The Rock’s Red Notice may be 2021’s great triumph for films with visual effects

Reviews of Netflix’s star-studded, globetrotting robbery movie Red message was all over the map, but one thing seems objectively true: That it even exists is a miracle.

“One of the first challenges we encountered was when we recorded, we got our production plan split in two,” Hiram Garcia, production manager for Dwayne Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions and producer at Red message, told Polygon about the time of the film’s release. The plan was for Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot to record a series of interior scenes in the studio in Atlanta, and then start jumping around the globe – Italy, Sardinia, France – to stage the big set pieces that would define writer-director. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Spy Adventure. But as Red message reached halfway on their 70-day footage, the COVID-19 pandemic, and shutdown of production.

“We shut down for six months and then no one knew if we would come back,” Thurber said recently in a conversation with Jungle cruise Director Jaume Collet-Serra of the Director’s Guild. “And then, Netflix, to their credit, was like, ‘No, no, we’ll be back.’ I thought we could be like a boogeyman story that study leaders tell directors before they go to bed. ‘ movies they almost made? The same thing can happen to you. ‘”

A new visual power roll from Industrial Light & Magic sheds light on how much digital lift was required to bring Thurber’s films so close to the original large scale on the site of the original pre-pandemic plans. Much like David Fincher’s story with hidden VFX, so much of Red message‘s naturalistic world was built or supplemented by CGI. Even in the eyes of the trained cinema-goer, the length that artists went to construct the film’s simplest sequences can be overlooked.

“We could not go to Rome, we could not go to Sardinia, we could not go to Paris, but we had all these plans,” said Thurber. “I did not really want to shoot it in my backyard. I wanted to go to these places. But we could not. So we had to shoot everything on the stage in Atlanta or in the parking lot at Atlanta’s subway studios.”

Red message originally opened with a massive car chase in Italy, but the action sequence was scaled down post-COVID to a more enclosed foot chase between Johnson and Reynolds through a museum. Garcia said the circumstances forced Thurber to innovate within that framework, and ultimately the creative team landed on the use of tight-quarters drone photography. While Reynolds flashes around the museum’s obstacle course and eventually through scaffolding, the camera follows and sometimes dives into the POV. “We hired one of the world’s best drone pilots,” Garcia said, “it was like watching an Indy driver navigate a McLaren on the road – it was amazing.”

Red Notice behind the scenes of Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot on a soundstage, but also on a boat

Photo: Frank Masi / Netflix

While some action scenes were already in the can when the pandemic closed the store, including the explosive prison breakout scene, others were cut short. Garcia remembered that footage on the bull stage was the last day they had before the crew took a break, and it was eventually filmed after the fact using plates on the spot (not to mention a digital bull built to defeat Johnson) .

Visual effects artists also stepped in to complement what may have simpler images in a pre-pandemic world. According to Thurber, all the dancers at the masquerade ball (which was always written to be a masquerade ball) could slip on N95s under their masks. But because they could not have too many extras in the room at a time, moments with Reynolds, Gadot, and Johnson were filmed in an empty ballroom and put into other images of random background action through visual effects. “They’re dancing in an empty room,” Thurber said, “like something out of it Evil hotel. “

Red message did not join the Oscar shortlist in 2022 for VFX – Black Widow, Dune, Eternals, Free Guy, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Matrix Resurrections, No Time to Die, Shang-Chi, or Spider-Man: No Way Home will eventually take home the Oscar – 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 it is the most 2021 movie of any 2021 movie. Thurber admits that he is not sure of the final budget for the film, but that it was extremely expensive, just because of the circumstances of making it under COVID conditions. The urge to bubble with a crew and then hand over shards of film production to artists with visual effects, just asking that it all come together, is an experience that feels particularly poignant to Garcia and Johnson.

“We worked closely with the CDC and Netflix and really made sure to provide everything we needed to get the film finished,” Garcia said. “They were phenomenal partners, they stepped up in a huge way. They lead with confidence, and they support it, and made sure we had the financial backing to do what we did. And so it allowed us to “Complete the film successfully, keep everyone safe. It was not an easy process, but something Dwayne and I always talk about is: we will never forget this crew.”

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