Behind the Scenes: Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

“The first thing I try to communicate to my crew is that there will be no shaky-cam and no rack zooms, because those techniques are only used to hide the fact that there is no energy. When you eliminate those gimmicks you’re confronted with the reality of the shot you have in front of you, and nine times out of 10 you say to yourself: “This just isn’t working.” Then you have to find ways of infusing the shot with energy and excitement, and ask yourself what you can do to sustain the shot so that you’re not relying on staccato editing.” Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie states his principles of action cinema in an interview with Film Comment.

As he’s morphed from movie star to aging action hero, Tom Cruise has become more Evel Knievel than thespian. After five Mission:Impossible outings, I can tell you virtually nothing about Cruise’s super spy character Ethan Hunt. He’s a cipher whose personality shifts from film to film, retaining only a very Cruise-like intensity.

Cruise’s latest act of daredevildry involves hanging off the side of an Airbus A400M military plane as it takes off. Any doubt that Cruise himself is the man clinging to that plane should be alleviated by the photo above, which (on the left) shows an airborne Cruise harnessed with safety cables. To the right is the final color corrected image, with the cables painted out in post.

The film was shot largely with Panavision Millennium XL2 35mm film cameras and Panavision C Series anamorphic lenses. The Arri Alexa 65 was employed for an extended underwater set piece.

“The entire movie was shot on film, except for one complex underwater sequence, and the primary reason was because Tom (Cruise) and Chris (McQuarrie) just don’t like the way digital capture looks all the way through to the final product. [In particular,] Tom Cruise — and it was really his choice — doesn’t like the way [digitally acquired material] looks in digital projection, even when you put a film curve on it. All the systems have a kind of quality, though subtle, that Tom just doesn’t care for. He won’t do it until they run out of film or nobody can process it anymore.” – Rogue Nation cinematographer Robert Elswit, in the August issue of American Cinematographer Magazine

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