Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation as Glam Noir

Tom Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie not only up the M:I franchise with smarter espionage and more thrilling action, but also break down the entire spy game as a cat and mouse between two rogue warriors: Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane. That’s what happens when you pair the daredevil superstar with the master of the doppelganger shell game, which made it a lot more creative for the indie-spirited cinematographer Robert Elswit, who last worked on Nightcrawler and Inherent Vice.

And when Cruise insisted they shoot on film with anamorphic lenses because he dislikes digital, it suddenly became a lot more interesting for McQuarrie and Elswit, who regularly switches back and forth between the two formats.

“With a big budget, [$150 million] shooting digitally is almost as expensive, given the cost of the digital camera packages and the number of Codex boxes and the time you spend in post,” Elswit explained. “Shooting on film is simpler and there’s less cabling and screwing around, and if you’re on a long location movie it can be refreshing not to go through the whole digital process as it’s done today. The issue is how much longer you will be able to process motion picture film.”

Shooting on film also made for great contrast in lighting, from the cool blue/gray noir of Vienna and London to the warm yellow/brown of Morocco.

But first they concocted the set pieces, with the 53-year-old Cruise saying he wanted to cling to a plane taking off, swim underwater while holding his breath for six minutes in a continuous cut, choreograph a fight during an opera and zoom 150 miles on a motorcycle Grand Prix-style without a helmet.

For Elswit, the two highlights were the opera and underwater sequences. The Vienna Opera House served as the backdrop for an assassination attempt during a performance of Puccini’s Turandot (in which a suitor has to solve three riddles to marry the Chinese princess or face death). To complicate this homage to The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hunt faces three assassins, and must go hand-to-hand with the most formidable foe.

“What was really fun was designing something that started with a [live performance], took it backstage, moved in through the space, got him up and started the fight, and you physically watch what’s going on,” Elswit recalled. “It has to work with the music in real-time.”

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, How They Did It, Movies, previs, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production

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