The look of the film is determined by the nature of the harsh landscape in which it was shot. The opening scenes of Bravo Two Zero take place in Hereford in England and then move from the familiar to the strange. The Saudi Arabia and Iraq scenes were shot in the Northern Cape, against the stark backdrop of the flat desert pans - the result of long since dried up lakes, spanning 30kms in diameter. This is the point where the eight man patrol gets dropped, working their way towards the Syrian border.
There is a contact at the Euphrates River which was shot at the Orange River in Keimoes, just outside Upington. Comments Set Desinger, Dave Barkham, "The surrounding area feels to me that it could be Iraq or Syria, because there are grapevines and dates growing, a lot of similar vegetation and irrigation ditches which they would have had at the Euphrates River. The problem we encountered though, was that when we arrived, the Orange River was up to 600m. And by the time we got to film the scene, the river had dropped to 200m, leaving the big river looking like a puddle. Trick photography took care of that problem."
All the interrogation and prison scenes which took place in Baghdad were shot at the old Hillbrow Fort in Johannesburg, which is no longer in use. The run-down, delapidated buildings set the scene perfectly. According to Barkham, "This is where the look of the film changes and gets extremely harsh and incredibly ugly. They are being tortured and are in the pit of hell."
All Barkham's research has come from books about the SAS and on Iraq, from Andy McNab's book and, most importantly, from speaking to Andy McNab - who is the touchstone for the film.
"Looking at pictures, I noticed that a lot of people wore pink and red together, a pink shirt with a red tie. I have used that as a colour code in set design. It has been an incredible challenge to recreate Iraq and the SAS without the military equipment. We were very thin on this because this was a hi-tech war. The Americans had sophisticated equipment and the British weren't far behind. Our equipment source has been the South African military, with a few key elements brought in from Britain. We are busking, being clever and doing everything with integrity, which will hopefully show through."
The Air Force Base in Upington was used as the Allied Air Base for the key scene when the eight man patrol are briefed on their mission and are then flown out in a Chinook. A huge, ominous-looking Russian helicopter was brought in from Johannesburg for this purpose. Adds Barkham, "I have tried to be true to the story whilst adding my own style. Like the Chinook, it doesn't look quite like the reference books, but I interpreted it with a certain style. My aim is to make the design as real as possible, but knowing that we have limitations, I have taken licence with certain things and have hopefully done it artfully so that it will be believable."
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