How Atomic Blonde's Epic Hallway Scene Was Shot
If you haven't seen Atomic Blonde you may have already heard about one scene in the film which is an absolute marvel to watch. If you have seen Atomic Blonde I don't need to remind you what scene that is. The action packed finale of Atomic Blonde is one of the most physically brutal fight scenes that has yet been put to film. One of the reasons that it comes across so viscerally is because the entire thing is edited together to look like a single shot. There are cuts, but they're well hidden so the audience doesn't notice them. As you might imagine, filming such a sequence was quite complicated, primarily because they couldn't really wait to put the scene together in editing, it had to be done on location.
Atomic Blonde's editor, Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, had to actually be on site during the fight scene to watch the entire thing as it was shot, in chronologic order. Director David Leitch told Variety that they would do 15-20 takes of each shot, there are a total of 40 in the final cut, then, Ronaldsdóttir would decide which take they wanted to use. Once that was decided for one shot, they knew how to setup the next shot. Also, since the camera is moving almost constantly, they had to make sure the camera starts moving at the same angle and speed that it ended with in the previous shot. Obviously, if you wait to make these decisions in an editing suite later, the shots might not line up perfectly, making the illusion of a single camera and a single shot vanish.
We thought the fight scene looked physical and exhausting in the final cut, Charlize Theron just gets beat to hell. The idea of doing each shot 20 times just makes the entire thing feel that much more violent. The final sequence is about 10 minutes of the movie and it looks amazing. It's worth seeing Atomic Blonde just to see that scene. The illusion of the uninterrupted shot is perfect and it makes everything feel that much more real.
Director David Leitch, who co-directed John Wick prior to Atomic Blonde, has shown himself to be a fantastic action director already. Apparently, he'd always wanted to do something like this while working as a stunt coordinator, but could never get a director to go along. Now that he's the guy in charge, he gets to make the decisions. Having seen the end result, we can't wait to see what other great ideas he has for future movies as he's creating some of the best action we've seen on screen in a long time.
Atomic Blonde is in theaters now.
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