Time limits equal tension. Just consider the last time you were late to work or watched the seconds tick down during a test. The stakes are even higher in the movies when that race becomes a sprint to stop a ticking time-bomb or solve a murder. And what better way to crank the tension up even higher than to set a film’s action in real-time so we can watch the drama unfold minute after agonising minute.
Explosive new thriller In the Line of Duty takes the real-time formula and turns it up to eleven as disgraced cop Frank (Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight) must race to save the Chief of Police’s abducted daughter from a twisted criminal. Hitting the streets in his search, a possibly fatal mistake by Frank puts the victim in further jeopardy and a violent new player (Ben McKenzie, Gotham) arrives on the scene with deadly consequences…
In anticipation of In the Line of Duty’s 3 January 2020 release in cinemas and on digital HD, we run down the most exciting real-time thrillers in movie history.
Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock laid the groundwork for the single-shot (or what appeared to be…) real-time thriller in his 1948 classic Rope. Although seemingly comprised of one long camera take, the film contains 10 hidden edits and was a big experiment for Hitchcock and his studio Warner Bros. The film tells the story of two young students played by John Dall and Farley Granger, who strangle their classmate and attempt to pull-off the ‘perfect crime’ as an intellectual exercise. The film’s brief 80-minute run-time plays out at a dinner party the killers are hosting, having just committed their murder. But when their former teacher (played by Vertigo’s James Stewart) arrives on the scene, his suspicions are aroused and the crime is slowly uncovered. Lauded as one of the director’s very best films, Rope is a meticulously crafted film and one of the very best examples of a one-location real-time thriller, influencing countless films over the years.
CASH ON DEMAND (1962)
Although best known for their Technicolour gothic horror yarns, Hammer Films made a variety of B-pictures including comedies and thrillers such as Cash on Demand. The film starred Hammer Horror stalwart Peter Cushing as miserly bank manager Harry Fordyce who unwillingly becomes embroiled in a heist two-days before Christmas when charming robber Colonel Gore Hepburn (André Morell) arrives on the scene. Taking place over around 80-minutes and in just one location, Cash on Demand is a fun and tightly-plotted real-time thriller shot in black and white, with fantastic central performances from its two leads. At the end of the film, having to rely on his workers for help out of the unpleasant situation, Fordyce is changed for the better in one of the greatest re-workings of A Christmas Carol ever brought to the screen. A fantastic and thrilling watch at Christmas or any other time of the year!
DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)
A seminal classic of the 1970s ‘New Wave’ of American cinema, Dog Day Afternoon finds two of the decades biggest stars, Al Pacino and John Cazale reunited on screen after the Oscar winning success of The Godfather. Based on the true story of a New York bank robbery, Pacino plays Sonny Wortzik, a first time crook who aims to rob a bank in order to get the funds to pay for his girlfriend’s sex-change operation. Cazale plays Sonny’s bumbling friend ‘Sal’ Naturale, who joins him in the heist. The pair stage their armed robbery of a Brooklyn bank only to discover the cash has already been picked up for the day and just $1,100 remains. The situation goes from bad to worse when the panicked duo take the bank employees hostage and the building is surrounded by cops. A tense real-time stand off ensues with crowds of spectators and television crews following the action live as the police and FBI attempt to remove the hostages while the unhinged yet charming Sonny attempts to keep control of a situation rapidly spiralling out of his control. Director Sidney Lumet had already found success directing Al Pacino as an honest cop in gritty true-life drama Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon was no different, earning instant acclaim and Oscar nominations.
Coming out at the dawn of the current golden age of television, high-concept, big-budget series 24 put real-time action on the map and had audiences glued to the screen week after week. Led by Hollywood star Keifer Sutherland the ground-breaking show consisted of 24 hour-long episodes, each taking place in real time (even accounting for ad breaks!), plus an on-screen digital clock ticking down to heighten the drama. The first series followed agent Jack Bauer of the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) as he attempts to stop an assassination plot against senator David Palmer, only to become more intimately involved when his wife and daughter are kidnapped. Only 13 episodes were originally produced but with its instant success the writers had to quickly come up with the second half of the season. This may have led to some of the wackier choices found in the debut series including Jack’s wife Teri developing amnesia for a couple of episodes and daughter Kim being menaced by a cougar! Overcoming this early hurdle the series went on to become one of the most exciting and acclaimed of all time, with eight seasons of high-stakes action.
THE GUILTY (2018)
From Danish director Gustav Moller, The Guilty is a breathtakingly tense single-location, real-time thriller in the vein of Rope, Phone Booth and Buried. Copengagen police officer Asger (played by Jakob Cedergren) has recently been transferred to the emergency despatch centre following his shooting of a suspect, when he receives a mysterious call from a woman who has been abducted. With initially very little to go on and armed only with a phone, Asger begins to investigate the kidnapping from the call centre and soon uncovers a crime far bigger than he initially anticipated. Garnering wide acclaim on its initial release as well as a number of award wins and nominations, The Guilty has since been slated for a Hollywood remake starring Jake Gyllenhall. With a nerve-shredding story and a powerhouse central performance, The Guilty is not to be missed.
IN THE LINE OF DUTY (2019)
Buckle up for intense against-the-clock action as Aaron Eckhart stars in the latest exciting entry in the real-time thriller genre, the action-packed and explosive In the Line of Duty. The film finds disgraced cop Frank Penny (Eckhart) on a rogue mission of redemption to find the Chief of Police’s abducted daughter. Trapped in a box that’s slowly filling with water, time is running out for the innocent captive, and Frank’s chances of rescuing her are quickly ebbing away. With the girl’s chances of survival already slim, Penny makes a fatal mistake and kills the twisted abductor, eliminating their only lead as to the girl’s whereabouts. Now joined by ambitious reporter Ava (Courtney Eaton) who is live streaming the search, all hell breaks loose when the dead abductor’s brother arrives on the scene with a bloody thirst for revenge. With a commanding central performance from Aaron Eckhart and a supporting cast including Ben McKenize (Gotham, The O.C.) and Giancarlo Espostio (Breaking Bad, The Jungle Book), In the Line of Duty offers a pulse-pounding, race-against-time packed with plenty of surprises.
Signature Entertainment presents In the Line of Duty in Cinemas and on Digital HD from 3 January 2020