As movies go, only a small number have been shot from first-person point-of-view. You may recognize a few of them, too, like the 1999 found-footage horror flick “The Blair Witch Project” or the 2008 monster film “Cloverfield.” Other than this type of filmmaking, no movie has ever conceptualized what it’s like to step into another person’s shoes and see a world through an entirely different set of eyes. We certainly have the capability of mimicking such perceptions through the use of virtual reality headsets and first-person video games. The film industry has long abided by the principle that actors will do the acting and cameramen will do the filming, but no one has had the tenacity to ask, “What if we just stick a camera on somebody and see if we can make a film?”
Well, lucky for us, some people did just that.
In the film “Hardcore Henry,” you (the audience) are the main character Henry, a cyborg designed to kill (and he does oblige). All you can see in the frame are his arms, legs and other bits of his body that normal humans can see of themselves without aid of a mirror. You may think this must have been technologically challenging for the filmmakers, especially having to simulate Henry — or the audience — jumping over walls and gunning down bad guys, but all they did was attached a GoPro Hero 3 camera to a specially designed mask fixed on the wearer’s head. However, don’t be so keen as to try these stunts out for yourself.
After the pre-title and title sequences, “Hardcore Henry” dives right into the action and will immediately have you scrambling for information, and the viewer must really pay attention to what’s going on. From then on the story drops hints of Henry’s origin and purpose as a cybernetic killing machine, but there are always large gaps of desired information. Since the first-person filming technique limits abilities to narrate or provide greater context, it’s not hard to understand why writers had a difficult time trying to explain everything creatively. It’s also worth mentioning that Henry is not able to do this himself since he cannot speak. Other characters toyed with the idea of giving him speech abilities at the beginning of the film, but they were ultimately unable to do so.
Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), an ex-scientist who helped develop Henry and other cyborgs, was by far the most interesting and confusing character of the film. The character has multiple avatars, so at one point he could be a punk and the next he could be a cocaine-snorting playboy, but he can only operate one at a time. He’s still an underdeveloped character, however, and the story would’ve been better with more background information. The other interesting outside character is Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a villainous human who has telekinetic powers for some unknown reason. A character could have dropped a subtle hint as to how or why Akan has telekinesis, but for the most part the reason remains hidden, and the ability becomes one of his most valuable, yet perilous, assets.
It’s safe to say that “Hardcore Henry” is the first movie of its kind to feature dizzying action from a first-person point-of-view, and it will have you jumping out of your seats like a rambunctious five-year-old. If its success picks up speed during its time in theaters, we could expect more films to be made in similar style. We’ll see if that trend comes to fruition, but if this isn’t the most adrenaline-pumping film of the year, then movie-goers are in for a wild ride for the rest of 2016.