Climbing Scaffolding and Building Barns: Movies That Use Building Sites for Drama

Climbing Scaffolding and Building Barns: Movies That Use Building Sites for Drama

12th December 2019

Building sites are popular settings for movie scenes. Yet, you will very rarely see the actors simply pour concrete or lay some bricks in an orderly fashion. Instead, these locations are used to add some extra drama to the plot.

Casino Royale, 2006
Daniel Craig’s Bond debut came with a parkour-inspired chase across a large building site. 007 runs and jumps after a baddie as they leap across chasms, climb steel girders and set off explosions. The hard-hatted builders can only look on in amazement at the blatant flouting of so many health and safety regulations.
The special agent even uses a heavy spanner at one point, although he is trying to trap the villain rather than apply torque to an object that needs to be turned. This chase scene is one of the high points of a film that instantly became a Bond classic and firmly established Craig in the role of the spy.

The Bridge over the River Kwai, 1957
This is one of the few films in which building something is actually the basis of the plot. The war-time classic features a group of British POWs at a Japanese prison camp in Burma. It stars terrific actors like Alec Guinness, William Holden and Jack Hawkins. The prisoners are forced to build a railway bridge across the river.
They attempt to build the bridge as slowly and as poorly as possible, but then their leader orders them to build the very best bridge that they can. The legendary ending to this iconic film sees the bridge get destroyed in a spectacular explosion. It is regularly rated as one of the best British movies of all time.

Busy Bodies, 1933
We don’t actually see Laurel and Hardy build anything in this movie, which is probably just as well. But they do get into numerous scrapes with the tools and pieces of wood that they are supposed to be working with in their new jobs in a sawmill.
The most famous scene is probably when Ollie gets a paintbrush stuck to his chin and his partner decides that shaving it off with a carpentry plane is the best solution. It is all harmless slapstick fun that reaches a climax when Stan climbs onto a ladder. It isn’t a fixed access ladder and our hapless hero is incredibly clumsy so he manages to knock it over, causing mayhem below.

Witness, 1985
Harrison Ford’s real-life carpentry skills came in handy during this drama that sees him hiding from corrupt cops in an Amish community. He has to hide from the police officer who shot and wounded him but ends up helping the Amish to build a barn on their land.
It is a fascinating scene, because we see how the whole community comes together to put up the wooden structure without the help of any machines. This helps him to become accepted by the Amish. Witness was very well-received and got eight Academy Award nominations as well as many glowing reviews.