Intro – Rock Climbing Scene
Relevant Film: Mission Impossible II
The title sequence shows Ethan Hunt rock climbing at Dead Horse Point in Utah. It is a visually stunning scene with the red rock formations with a person climbing them alone. While the shots are real shots, no one would really climb this formation like Cruise is doing it.
Once Ethan gets to the top, a helicopter appears and shoots something at Ethan’s feet. This ends up being the mission “tape” displayed on a pair of sunglasses that have HoloLens-type augmented reality built-in. Ethan looks over the canyon and the mission tape plays in the lens. He can see both. Ethan gets his mission, Mission “Chimera”. This mission involves the recovery of a stolen item designated Chimera. He can pick any 2 team members he wants, but the third team members must be Nyah Nordoff-Hall. She is a professional thief and not part of the agency.
The “your mission, should you choose to accept it” and “as always if any member of your IM Force is caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions”. The “tape” self-destructing is handled by Ethan throwing the glasses and they explode. This lights the fuse and away we go. The Lalo Shiffrin soundtrack underscores this scene making an old Mission: Impossible fan quite happy. The television show would switch out what device played the mission so this was an updated way to deliver it that looked great.
One of the best things about the of the Mission: Impossible series is that Tom Cruise performs many of his own stunts, you just don’t get to see the cables. This avoids clumsy camera angles or, even worse, CGI face-replacements (ala some of the latest James Bonds). As in Mission: Impossible 1 (MI 1), there is always a slip. In the vault in MI 1, the rope slips and Ethan almost hits the floor. In this movie, he almost slips off the rock. The only place they used his stunt double, Keith Campbell, is when he has the slip. Notice you don’t see his face then.
It will be interesting to see stunts are handled when Cruise finally just can’t deliver on the stunts as he ages. However, in this film, he’s in great shape and pulls this off well. Ron Kauk is the climbing stunt double who teaches Tom Cruise how to do most of the stunts. The top of the cliff is about 600 feet to the talus slope and another 2000 feet to the river. One other interesting note: Ethan hangs in a crucifix position near the top of the rock. Supposedly the director, John Woo, has a crucifix position in every film. This article explains how they shot this scene.