One More Shot Interview: Director James Nunn talks airport settings, action sequences, and possible future projects
One Shot burst into action fans’ hearts in 2021, using Scott Adkins’ varied skill set to create a high-octane tactical action movie with a fun gimmick: The whole movie is designed to look like one continuous take.
The newly released sequel, One More Shot, now available everywhere you rent or purchase movies digitally, is a more confident, polished effort than the original, adding a compelling and familiar action-movie setting (an airport), more action legends (Tom Berenger and Michael Jai White), and a string of exciting fight sequences that make the most of the location, the conceit, and the talent.
One More Shot also reunites director James Nunn with Adkins and fight choreographer Tim Man, who’ve each worked with Nunn four times. But this movie is Nunn and Adkins’ most accomplished collaboration yet. Polygon spoke with Nunn about the difficulties of shooting an action movie in one take, following in the wake of Sam Mendes’ Oscar winner 1917, hiding the cuts, what he learned from the first movie, and his hopes for the future of the series.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Polygon: Filming an action movie in one take
Polygon: As someone who’s filmed more conventional action movies, like Eliminators, what do you think is different for the audience when a movie is portrayed as one continuous take?
James Nunn: Well, it’s funny, because it started as an exercise in How can I push something? How can I be different? How can I be unique? How can I use Scott’s raw, amazing ability to the best? And how can I use my technical knowhow? So it actually started as more of an experiment in just proving to people, I’m really good technically, he’s really good physically and on camera — merge them skills, make a movie. That was where the initial pitch came from. But as time went on, and as we started filming it, honestly, I’ve kind of fallen in love with doing it this way. You realize that you’re pushing this immersion on your audience.
All movies have a ticking clock. That’s the premise of a lot of stories: You’re going from A to B, or A to Z, but it’s not about the letters, it’s about the journey between. There’s always a ticking-clock narrative, especially in action movies. Whether it’s a bomb going off or saving your loved one because she’s about to fall into acid, there’s always a timer. And I think what happens when you don’t manipulate time with cuts is, you’re actually forcing people to, almost on a subconscious level, just feel that timer a bit more, feel the urgency, and be a bit more present in it.
Now look, a lot of problems come with the style, because you can’t film Scott as the best martial artist in the world, necessarily, because you can’t do the angles that really show off what he can do. Equally, he can’t be like, spinning around doing amazing butterfly pirouette kicks, because it would just be of a different world. So the format comes with restrictions. And we know what we’re doing. We try to hold back on the flashiness and go for, like, this grounded CQC [close-quarters combat] military vibe, which fits really well. I think the elongated take of it, whether you like it or not, you’re just being sucked in.
Certain actors will really rise to the occasion and be the best you’ve ever seen, because they’re like, “I don’t want to be the one in this 10-minute take who messes it up.” So they switch on to this level of authenticity and focus, and you can feel that as well. But then equally, if you’ve got a slightly weaker performance, it’s harder to hide away from that.
I’ve fallen in love with it. I won’t do it forever. I will return to normal, conventional moviemaking soon, I’m sure. But I’m having a lot of fun. And I am so pleased with the reception that we’ve had.
Polygon: Lessons from One Shot and One More Shot
What did you learn from One Shot that you applied to One More Shot? The movie feels more confident — did it feel that way to you while shooting? What did you learn from One Shot that you applied to One More Shot? The movie feels more confident — did it feel that way to you while shooting?
For sure, we did. And I say “we” because I’ve got a very solid core team who I love working with, and they’re all on the same train with me. I think the first movie, although I was confident… Look, I tried to keep it a bit of a secret in the first one, but we all know there’s hidden cuts in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I will run a take as long as I can. There’s three reasons to break: safety, geography, or actor availability, if you have to shoot out of sequence. Those are really the reasons I cut. If not, I’ll go for as long as I can within that time frame. So you’re really looking at, like, eight- to 10-minute takes.
On the first movie, I knew we could do it, but we hadn’t done it, in that we hadn’t actually hidden cuts before. So I put a lot of the focus in the first movie on making sure that we could hide the cuts. The difference with the second movie was that weight had been lifted. We’d done it. I knew we could do it. I knew how to do it. I knew how to get myself out of a bind, even if something wasn’t working on the day and I needed to get out of it. Because we’d tried and tested it before.
So that weight had been lifted off my shoulders. So it’s like, OK, well, now I’ve actually got the time to think a bit more about being more elaborate with the camera. And also, we had a tiny bit more money on this one. So we could do stuff like hand the camera out of the car and throw the camera down a stairwell on a rig and know it would be OK. We were able to be a little bit more tricksy.
How did you manage filming at London Stansted Airport?
That was the most difficult part of this whole process, filming in the working environment of an international airport. We knew we wanted to go bigger. The fan response to the first one was overwhelmingly positive, and much more than we’d anticipated. Obviously when you set out on these ventures you believe in the movie — you have to, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. But I really wanted it to land. And it didn’t necessarily get the big push I hoped for, because of COVID at the time, but it did enough to really find an audience.
We listened to the feedback of the fans. Not necessarily the big paper reviews, but the fans. And we tried to respond to that in this movie and give them more fights, give them more hand-to-hand, give them more plot, but also make it not feel as low-budget of a location, which was something we