With this film from Edgar Wright being one of my favourite films (and one that I freely admit to watching beyond counting on my fingers), I decided to analyse the opening for Hot Fuzz because although the film is not necessarily a global hit, for me it has one of those openings that I can easily picture on my head.
To clarify the opening for those who haven't watched it, this is basically the perfect two minute description of Sergeant Nicholas Angel, the workaholic officer (played by Simon Pegg) who lists his accolades and achievements almost like a recital. During his extensive monologue are fast paced cuts that cross to and from the film's present time until Angel reaches the door of the Chief Inspector's office (who happens to be played by Bill Nighy, another great British actor).
Whilst the studio credits roll, the non-diegetic wailing of sirens clearly states to me that this movie involves the forces to some degree. Then, there is a long, uninterrupted shot of Pegg marching from the bottom of a reception hallway to the desk with the camera at an extra-long shot. What makes this cut seem even longer is the echoing of Pegg's boots tapping on the linoleum floor while he walks and this gradually increases in volume as he walks closer to the camera. Once he finally reaches the desk, he pulls a serious facial expression to provide his character with a bit more depth before there is an extreme close-up shot of Pegg's Police Identification Card.
To me, this is a great establishing shot because we are then able to identify not only his character's name but his occupation and the main theme that runs through this film too: the Police force or 'The Fuzz'. If viewers don't quite catch his name on the card, Pegg slowly pronounces his name with his voice becoming a voice-over for the remaining minute and a half.
From this point, Pegg's monologue is accompanied with a series of fast-paced flashbacks depicting in chronological order his career in the force. During this, the main non-diegetic music delivers a rock and roll feel to not only lighten the mood but to give the flashbacks almost a kind of nostalgic feel. The cuts range from close-ups of Pegg's consistent serious facial expression to centre shots of him in action whether that is in training or as a part of the police riots squad. For whatever type of shot that is used during this monologue, the camera team has made sure that Pegg remains the focus of each shot whilst they either zoom in to big close ups or zoom out to medium shots. (As if none of the other characters are relevant, when put in that way it also portrays his character with some kind of arrogance and self-absorbance). During the graduation ceremony, there is some diegetic applause and flickers of light from camera shots as Pegg is pictured slightly smiling with his graduation class (still remaining the centre of the focus line for the camera). What is also consistent though is that each brief scene starts/finishes with a graphic swipe to prevent the pace from slowing down.
There is one particular moment when Pegg quotes, 'quickly established an effectiveness and popularity within the community' and it cuts to the officer giving a lecture to a group of young convicts. The complete irony of this quote is that the group of men in the room appear less than interested in Pegg's lecture about social issues (the exact issue was not clarified in the scene). I was able to pick this up because the camera does a back shot of Pegg's body in order to face the group of men who are sat down looking bored at the level of the camera. With the room only being lit by a blue projector light, this casts a black shadow over Pegg's body so that his expression is hidden and the expressions of the men are highlighted. This is one of the cuts when a distinctive quote is said from Pegg, 'Use your brains' and this is also ironic because these group of men can't have been that conscientious in order to get into that situation that they were in in the first place.
A pattern that I seemed to notice in this opening sequence was that although alternating dolly shots were used, Pegg’s facial expression would often be the link for the next cut. For example, a dolly shot is used to zoom in closer to Pegg’s face when he has completed his theory exam before everyone else. His face almost expresses boredom to show that despite the complex examination, it did not seem to faze him or make him nervous. The next scene cuts into a dolly shot zooming out to show Pegg’s more uplifting facial expression when he is pictured holding the Baton of Honour at the graduation ceremony. This is an effective fluency between cuts because it does not decrease the fast pace that Edgar Wright – the director – wanted to create.
Between the montage of cuts, a track shot is used to follow Pegg to the Chief Inspector’s Office. Throughout this opening sequence, a triple shot cut is used, using crash zoom to zoom in closer to Pegg’s face from medium long shot to big close-up to allow the camera to capture Pegg’s consistent serious facial expression. This tripling method is also used when Pegg’s voice-over says, ‘has received nine special commendations, achieved highest arrest record for any officer’. The camera crash zooms onto the array of police commendations on the walls, focusing particularly on the mention of ‘Nicholas Angel’ to let the audience know that all of these certificates belong to Pegg. The camera zooms from big close-up to an extreme close-up of Pegg’s character’s name.
The final section of cuts in this sequence is the link between Pegg’s hand and when he sustained his most memorable of ‘three injuries in the line of duty’ when he was ‘wounded by a man dressed as Father Christmas’. This begins with a series of crash zooms from a medium long shot of Pegg knocking the door (the diegetic sound of him knocking on the door is heard) to an extreme close up of Pegg’s right hand. We soon learn that this is the same hand that was stabbed by the criminal dressed as Father Christmas. We know this because the extreme close up of his fist then cross-cuts to a shot of Pegg being held and intimidated with a knife by the criminal. At this point, the non-diegetic rock and roll music stops and what we can hear is the squirting of blood (although we are unable to see this, probably to reduce the graphic imagery) and Pegg exclaiming in pain. The picture below depicts the final cut of this scene which finishes with a flicker as if it is a photographic memory for his character.
The establishing shot of the opening sequence.
The final cut of Pegg and the convict santa which forms the end of the opening sequence.