“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’s” infamous train scene was meant to take place aboard the Orient Express, as it roars through the Swiss Alps; which for production is a big request if you’re not shooting on location.
“We scouted a few places and ended up in Norway,” says the film’s cinematographer Fraser Taggart who also worked on “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”
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For practicality, Norway ended up being the perfect location. Not only did Taggart have a good relationship with Norway after “we filmed ‘Fallout’ there, the train scene and location needed to work with the motorcycle jump, but we found a railway in Norway from where we were going to shoot the motorcycle jump, and it all worked out.” In the film, Tom Cruise performed a stunt that has been billed as the most death-defying one of his acting career thus far. He rides a motorcycle off the edge of a cliff and then parachutes to safety while in free fall. On top of that, there would be a fight atop the moving steam engine.
Taggart says the Norwegian government had questions. “No one wants you to go on a national railway and say, ‘We’re going to fight on top of a train while going through a mountainside. Getting all of the paperwork through was huge.”
After showing a proof of concept and explaining that safety precautions were in place, the shoot was approved. Taggart’s biggest challenge was navigating how to make the motorcycle jump and fight work. Furthermore, Taggart didn’t want the film to have a “Hollywood aesthetic to it. The environment’s low light lent itself to the gritter look he was after. One decision was not to shoot on film. While the previous films had been done on 35 mm, it wasn’t going to happen this time around. He explains, “We would have to stop the train every two minutes and reload. We would need 200-foot mags on the cameras. On digital, they could have shot for 30-40 mins.”
To pull the fight scene off, there were hydraulic rigs that would tilt up to 30 degrees, so physically everyone was being affected by gravity. Says Taggart, “It’s still hugely dangerous because you’re so high up. but to make it practical the cameras are 100-150 feet in the air.”
When it came time for action, Taggart recalls, “I watched Hayley Atwell on the first take, and she ran on the huge tilting rig. She just leaped at the end to get her landing on the second carriage but then disappears out of view from the camera.” He adds, “She was obviously buzzing with adrenaline, and I remember Tom saying, ‘You fucking did that girl, that was brilliant.”
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