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Hardcore Henry: The tip of the iceberg in new ways of making movies

Filmed entirely in first person with a hero who doesn’t speak, Hardcore Henry offers a glimpse of where films could be heading
“Hardcore Henry” is an action movie that takes place entirely in the first person. The protagonist doesn’t speak and you can only glean his reactions from his movements. It’s an incredibly unique film, even if it can be slightly nauseating at times with the way the camera rolls and twists.

I recently found myself bored and with nothing to do so I took to iTunes and began browsing through the new movie releases. The first thing that caught my eye was Hardcore Henry. 

I had heard about it and had wanted to see it, but simply hadn’t found the time. So, I downloaded it and my eyes remained glued to the screen for its 90-minute runtime. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the film, it’s an action movie that takes place entirely in the first person. The protagonist doesn’t speak and you can only glean his reactions from his movements. It’s an incredibly unique film, even if it can be slightly nauseating at times with the way the camera rolls and twists. 

But this article isn’t about Hardcore Henry, well, at least not directly. Watching this movie with its incredibly unique cinematography got me thinking about perspective in films and how, with the new technologies that have emerged over the past several years, we can achieve more innovative things than ever before. 

Hardcore Henry was filmed using two GoPro cameras mounted to the heads of multiple stunt men. This allowed the camera to perfectly follow the actors head movements. Every time a stunt man flew through a window or jumped off of a moving truck, the camera came with him. 

Hardcore Henry and director Ilya Naishuller aren’t the first to use this perspective to deliver explosive action scenes. YouTubers have been doing this for years, but they only used the perspective to take viewers through blood-curdling action scenes. 

Hardcore Henry is largely an action film, but it utilizes the unique perspective to further draw viewers into the bizarre world. Henry is silent throughout the entire film, which means that viewers can put a little bit of themselves into the character. It’s a technique many first-person video games use because the lack of a voice means the viewer can give the avatar their own voice, metaphorically speaking. 

GoPros have allowed filmmakers to film videos from the first-person perspectives, letting people experience first-hand the adrenaline of skydiving or skiing down the side of a steep mountain. But the video they produce isn’t always good enough for big budget films. 

Recently, a new method of filming has allowed moviemakers to pull off shots that previously would have been much more difficult and expensive to orchestrate. Drones aren’t cheap, but their maneuverability is priceless. 

They can reach incredible heights while still remaining stable. This means aerial shots can be done from much more precarious positions, and with no risk of harming any cast or crew. 

The camera can zoom in on an actor's face before taking to the skies, sweeping over the horizon and taking in the surroundings. The only thing that would hamper a shot would be weather or the pilot themselves. 

Imagine an entire movie shot on a drone. While it would still look like a standard film, for the most part, the variety of shots that would be possible would be staggering. 

Hardcore Henry doesn’t do anything too shocking with its camera perspective. This is most likely because the shaky, violent movements of the first-person camera can be difficult to watch without losing your lunch. 

One of the best things the film does is leverage the story and the perspective simultaneously to improve the pacing. In the story, Henry is essentially a man who has just been turned into a cyborg when the lab he is in is attacked. He is low on energy so the screen glitches and skips occasionally. This means that, when dialogue is occurring, the filmmakers can insert screen tears in order to skip over any dead air and still make it seem natural for what is appearing on screen. 

This is a challenge that will need to be overcome if new and innovative forms of filmmaking are to be attempted. How can we best leverage the shift in perspective or pacing to support the story in the best possible way?

Just for fun, I’ll throw out another hypothetical. Imagine a movie told only through silhouettes and dialogue. There would be no facial expressions to convey emotion, so everything would need to be shown through actions and voices. Taking out a key element of a film means filmmakers have to compensate in other ways, which, in turn, puts the spotlight on those other aspects in particular. 

The technology is still advancing, but movies will change rapidly once we learn how to properly leverage the technology. Hardcore Henry is only the tip of the iceberg. There are sure to be plenty of revolutionary films on the horizon, all brimming with potential and new — and fascinating ideas.

Matthew Herst is a Carleton University communications student, video game journalist and’s resident geek writer. Yeah, this guy love’s video games. Besides, you can also find his work on Follow him on Twitter @supergurst.


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