Will You Be Impressed By Another Action Thriller That Plays Out “In Real Time”?

By  · Published on June 26th, 2015

Paramount Pictures

I would have thought the TV series 24 was the peak of “real time” drama and thrills. Maybe it was. And maybe the peak for the technical side of the concept was with literal real-time features Timecode and Russian Ark, films that were only made possible by digital cameras. The only sort of real-time efforts that are still of interest are those broadcast live, which are back in vogue through NBC and now Fox’s presentations of live musicals, including next year’s production of Grease.

When I saw that a new action movie with the “takes place in real time” conceit was titled Live!, I thought maybe the TV musical gimmick was carrying over to the cinema. But no, it’s just another movie that sounds like Nick of Time and 88 Minutes. Aaron Eckhart will play a “disgraced cop” who has only 80 minutes to find the police commissioner’s kidnapped daughter, and of course 80 minutes will also be around the length of the movie, too.

The difference, maybe, is that this is supposedly going to be shot in real time, too, by stunt coordinators Darrin Prescott (John Wick) and Wade Allen (The Dark Knight) making their directorial debut. If so – if they’re really aiming to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and then only roll cameras during a single 80-or-so-minute stretch – then that’s cool. But that is very unlikely. And if it wasn’t, then that sort of thing should be indeed a live event, broadcast to theaters like so many operas and concerts are these days.

As speculates /Film (the site from which I learned of this movie), the truth is probably that there will be some “invisible” edits similar to those of the recent seemingly single-shot Best Picture winner Birdman and, almost 70 years prior, Hitchcock’s Rope. It will be a step up for something like that to be made in the action genre, but just a little bit. Audiences are becoming less impressed with the idea of the long take, as technology allows for them to appear in most major tentpole action movies of late.

Perhaps this is a step towards live movies set in and broadcast in real time, though the logistics of exhibition on that would be difficult. I’d say they could do multiple shows through the opening weekend and then after that all screenings are of the best recorded version (or an edit of them), but obviously audiences would mostly only flock to those first screenings (isn’t that what Hollywood prefers we do now anyway?). It sure would make moviegoing an event again.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.