Based on the 1993 novel by Tom Clancy, "Without Remorse" spent many years in development limbo before being rewritten by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, and put into production with Stefano Sollima in the director's chair and Michael B. Jordan in the lead role. Produced by Paramount Pictures and originally intended for a cinema release, it was acquired by Amazon Studios and is available now on its streaming service. Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot AFC, ASC speaks here about his work on the film, for which he chose a combination of ALEXA 65 and ALEXA Mini LF cameras with Leitz Thalia lenses, all supplied by ARRI Rental.
What kind of look or feel did you and the director want for "Without Remorse"?
I can't remember that we discussed a specific look that would blanket the entire film, but rather we discussed each sequence with the concern of making our versions of Syria, Russia, and Washington DC believable. Reality is a murky concept when it comes to filmmaking, but we still tried to achieve what we felt reality should look like -- probably by not doing anything that would bring too much attention to the way it was filmed, like a distinctive special look.
Why did you decide on a mix of ALEXA 65 and ALEXA Mini LF, and did you use the same lenses across both formats?
After doing "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" with the ALEXA 65, I wanted to keep using this tool which gives us the benefit of a higher quality 'letterbox' format, using spherical lenses rather than anamorphics.
The ALEXA Mini LF was used for specific shots when a lighter or smaller body was necessary, such as Steadicam setups and some underwater scenes. It performed well and I didn't have any problems matching one with the other. We used Leitz Thalia lenses across the two formats, with the full kit coming from ARRI Rental Berlin, who gave us all the support we needed.
How did you approach the plane crash scene?
The plane was split into different sections for specific moments in the scene; we wanted to have long, developing takes, rather than a series of quick cuts. There were some handheld shots, some underwater scuba diving shots, and one with the ALEXA Mini LF operated remotely at the end of a crane arm probing into the fuselage as it was rolling into the water, just missing being crushed by the seats revolving around it.
What was the lighting setup for that? Did you make use of Sea-Pad lights?
Once the fuselage was submerged, we only used what would have been emergency lights from the plane, which we replaced with built-in LEDs, controlled by a dimmer board. Our gaffer Helmut Prein designed a dual system in case one of them failed, so we wouldn't need to send divers down to fix anything, but none of them did fail. I also used the Sea-Pad lights on another challenging underwater sequence, when an SUV falls into the Potomac river.
Who or what has been your greatest influence as a cinematographer?
Two very different masters: Henri Alekan AFC (1909-2001) and Nestor Almendros ASC, AFC (1930-1992), plus all the other DPs you can think of!
Do you still feel nervous walking onto set on the first day of shooting?
It depends on how much coffee I had for breakfast, but usually, yes!
What advice would you give to young cinematographers who are starting out?
Do not listen to any advice, except for this: wear the appropriate shoes!