The Cinematography of John Toll

I want to go over a few of my favorite people working in the film industry who are not filmmakers, but their contributions to the cinema which they are involved in are just as great as that of an auteur filmmaker, and much of the time, are a definitive centerpiece of the films they help make..

John Toll A.S.C.

This man, goes by the name of John Toll. He is one of cinema’s greatest cinematographers and one of my favorite people working in the film industry. Toll’s camera is an elaborate picture-frame. His cinematography is a painting in it’s most vivid and vibrant form. Bold contrasted colors, hot and cold, fire and ice, all through an unprecedented panoramic scope. It’s a sensual comparison of the dark and comforting side of nature and landscape. Most of his work is really geared towards picturesque scenery of swaying planes and dense jungles and it transcends from artsy festival favorites like Terrence Malicks’s The Thin Red Line to big budget epics like Mel Gibson’s Braveheart to mainstream popcorn comedies like Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. No matter the genre or style the director may be going for, Toll will deliver a feast for the eyes because to him, cinema is as pleasurable as food or sex, it is a gateway to a world the audience can fantasize and inhabit for just a moment and with each frame, he makes sure it engulfs you.

The gallery of John Toll:

Legends of the Fall (Edward Zwick, 1994)

Toll’s first celebrated work, Legends of the Fall earned him an Oscar and propelled his signature style of vivid contrasting colors in grand landscapes that soon became a Hollywood ‘fad’.

Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995)

Then came Braveheart, a perfect debut into the mainstream blockbuster Hollywood frontier which Toll’s photography dictated the ‘epic’ as even grander and more scenic than ever thought before.

The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malik, 1998)

In The Thin Red Line, it seemed Toll and Malick were meant for each other as the DoP-Director duo cranked out the most visually shaking war film ever caught on camera. John Toll’s biggest achievement of his career came from his decision to turn the camera into a ‘soldier’s-eye-view’ of the horrors, tension and suspense of battle amidst breathtaking landscapes.

Tropic Thunder (Ben Stiller, 2008)

Toll had to play with different rules in the hilarious war-movie parody Tropic Thunder. While the cinematography stayed true to Toll’s style, the frames were closer, more compact and concentrating on the actors as comedy is, more than anything else, dictated through facial expressions and dialogue.

Cloud Atlas (The Wachowskis, 2012)

In his latest Cloud Atlas, Toll for the first time worked with the computer screen as his primary camera. The result was a jaw-dropping sci fi film with brilliant scope and an eye for technology over natural landscape.


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