Scene Is Believing: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

mission impossible rogue nation

Audiences and critics alike are having a blast with Tom Cruise’s latest Mission Impossible installment, Rogue Nation (keep that second fiddle handy, Jeremy Renner – there’s plenty of life left in the Duracell bunny star yet).

Of the many exciting sequences throughout the film, the Opera House scene is being singled out as particularly brilliant in a suspenseful and stylistically creative way. A couple of days ago writer / director Christopher McQuarrie did an anatomy of the scene commentary for The New York Times, and we have it for you below, along with some further insight from his discussion with the paper, and Film School Rejects.

“We were only allowed to use the Vienna opera house for a short period of time. And so the only way for us to complete the sequence was actually to build the stage and the backstage at a sound stage in London. All of the sets were constructed by us and are not a part of the opera house.”

“Part of the arrangement of allowing us to shoot in and around their opera house was to actually use the Vienna orchestra and to record in their preferred venue. That meant, after editing the film, we had to return to Vienna and record the opera music in Vienna. So all of the music you’re hearing is the cast of their upcoming version of “Turandot” and their orchestra.”

mission impossible rogue nation storyboard 2

Storyboard by Mark Bristol

On Ilsa Faust’s (Rebecca Ferguson) look, and how she shoots her rifle whilst hiding in the stage set:

“There’s several layers. There’s the design of the dress and also the color of the dress. We needed a dress whereby she could pull off a lot of the action in the sequence. The one thing I swore I would not do is have a dress with a slit up the leg, because Maggie Q had done it in the third film and Paula Patton had done it in Ghost Protocol. I had to do something different. My brother, Doug, was training Rebecca with the rifle and he said, ‘What you want to do to balance the rifle is go bone on bone, so put your foot up.’ She put her foot up, so he showed her how to balance the rifle on her knee. Tom and I were just looking at Rebecca’s form — and she was wearing sweat pants and a sweat shirt — and as soon as she put her leg on the table, Tom and I looked at each other and I said to a PA, ‘Call [costumer designer] Joanna Johnston, please.’

We brought Joanna up and I said, “I’m going to need a dress with a slit up the leg.” [Laughs] The fact that the dress is on her right shoulder and her left shoulder is bare, because the right shoulder was where she was going to shoulder the rifle, all of it was designed around the action in that sequence.” 

McQuarrie struggled with the editing, and matching action and shots to the music being played below the spies on stage:

“When I found the emotional chord in the sequence I had it. The thing I knew where it would really work is where Rebecca walks into that close-up in the tower, where you first reveal it’s actually her. It’s the most extraordinary close-up of an actress in anything I’ve ever done. She’s so good and at ease with the camera in that moment.”

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