The Rock’s Red Notice could be the grand triumph of the 2021 visual effects film

Reviews of Netflix’s Globetrotter and Starry Heist movie Red Notice were all over the map, but one thing seems objectively true: the fact that it exists is a miracle.

“One of the first challenges we encountered was when we were filming, our production schedule was split in two,” Hiram Garcia, production president for Dwayne Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions and producer on Red Notice, told Polygon at the time of the film’s release. The plan was for Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot to shoot a number of interior scenes in a studio in Atlanta, then start touring the world – Italy, Sardinia, France – to stage the main sets that would define. Writer-director Rawson’s Spy Adventure Marshall Thurber. But as Red Notice has hit half of its 70-day shoot, the COVID-19 pandemic and production shutdown.

“We closed for six months and then no one knew if we were coming back,” Thurber said recently in a conversation with Jungle cruise director Jaume Collet-Serra at the Directors Guild. “And then Netflix, to their credit, was like, ‘No, no, we’re coming back.’ I thought we could be like a bogeyman story that studio executives tell directors before they go to bed, “Remember the movie they almost made? The same could happen to you.”

A new visual effects reel from Industrial Light & Magic shines a light on the amount of digital elevator needed to bring Thurber’s film closer to the original large-scale on-site of the original pre-pandemic shots. A little like David Fincher’s Hidden Visual Effects Story, so many Red NoticeThe naturalistic world of was built or completed with CGI. Even to the trained eye of the film buff, the efforts of the artists to construct the film’s simplest sequences can be overlooked.

“We couldn’t go to Rome, we couldn’t go to Sardinia, we couldn’t go to Paris, but we had all these plans,” Thurber said. “I didn’t really want to shoot it in my backyard. I wanted to go to these places. But we couldn’t. So we had to film everything on stage in Atlanta or in the parking lot of the Atlanta metro studios. “

Red Notice originally opened with a massive car chase in Italy, but the action sequence was reduced after COVID to a more contained foot chase between Johnson and Reynolds through a museum. Garcia said the conditions forced Thurber to innovate within those limits, and ultimately the creative team landed on the use of confined space drone photography. As Reynolds walks the museum obstacle course and eventually through the scaffolding, the camera follows and sometimes dives into the POV. “We hired one of the best drone pilots in the world,” Garcia said, “it was like watching an Indy pilot driving a McLaren on the road – it was awesome.”

Photo: Frank Masi / Netflix

While some action scenes were already in the box by the time the pandemic closed, including the explosive prison break scene, others have been cut short. Garcia recalled that the shooting on the bull scene was the last day they had before the team took a hiatus, and it was ultimately filmed after the fact using plates on location (not to mention a digital bull built to take down Johnson).

Visual effects artists have also stepped in to complement what may have simpler plans in a pre-pandemic world. According to Thurber, all of the dancers at the masked ball (which has always been written to be a masked ball) were able to don N95s under their masks. But because they couldn’t have too many extras in the room at once, the moments with Reynolds, Gadot, and Johnson were filmed in an empty dance hall and layered on top of other random background action shots thanks to to visual effects. “They’re dancing in an empty room,” Thurber said, “like something out of The brilliant. “

Red Notice didn’t make the 2022 Oscars list for VFX – Black Widow, Dune, Eternals, Free Guy, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Matrix Resurrections, No Time to Die, Shang-Chi, Where Spider-Man: No Path Home will eventually win the Academy Award – but in a strange way, the work done on the film by ILM and the other houses involved feels like a testament to what is now possible with visual effects. Not to mention that this is the 2021 most film of all the 2021 movies. Thurber admits he’s not sure what the film’s final budget will be, but it was extremely expensive simply because it was made under conditions. COVID. The stress of bubbling up with a team and then handing over fragments of filmmaking to visual effects artists, just praying that it all comes together, is a particularly poignant experience for Garcia and Johnson.

“We worked very closely with the CDC and Netflix, and we really made sure we provided everything we needed to make the movie,” Garcia said. “They were phenomenal partners, they’ve come a long way. They lead the security and support it, and made sure we had the financial backing to do what we did. And so that allowed us to finish the movie successfully, to keep everyone safe. It was not an easy process, but something that Dwayne and I always talk about: we will never forget this crew.

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