Expanding Point Break on a global scale, with today’s most extreme, world-class athletes driving the action
The idea for a 2015 Point Break began in the best possible place: in the hearts of true fans.
“The first ‘Point Break’ was amazing, inspiring. We all loved it and were influenced by it,” says director Ericson Core, whose intent was to honor its original premise and themes while pushing the story’s physical limits to the wall…and then going over that wall by taking it to another level in ways that would have been impossible 25 years ago.
“We wanted to use that inspiration to bring our own vision of ‘Point Break’ to the screen, expanding it on a global scale, with today’s most extreme, world-class athletes driving the action.”
At the same time, Core and the filmmaking team understood that a big part of what made “Point Break” so compelling was the relationship between its two strong-willed leads: the rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah, trying to shake his demons and find his place in the world, and his elusive quarry Bodhi, a charismatic force of nature with an unusual agenda. This pivotal conflict between individuals who appear diametrically opposed but are oddly simpatico remains the basis of the story. Additionally, Core states, “Many of the philosophic questions Bodhi raises merit deeper exploration, like the idea of being truly free and living by your own code, so we kept all of that alive.”
What’s radically different is the canvas on which Utah and Bodhi’s conflict plays out amidst the larger drama. The crimes that Bodhi and his gang commit are more sophisticated and dangerous now, with far-reaching motives and implications, and the lengths to which Utah must go to take him down will push him further into untested terrain.
The screenplay is by Kurt Wimmer (Salt, Law Abiding Citizen), story by Rick King & W. Peter Iliff and Kurt Wimmer.
Enlarging the story beyond the exploits of daredevil surfers pursuing an endless summer on the California coast, the new film commands a worldwide stage. Touching down in 11 countries across four continents, it offers a rare look into what it means to be an extreme athlete today, by incorporating the most stunning exhibitions of motocross, skydiving, wingsuit flying, snowboarding, free climbing and, of course, big-wave surfing, executed by those who have dedicated—and risked—their lives to perfect these jaw-dropping feats, many of which have never been seen before in a feature film.
“On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the max, I’d rate the action at 45,” says Edgar Ramirez, starring as Bodhi. “It was a revelatory experience. What these guys do is beyond incredible.”
Often the athletes themselves were equipped with cameras that, in combination with helicopter mounts and strategically placed close-up lenses, will take audiences immediately into the controlled chaos of what it’s like to be riding that edge.
“This is an in-camera movie,” states Andrew A. Kosove, one of the film’s producers and also a competitive triathlete. “What that means for audiences is that they’re going to see stunts captured on camera as they really happened, on actual locations, by real athletes. It’s not a green-screen exercise; no one is crashing into a fake building, dusting himself off and walking away. We were at Angel Falls in Venezuela, the tallest continuous waterfall on Earth; at the top of the Jungfrau in the Alps; in Walenstadt, Switzerland; at Teahupoo, off the coast of Tahiti; and at Jaws, near Maui, to catch the largest wave break of the decade. It’s been an extraordinary shoot and I can’t wait for audiences to experience it.”
For producer Broderick Johnson, “It’s being front-and-center to see what jumping off the top of a mountain or surfing a hundred-foot wave actually looks like. Feeling that sense of real danger and intensity was the most thrilling part of it for me, both as a filmmaker and as someone watching this footage. We really wanted to immerse the audience and take them on a ride they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
But for all its commitment to pursuing that adrenalin rush, “Point Break” has a story to tell, and each action sequence forms a link in the chain of events. For example, says Core, “The wingsuit flight, impressive outside the context of the film, is actually a very important part of Utah’s journey and his connection with Bodhi and the rest of the crew. It’s the moment of apex achievement. The preceding scenes build up to it, and what follows is influenced by what Utah goes through in that moment. Everything is tightly woven together.”
To that end, the film introduces a fictional touchstone called The Ozaki Eight, which the director describes as “a way of communing with all the energies of the Earth.” Invented for the film, these challenges, said to have been devised by a famous polyathlete and environmentalist, call upon the practitioner to harness the planet’s natural forces in executing great physical achievements. The Ozaki Eight represents a singular path to enlightenment by requiring mental and spiritual stamina as well as physical skill. Its author is supposed to have died attempting the third ordeal, while the seventh and eighth are largely considered impossible.
