With an intensity so great so as to feel your own blood start coursing through your veins with frenzied exhilaration, “Point Break” is the biggest heart-pounding, heart-stopping, adrenaline rush of the year! Doing double duty as director and cinematographer, Ericson Core, together with Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, four second unit “stunt” directors and a cinematic showcasing of the best in the world of extreme sports, the result is visually dynamic and will have you breathless at every turn.
Much kerfuffle by die hard fans of the original has been made since it was announced that the beloved 1991 Kathryn Bigelow directed, Patrick Swayze-Keanu Reeves starring vehicle would be remade. This film critic was more than doubtful and even Edgar Ramirez had trepidation about diving into this venture, telling me, “I wouldn’t have done this film without Kathryn’s blessing.” (Needless to say, Bigelow encouraged him to take on the role of Bohdi and make the film.) But the result is not so much a “remake” as a 21st century reinvention that celebrates and incorporates the advancements of technology and the birth of extreme sports, all which find a perfect marriage here with Edgar Ramirez and Luke Bracey assuming the lead roles of Bohdi and Utah, respectively.
Replacing the California surfing culture with that of 21st century eco-activists, screenwriter Kurt Wimmer initially introduces us to extreme motocross athlete Utah and the Zen philosopher Bohdi. Following the death of his best friend in an extreme sport stunt gone bad, Utah has since joined the FBI and becomes key to the investigation of a series of global burglaries and attacks which he believes are being performed by a group of individuals who are trying to master the Ozaki Eight, a series of eight ordeals honoring the forces of nature founded by Ozaki Ono, now dead as a result of his own failure to achieve “nirvana” on the third ordeal. Believing themselves to be eco-minded and selfless, Bohdi and his crew are committing crimes against corporations who have assaulted Mother Earth; be it from blowing up mines which have stripped nature bare to showering money on impoverished residents of the rainforest. And lucky for us, to complete the Ozaki Eight, Bohdi and company are taking us on a global adventure with Utah in tow thanks to his own skills and infiltration into the group.
From snowboarding from the very the top of Mont Blanc in Switzerland to death-defying base jumping with wing-suit flights through caverns and crevices to a bare-knuckle assent (executed by the #1 professional free climber in the world, Chris Sharma) to the top of Angel Falls in Venezuela to a once-in-a-lifetime wave off the coast of Biarritz in southwestern France, everything is pushed to the extreme and perfectly executed and lensed.
While there are story nods to the original 1991 film beyond the Utah and Bohdi dynamic, the extreme sports and all that comes with the chase for the Ozaki Eight fill the bulk of the film until the final third of the final act which then picks up the plot points of the original film. Nods of a romantic interest for Bohdi and/or Utah comes in the form of an under used and underwhelming Teresa Palmer as Samsara. But Palmer adequately fills the purpose of the role by providing a backstory and link to Ozaki and Bohdi; not to mention serving as a balance to the testosterone fueled action and sex appeal of Ramirez and Bracey. Story on the whole is weaker than the other elements of the film as it is clear the focus is on the action, the sport, the stunts.
As for Ramirez and Bracey, there is only one word for each their performances. WOW! Not “just pretty faces”, the two pushed their own physical limits with training and stunt participation including climbing and hiking with the stuntmen and athletes, surfing many of the water scenes, snowboarding and yes, even being harnessed in at the top of Angel Falls for one of the most dramatic scenes of the film. The two were only pulled from the camera at the last possible moment. It is clear on viewing that the raw emotion and energy each man brings to the table is not “acting” but adrenaline fueled by the situation and physical demands of the sports/stunts at hand. In conversation with Ramirez, he admitted to trying to be on hand for second unit and first unit work so as to fully embrace the emotion, exhilaration and danger of the moment. It worked. We feel their adrenaline and we see and feel the authenticity of the action thanks not only to their work, but huge thanks to a production twist by the ever innovative Ericson Core.
“I did something very unique on this film that isn’t typically done. . . We shot all of the second unit work prior to first unit work. That was incredibly important to me because I know the difference. If you do a standard feature film, you go up and set up a scene, you decide to shoot it and you put your guys in position – your actors – and they say, ‘Okay. Great. Cut.’ and the stunt guys take over. And they go, ‘Well, they weren’t really standing in the right place. They weren’t doing it properly for the sport; it doesn’t really make sense, but the check clears and we’re gonna deal with it.’ And that’s typically the way it’s done. In this case, based on the weather environments and the conditions, it was extremely important to be authentic. That was why Chris [Sharma], Jeb [Corliss], Xavier [Delerue] and so many of the others, Laird Hamilton – got involved with us because my promise was to do it authentically and for real. So as a result, it was very important to do the action unit first to understand what the conditions were, what mother nature was giving us and what was possible and push the limits to the extreme. Then through that we integrated very carefully with our athletes and our second unit teams in order to get Luke, Edgar and the other actors to do exactly what was necessary to be accurate. We wanted to have no BS in the film. We wanted to make sure that no one from any extreme sport, be it surfing, snowboarding, climbing, base jumping, wingsuiting, looked at it and said, ‘That’s wrong. What you guys did was completely wrong. It was a Hollywood version of our stuff.’ We were doing it more to document it and have it in reality. So that was incredibly important.”
Solid supporting turns come from Delroy Lindo as FBI Instructor Hall and Ray Winstone, who is particularly engaging and provides a few lighter moments as the FBI’s French connection, Pappas. Not to be overlooked is Max Thieriot who sets the stage for Bracey’s Utah as his once BFF, Jeff.
Thanks to the blend of extreme athletes and stuntmen with the work of Ramirez and Bracey, the level of danger is beyond palpable and performances intense. Compounding that is the exemplary camera work as it produces a perfect integration of jaw-dropping extreme sport into a mainstream story with tacit poetic beauty. Unparalleled excellence. And it’s this excellence, fueled by these breathtaking natural wonders around the globe (France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Venezuela, Canada and the United States), that provides the tension felt on screen and by the audience. Complimenting Core’s lensing and the work of his team is the outstanding VFX of John Nelson and his team.
A testament to the production values and authenticity of the movie-going experience, is that while many may believe “Point Break” was shot using Go-Pros, such is not the case. According to Core, “We didn’t use Go-Pros at all in this film because the quality of them was not good enough for the big screen that we wanted to do. . .When I was researching, much of this, looking at the Go-Pro footage. . . you know that it’s real. And there is an intensity to that. So the authenticity of what the Go-Pro has brought out there and while the athletes bring the most extraordinary things to bear, that was very important to us. So we had that mentality of going light and small . . .But instead of our cameras being tiny, the lightest we had was 15 lbs to get a proper motion picture camera with the Red camera, with proper lens, that was filming at 140 mph in a nylon suit through a crack in Switzerland. We used our version of it. The mentality [of Go-Pro] was important as far as the authenticity of it, but we took it to a larger cinematic level.”
Set to screen in both 2D and 3D, the most heartily recommended viewing experience is the 3D version, but with this caveat: If you suffer from vertigo or a fear of heights, stick with 2D. The authenticity and intensity of “Point Break” is unlike anything you have ever seen on screen. Immersive and unforgettable, “Point Break” is wholly sensory, filling every pore, tingling every muscle with unspoken exhilaration so as to leave you breathless, anxious to complete your own Ozaki Eight.
Directed by Ericson Core
Written by Kurt Wimmer
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone, Delroy Lindo, Max Thieriot