The World's First Vertical Format Blockbuster Is Coming, Whether We Want It Or Not

The vertical format, which is common for short-form videos on mobile platforms, is making the leap to the big screen — by making the screen painfully small. Searching producer Timur Bekmambetov is developing the world's first vertical format blockbuster with a film that is very aptly titled V2. Escape From Hell. Except this is a hell that we can't escape.

It was only a matter of time. Movie trailers were getting debuted in that godawful "mobile-friendly" dimensions that feature big black bars on both side of the frame, while whole web series are filmed in vertical formats. So naturally, Bekmambetov, who helped pioneer the "Screenlife" format seen in films like Unfriended and the John Cho-starring thriller Searching, will jump on the vertical format as the next big cinematic experience. Except, ironically, it will make the screen very small.

Deadline reports that Bekmambetov is directing a World War II film titled V2. Escape From Hell, which will be shot entirely in vertical format. The film, which follows captured Soviet pilot Mikhail Devyatayev (Pavel Priluchny) as he leads an escape from a German concentration camp by hijacking an aircraft, is being produced by Bazelevs and Voenfilm in partnership with Russia's biggest mobile phone operator MTS, which will release locally on its digital platform MTS Media. The film marks the 75th anniversary of the real events that inspired it.

Okay. The "Screenlife" format proved to be a surprisingly inventive success, with Searching in particular showing that an emotional, compelling thriller can be crafted entirely out of John Cho talking to a laptop camera. But a World War II film shot in vertical format for theaters? That makes absolutely no sense. Isn't the conceit of vertical format that it gives the first-person realism of someone shooting something on their phone? Why is a war epic set in a time decades before smartphones existed the first film to be shot in this format? What is happening here?

According to Bekmambetov, "Visually, the film is built around a person—this is a story about a man standing up and straightening his shoulders in spite of the circumstances. And about a rescue plane soaring up into the sky."

So that explains nothing.

According to Deadline, the film, which is set to start shooting in Russia next week under a $10 million budget, is being designed primarily with a smartphone audience in mind. Which would ostensibly mean that V2. Escape From Hell should skip the theaters altogether, but nope, a theatrical release is set for 2021. I guess we won't be able to escape from hell after all.