Meeting these challenges, or “Chasing the Eight,” is what drives Bodhi. As Ozaki emphasized finding the one true line through each obstacle and following it to its end, Core says, “That echoes a theme of the movie. ‘Finding your line’ also refers to a person’s path or truth. Utah is trying to find his line throughout the story, and Bodhi is doing the same.”
But Bodhi puts his own spin on it. Focused on “giving back” to the Earth, he and his gang he calls his Wolf Pack perpetrate a series of escalating thefts and wreak destruction on mining and other operations they consider environmentally and morally toxic.
”We tried to make Bodhi’s ideas a little broader and less black-and-white, regarding the philosophy behind what he’s doing,” says Core. “Beyond the specifics, though, and whether or not people will agree with him, what he’s trying to do is live life absolutely to its fullest, according to what he cares about—and I think he does that from the beginning to the end of the film.”
To the extent that this informed Ramirez’s portrayal of the criminal/philosopher, “I think the story invites you not only to think outside the box but to just throw the box away; destroy it, understand that there is no box,” the actor comments, noting that it’s a concept shared by both films. “It’s a great message about freedom, not just factually but spiritually. You may believe you’re free, but look closer: it may be that your spirit is caged. It’s an idea I cherished from seeing the original ‘Point Break’ and one that also figures prominently here.”
The issue is in how far Bodhi is willing to go to achieve his ends. At what point is giving back to the Earth a justification for jeopardizing innocent lives?
“You could say these are well-intentioned people who take an idea too far,” suggests producer John Baldecchi. “You’re talking about a group of athletes who push themselves to the very edge of human capability by snowboarding down mountains and jumping out of airplanes, so they’re accustomed to taking things to the extreme. Their lives revolve around Mother Nature. These heists are big, and they’re designed as tools to return what they feel has been stolen from the Earth. They don’t consider themselves criminals. But things end up going awry and people get hurt. And that puts Johnny Utah on their trail.”
Starring as Johnny Utah, Luke Bracey says, “Whether it’s jumping into the breach or deciding what he really wants to do with his life and what he believes in, Utah knows he’s only going to understand who he is by testing himself. He isn’t fearless. He has fear, but he tries to overcome it, and that’s much more courageous than not being scared at all. For me, that’s one of the things this movie is about.”
The athleticism in “Point Break” is not only the most daring and uncompromising by very definition of the sports involved, but also in how each sequence is designed for maximum impact. For this, the producers credit Core, an accomplished cinematographer, who was not only the film’s director but its director of photography, gamely angling himself atop a rocky peak or other treacherous points of view with a hand-held camera to capture every beat.
It was largely Core’s approach and his obvious passion for the project that convinced the athletes they could trust him to portray their work in a way they would make them proud: accurately, and without artifice, letting the visuals speak for themselves. “I was a mountain guide for many years and love the outdoors,” Core offers. “I’ve always been aware of this world of extreme sports and fascinated with the idea of what it is to be an extreme athlete. What is their relationship to nature, and how do they feel about challenging themselves against it and protecting it? These are some of the concepts we touch upon.”
The filmmakers reached out to prominent athletes across a range of sports, enlisting them not only as performers in lieu of traditional stunt men, but as technical advisors and stunt coordinators in their particular disciplines, as well as a number of fun cameos.
Producer Christopher Taylor notes, “The stunts and action are so integral to this movie that we had to have the cooperation and contributions of people who actually participate in these sports. What audiences will see is real, and that meant it first had to pass the test with the athletes, themselves. That was our goal and our benchmark from the start.”
“We hope people will engage with ‘Point Break’ through the authenticity of the action and the locations and the performances, as well as the draw of these relationships,” says Core. “The big take-away for me would be for everyone who sees it to think about the existence of their own line and what that means to them…and where they’re going to take it.”
For Core, who is and will always remain a fan of the story and what it stands for, “Looking back at the scale and ambition of this undertaking, the places we’ve been and the astonishing moments we’ve captured on film, it’s really rather amazing. And that’s how we felt meeting and working with these extreme athletes,” he reflects. “It’s humbling to think about being a part of nature rather than conquering it, and about living life to the fullest. I hope audiences watching “Point Break” are swept up and entertained, but also I hope they find it equally inspiring.”