Stephen Fingleton’s new action-thriller Nightride follows small-time dealer Budge (played by Moe Dunford) over a single night as he sets out to complete one last deal before going straight. The camera follows Budge from his flat to his car and sticks with him throughout the film’s runtime as the details of the deal change, leaving Budge more and more on the hook as he drives across Belfast making increasingly frantic phone calls.
Written by Ben Conway, the familiar set-up is elevated with flair by its single-take approach, which rests on Dunford’s commitment to the technical challenges of the role while maintaining character throughout—including the moment he was pulled over by real police officers for a routine stop.
As seen in this scene exclusively provided to Letterboxd, Dunford never breaks character, cheerfully engaging with the cops and only letting Budge’s stress show when they step away from the car. (The faces of the police officers were blurred and their voices re-recorded to ensure their privacy.)
“Everything that happened when we shot is what you can see on screen,” says Fingleton. “We rehearsed as a crew for one week for eleven hours a day. We went through the film in chronological order, breaking the script down into scenes, then practicing the bridge between scenes, then rehearsing chunks of the film. We did a dress rehearsal, took a day off, then we shot the film in six takes over six nights. The shoot was fast. The streets were empty because of lockdown. We would gather on set around 21:00, turnover by 22:30, and wrap just after midnight.”
Several Letterboxd members who have caught Nightride on its film festival journey write of being impressed with the audacity of the production. “The one-shot style could’ve felt sloppy but it’s executed with finesse and allows for some great shots driving through Belfast at night,” writes Rachel.
“Moe Dunford carries the entire thing on his shoulders, virtually never out of frame for the entirety of the runtime. He balances all the immense technical considerations of performing the role, whilst also still delivering a solid, charismatic and emotionally-resonant performance,” says Rob. “If there were any digital cuts/seams to stitch different takes together, I couldn’t detect them.”
Trainspotters will enjoy Nightride’s multiple nods to other films, from its overt homages to Steven Knight’s Locke and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher, to an in-car discussion of Michael Mann’s films, to Fingleton and Conway being influenced by “the scene in Goodfellas showing the day where Henry Hill gets busted,” and “the phone call to Cybill Shephard in Taxi Driver.”
Nightride is in select theaters and on demand from March 4, 2022.