Prepare for a mind-blowing immersive cinematic encounter in “Hardcore Henry” as it gives the audience a chance to experience the entire film through the point-of-view of its main character (cyborg) named Henry.
First time director Ilya Naishuller helms “Hardcore Henry” wherein Henry remembers nothing and his wife Estelle (played by Haley Bennett) has been kidnapped by an extremely powerful warlord with an army of mercenaries. The line between hero and villain in “Hardcore Henry” is tenuous as he tries to follow and uncover the devious plot against him within the city of Moscow. The audience – Henry, essentially – assesses in real time just who is friend and who is foe.
Shot almost entirely on GoPro cameras with custom engineered rigs, “Hardcore Henry” completely abandons, even eviscerates, traditional filmmaking and replaces it with a raw and immediate experience, allowing the audience to become one with the protagonist, so viewers go on a very personal and breathtaking journey with Henry. Wide-angle GoPro cameras, commonly used by sports fans and professionals to film their exploits, were used for the first-person style.
“Action cinema has always thrived when it captured the sensation of participating in dangerous situations that most people would much rather avoid in real life. The goal with ‘Hardcore Henry’ was to push it a step further, to put the audience right into the body of the protagonist, to have them experience the primal, exhilarating feeling that we usually view from a much safer distance,” says Naishuller.
Naishuller’s creativity, commitment and talent also impressed Bennett. “Even though this was Ilya’s first film, he knew exactly what he wanted and made me excited about helping him to fulfill his vision. He’s an incredibly dedicated artist,” Bennett says.
To take the concept from a short to a feature film, Naishuller and his team conducted hundreds of stabilization tests with GoPro rigs – there had to be enough balance between the hyper kinetic scenes and the more static (relatively speaking) portions. Achieving that balance required a fair amount of R&D, trial and error and blind faith but the payoff was worth it. “A big part of the pre-production process included the creation of magnetic stabilization rigs which allowed the team to mount the cameras on helmets and keep the picture comfortable for the audience,” editor Vlad Kaptur says.
“GoPro gave us access to some proprietary software that allowed for exposure control that they’ve since incorporated into the latest generation of their cameras. We were also expecting to break quite a few cameras, but during my shooting block we only busted two or three. We had about a dozen GoPro HERO3 Black Editions that GoPro provided us with. During one of the breaks from the shooting, GoPro released the HERO 3+ but we decided to keep using the original HERO3 to keep the picture consistent,” Naishuller adds.
“The camera rig was the most important piece of tech in getting the film to look and feel right. We hired an engineer friend of mine, Vladimir Kotihov, who was oddly enough, an American football player and knew a thing or two about helmets. We spent a long time designing and redesigning the helmet while simultaneously designing the stabilization system. It was magnet based and we went through about five or six prototypes. The first one looked like a medieval torture device before we got it where we needed it – something that provided good stabilization, light enough to not put too much pressure on the wearer and strong enough to withstand hits and general damage during the heavy-duty shoot. The final touch was attaching a Teradek transmitter and a zoom mic on it,” Kaptur recalls.
“Hardcore Henry” opens May 4 in cinemas from Pioneer Films.