The Mission Impossible film series is famous for its use of exotic locations around the globe. Tom Cruise, portraying the top secret agent Ethan Hunt and his team save the world in the world’s tallest building in Dubai or at the Vatican. However, they also use British locations in their films, some of which are seen in the latest instalment, Dead Reckoning: Part One. The film’s second instalment has been made and is due to be released in June 2024.
The first part of Dead Reckoning comes to a climax on a train ride, which is supposedly going across Europe. In fact, many of these scenes were filmed on a railway line in Yorkshire. Called the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, it was also used in some of the scenes in the early Harry Potter films in which Harry and his friends go to Gringotts school by train. The Harry Potter filmmakers later switched to a Scottish railway line running between Fort William and Mallaig in the highlands, although this line is now threatened with closure for safety reasons.
Tom Cruise and his director Chris McQuarrie used a Norwegian location for the scene in which he leaps off a cliff in a motorcycle and parachutes onto the train, just in time to foil the killing of the heroine of the film, portrayed by the British actor Hailey Atwell. Cruise was in this stunt himself, as he often is in films that he appears in, and he used six takes to get it just right.
Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning_Part One logo. Photo Credit: © Paramount Pictures via Wikimedia Commons.
Tom Cruise often uses British-based actors in the Mission Impossible films. One of his regular sidekicks is the computer nerd Benji Dunn who is portrayed by the British comic actor Simon Pegg, who has also played Doctor ‘Scottie’ Scott in the Star Trek films as well as appearing in both Doctor Who on television and in the Star Wars films. Pegg has claimed to have done the ‘ultimate nerd hat-trick,’ having appeared in Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who.
The heroines in the Mission Impossible films are also often based in Britain. Apart from Hailey Atwell, who plays a thief recruited into the MI team, Rebecca Ferguson has appeared in several of the movies portraying Ilsa Faust, an MI6 agent and Cruise’s love interest. Although Swedish by birth, Ferguson is married to an Englishman and resides in London.
Mission Impossible London Locations
The best-known London locations in the Mission Impossible series were probably those used in the sixth film in the series, Fallout, in which Cruise as Hunt races from Saint Paul’s Cathedral, with its dome in the background, across the River Thames to the Tate Modern art gallery. One of the villains, portrayed by Henry Cavill, then escapes from the pursuing Hunt by helicopter before the action moves to India. Cruise broke his ankle while filming these scenes and this necessitated a seven-week delay before filming could be resumed.
View of Millennium Bridge and Saint Paul Cathedral from Tate Modern. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
The Tower of London has also been used as a location in the fifth in the series. Called Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the film has a shoot-out near the end of the story which was filmed just outside the Tower. Other scenes in this film were shot at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill and the ancestral home of the Churchill family, which stands just outside Oxford and is often used as a film set. Blenheim is open for visits during the summer.
Other scenes in the Mission Impossible series have been shot at County Hall in London opposite the Houses of Parliament within sight of Big Ben and at Brompton Cemetery in west London, which contains over 35,000 monuments. London has been virtually a second home for many of the movies, and a final scene in the first film shows the team relaxing and drinking beer. It was shot at the Anchor Tavern in Bankside near the Tate Modern museum.
London Eye and County Hall illuminated at night. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
British film studios have also benefited from the series. In the fourth film, Ghost Protocol, an extended scene was shot underwater as Cruise’s team attempted to gain access to a computer chip in a safe which is housed underwater. The scene is set beneath the world’s tallest building, the 827-metre-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but was actually filmed at Leavesden studios just north of London, where a special underwater tank was constructed for filming. Cruise had to learn to hold his breath for six minutes in order to film this scene successfully.
Tom Cruise is also shown climbing outside the Burj Khalifa, although he did so with straps which were later erased digitally. In the opening scene of this film, he has to cling onto an aeroplane as it takes off. Cruise did all of these stunts himself without using a double, and it has been said that he would have been an excellent stuntman if he had not been a film star.
So far, the Mission Impossible series has made around four billion dollars in ticket sales, and Tom Cruise has been credited with virtually single-handedly saving the cinema-going experience. Not only does Hollywood benefit from the success of these films, which were partly made in the UK, but so does the British film industry and those people who make a living from it.