials the exposure up and down rapidly, as if it were some rodeo strobe light show.  Composition shifts between close-range and afar so jarringly that it’s oftentimes hard to tell what you’re looking at.

Ultimately, the experimental techniques Scott uses result in another incomprehensible mess of a spot.  It quite simply doesn’t convey its message, and whatever message we can glean comes out jumbled and fragmented.    The fact that the audio is squeezed through several heavy sonic filters doesn’t help the clarity very much.

Much like the “BRANDO” spot, “ONE MAN, ONE LAND” contains several visually arresting images, but it smacks of overindulgence on Scott’s part.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that he was using the commercial medium to push the boundaries of style and aesthetics, but I strongly feel that it’s an extreme mismatch with Marlboro, a brand that is well-known for its stoic and conservative ads.