Ridley Scott’s Commercials (2019)

Despite making his name in the 1970’s in advertising, director Sir Ridley Scott hasn’t made a commercial for the past fifteen years.  His continued success in the theatrical feature realm has all but precluded a return to the medium that built his career, so it stands to reason that he would need a very, very big incentive to do so.  2019 would present no less than two such opportunities, each one generating a high-profile pop impact that reminds us why Scott is still regarded as a titan in the world of modern advertising.


When Turkish Airlines approached Scott to craft an ambitious short film to mark the opening of the new Istanbul international airport — one that would also screen as a commercial-length cutdown for the Super Bowl, no less — Scott found his inevitable return to the commercial world hastened.  Titled “THE JOURNEY”, the spot concerns the cat-and-mouse chase between a glamorous jetsetting socialite and the frazzled, breathless spy (BLADE RUNNER 2049’s Sylvia Hoeks) following close on her tail.  The loosely-constructed plot serves rather as a narrative justification for Scott and company to show off Turkey’s varied tourist hotspots, from luxe beachside hotels to the famed mosques that dot the city.  Scott uses this convergence of cultures — Old World vs. New, East vs. West — to construct an immersive environment removed from time entirely. Indeed, the characters’ surroundings rapidly oscillate between the sleek continental flair of modern Europe to the weathered stonework and candlelit chambers of antiquity.  Scott brings his signature high-contrast, steely color palette to bear, pairing it with majestic aerials and gritty handheld setups to match the pulpy narrative. The spot’s immersive sense of place differentiates itself as one of the rarest Scott-built environments of all: one that we can actually visit.


Following swiftly on the heels of the attention-grabbing release of “THE JOURNEY”, Scott also dropped a four minute piece for Hennessey titled “SEVEN WORLDS”— each unique world presenting itself as a visual metaphor for one aspect of the popular liquor brand’s unique flavor profile.  Freed from the constraints of conventional narrative, Scott is able to fully immerse himself in his signature world-building, giving each of the seven environments a distinct look and texture.  A high-contrast color palette unifies these worlds, rendered in large swaths of earth and metal tones and given detailed depth via signature atmospherics like mist, dust, and even floating rocks.  Indeed, “SEVEN WORLDS” plays almost like a celebration of Scott’s storied filmography, with standout moments like colossal humanoid figures resembling the Engineers of PROMETHEUS (2012), or the construction of an android suggesting the creation of BLADE RUNNER’s replicants.  Scott mostly abstains from making concrete connections between his enigmatic images and the Hennessey flavor profiles they are supposed to represent– an admittedly interesting choice for a format whose short running times leave little room for subtlety.  However, Scott’s epic expressionism reinforces the core message of the piece — “each drop is an odyssey” — and through his efforts. we can’t help but be reminded of the many unforgettable odysseys he’s taken us on throughout his celebrated career.