‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’: 50 Things We Learned from the Audio Commentary

     December 4, 2018

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout is not just one of the best films of 2018, it’s one of the best and most fulfilling action films ever made. The sixth installment in a franchise that’s over twenty years old has no reason being this good, but writer/director Christopher McQuarrie crafts a sequel that delivers jaw-dropping action set pieces and emotional, intimate character scenes in equal measure. Indeed, Fallout is perhaps at once the most intimate and the most epic Mission: Impossible movie made thus far, as the story delves into Ethan’s personal relationships—both romantic and platonic—in fascinating ways.

The film is now available on 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD, and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of the film’s 4K Blu-ray release before it hit shelves. I’m thrilled to report that Paramount Home Entertainment didn’t skimp on anything here. In addition to pristine sound and image quality of the 4K, the Blu-ray includes three separate audio commentaries packed with insightful and invaluable information about how this movie was made. There’s also a seven-part documentary that delves deep into the film’s production challenges—including the stunt in which Tom Cruise broke his ankle, thus delaying the film by a number of months.

mission-impossible-fallout-blu-rayAs if that wasn’t enough, the Blu-ray also includes a montage of footage from deleted scenes that is absolutely gorgeous, with optional commentary from McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton. These aren’t full deleted scenes, but instead showcase footage from said scenes without letting us in on the dialogue. Some you’ve seen in the trailers, while others are entire sets that didn’t end up in the finished film.

But the highlight of the disc for cinephiles like myself are the audio commentaries. There are three in total: One with McQuarrie and Cruise, one with McQuarrie and Hamilton, and one with composer Lorne Balfe. All three are incredibly fascinating and worth listening to, but as a taste for those who haven’t picked up the disc yet, I listened to the Cruise/McQuarrie commentary and pulled out a number of interesting things I learned about the making of the film.

To be clear, the following list of Mission: Impossible – Fallout trivia is not a comprehensive list of everything discussed on the Cruise/McQuarrie audio track, nor does it cover the other information gleaned from the other two tracks. But it’s wildly interesting nonetheless, and offers key insight into how this film got made.

  • Cruise says McQuarrie “came on and saved my bacon” on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, alluding to McQuarrie’s uncredited script work done on that film during production.
  • The opening logos are running at half the length they usually would. McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton got special permission from the studios to double the speed at which they play.
  • The opening wedding scene was the first scene that Cruise and McQuarrie discussed for the film, and Alec Baldwin was originally going to be the minister but he was unavailable to come to New Zealand. They also discussed potentially having Benji and Luther there. It was originally going to be more “dreamy” visually.
  • In the first conversation McQuarrie and Cruise had about Fallout, McQuarrie asked Cruise what he wanted to do, and Cruise said he wanted to resolve the story with Julia (Michelle Monaghan) because he keeps getting asked about the character by fans. This idea dictated the entire emotional arc of the film.
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    Image via Paramount Pictures

    They chose The Odyssey as the book at the beginning of the film because they wanted Fallout to be an epic.

  • The first 15 minutes of the movie was originally supposed to take only five minutes, but it kept getting longer as more and more information needed to be given to the audience.
  • The banter between Ethan and Benji in the opening scene wasn’t originally there—in the version they first shot, the scene was all suspense. But Cruise noted that the scene wasn’t working, and they realized they had assumed the audience was already familiar with what Mission: Impossible was rather than introducing the world and character interplay through the team banter.
  • Cruise shot the opening team scene with a broken ankle, so offscreen was a box he would rest on between takes.
  • The studio wanted the film to be shorter, but when they tested shorter cuts of the film, the test scores went down. Cruise and McQuarrie wanted to let scenes breathe.
  • They tried to make a “mousetrap” scene in Rogue Nation but it never came together. For Fallout they finally succeeded with the Wolf Blitzer reveal.
  • After Rogue Nation was a buddy movie between Ethan and Benji and Ethan and Ilsa, McQuarrie wanted to bring Ving Rhames’ Luther to the forefront in Fallout.
  • After filming wrapped, they gave Wolf Blitzer one of the masks Benji wore for the film.
  • When shooting the first scene between Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin, they hadn’t yet completely decided that Baldwin’s character would die.
  • The vapor on the helmets in the HALO jump sequence was CG.
  • The background in the HALO jump sequence is CG, but not the actors performing the stunts, which McQuarrie says makes all the difference. He says CG is fine for backgrounds, but for the thing the eye is focusing on, it should be practical.
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    Image via Paramount Pictures

    There was a whole stunt entering the Grand Palais that was cut from the film. It can be seen on the deleted scenes reel.

  • The bathroom sequence was supposed to be shot in three days, but it was actually shot throughout the entire production in bits and pieces.
  • Cruise and McQuarrie met Liang Yang, who plays the third actor in the beginning of the bathroom scene, while making Edge of Tomorrow.
  • All the dialogue of the guys who intrude on the bathroom fight was improvised.
  • Ilsa was originally introduced earlier in the club, but they changed the film so that her first arrival is in the bathroom scene.
  • There was originally an entire multi-page scene between Ethan and Ilsa explaining their relationship, but it was edited down to one line, “You should’ve come with me.”
  • Vanessa Kirby’s original opening scene had her singing a song, but McQuarrie found that the song worked against the tension of the scene. So they added her speech in post-production, added one shot of her in reshoots, and used only shots from the original filming that didn’t show her singing and voila, you get the scene we see now.
  • They were in the middle of shooting the Vanessa Kirby scene when they took a break to shoot one day of stunts, which is when Tom Cruise broke his ankle and shut down production. So two halves of this scene were shot months apart.
  • All of the business between Cruise and Kirby at the bar was shot with three cameras at the same time.
  • They came up with the idea of the core as a down payment days before they shot the scene. They knew they had three plutonium cores at the beginning of the movie and two at the end, but didn’t know how they got from three to two until cracking this scene.
  • Traditionally in Mission: Impossible, the “What If” scenes always happen with narration that tells the audience that it’s safe, that it’s not really happening, and McQuarrie decided to abandon the narration for the scene in which Cruise assaults the police.

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