Today, we enter the Think Tank to do battle with guns while holding a baby. Read the entries and vote for your favorite at the end.
Sheely, Battleship Potemkin and The Untouchables
The greatest gunfight (while holding a baby) is actually one in which no one is holding the baby:
Although the famous Odessa Steps scene in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is considered a cinematic milestone largely because of Eisenstein’s groundbreaking use of montage techniques, it also deserves special mention for being the first baby-centric-gunfight in the history of film. Of course, to call the (possibly fictional) confrontation between the Tsar’s Cossak troops and the crowd that had gathered for a demonstration on the Odessa steps a “gunfight” is also a misnomer. Rather, the central point of Eisenstein’s depiction of the event is that the soldiers provoked the riot by using deadly force to disperse a peaceful demonstration. As the baby carriage hurtles down the stairs, it is impossible to doubt that this is a regime is willing to pull guns when the citizens challenge its legitimacy at all — because that’s the Odessa way.
If this scene looks eerily familiar, but you aren’t a connoisseur of Soviet propaganda films (or have never taken an intro film studies class), that is probably because a stroller rolling down the stairs is central to another famous filmic gunfight…
Given that I already broke the rules by choosing a gunfight in which no one is holding a baby, why push my luck by picking not one but two scenes? Because Brian De Palma’s famous train station gunfight in The Untouchables is no mere homage; it features a nearly identical situation, but produces the exact opposite meaning. Whereas the role of the baby in Potemkin was to draw attention the unhinged brutality of the Russian government, the presence of the stroller in the shootout in The Untouchables tells us that although Capone’s thugs will willingly endanger a child, the government agents have the restraint necessary to both immobilize the criminals while still ensuring the safety of the child.
Taken together, these two scenes demonstrate the janus-faced nature of the coercive capacity of the state, and the power of this comparison rests on the common element in the two scenes-the helpless baby in a stroller. What these gunfights reveal is that we are all just innocents sliding inexorably to our doom, waiting for Andy Garcia and Kevin Costner to save us at the last possible moment.