US actor Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie during the premiere of their film 'Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One' in Abu Dhabi on June 26, 2023. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan\Gulf News

With Tom Cruise’s much-anticipated action entertainer ‘Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One’ releasing on July 9 in UAE cinemas, its makers released a behind-the-scenes video explaining their experience of filming portions of it in Abu Dhabi.

‘Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One’ was shot in various locations in the capital, including the yet-to-be opened Midfield Terminal and the Liwa Desert.

“One of the difficult things about shooting in airports is, of course, it’s an extremely secure environment. And the advantage to shooting in an airport that hasn’t opened is we didn’t have to contend with the limitations of where you could and could not shoot,” Director Christopher McQuarrie said in a statement, along with the video. 

The UAE desert landscape also proved to be an ideal filming spot. In February 2021, the cast and crew anchored themselves at The Empty Quarter for 12 days. Production designer Gary Freeman and his team built an abandoned mining town in five weeks. That setting was for a sequence that sees Cruise’s elite agent character Ethan Hunt on a horseback, crossing the desert to save Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who’s being attacked by mercenaries.

Last month, the cast and crew of one of this year’s most anticipated movies — including Cruise, director Christopher McQuarrie, Simon Pegg, Hayley Atwell and Pom Klementieff — attended its red carpet premiere in Abu Dhabi and interacted with the local press. Cruise, at that point, expressed his excitement at returning to UAE's capital for its first regional screening.

Here are the behind-the-scenes videos

Key takeaways about the action thriller ...

Abu Dhabi plays a crucial role:

Director Christopher McQuarrie, who declared that the two-movie arc will “literally take audiences to all four corners of the globe”, lived up to his ambitious promise. For Dead Reckoning Part One, the movie will take you to stunning locations in Abu Dhabi, Venice, Rome, and Norway.

“That’s how we make these films. Where we’re shooting the movie informs how we shoot the movie. Location dictates action,” said McQuarrie. For the first time, Abu Dhabi’s new terminal — Midfield Terminal — that was still under construction became a prime filming spot.

Read more:

Tom Cruise does all his stunts, but preparation is key: 

Like all stunts in this hit franchise, Cruise did all his own riding on a thoroughbred horse named Zeus. They also shot a massive sandstorm for the film. The movie was also filmed in Rome, Venice, and Norway (which was standing in for Austria).

Cruise is perplexed when asked why he insists on doing his own stunts.

It’s safe to assume that the actor is tired of answering questions on why he puts his life in danger for every action film. During a masterclass in Cannes 2022, Cruise couldn’t evade the inevitable question.

“No one ever asked Gene Kelly why he did his own dancing,” said Cruise in the production notes, adding that he felt that giving audiences an immersive experience is a part of his acting job.

“I have been doing it all my life. I have always been a physical actor. I communicate character through motion. Right from ‘Taps’, ‘Legend’, ‘All The Right Moves’, there’s a physicality that I bring to what I do … It’s a part of the craft to be able to control your voice and body,” he pointed out.

Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Tom Cruise filming for 'Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One'. Image Credit: Supplied

Cruise also believes practice makes stunts perfect.

Flying since 1994, the licences he has accrued include gaining commercial pilot certificates for flying single-engine, multi-engine fixed wing aeroplanes, and in Pitts, Yaks, Stearmans, and many other aircraft. He’s also a type-rated HondaJet pilot. He has landed in confined mountainous areas, on ledges and in deep snow.

He has also been skydiving since 1989 and has been awarded his National Parachutist License and is a Nitrox-certified Advanced Diver and expert free diver.

Cruise pushes his limits in the latest chapter:

‘Dead Reckoning Part One’ stunt where he jumps off a cliff on a motorbike was a milestone for Cruise.

The highly-talked-about motorbike jump — in which we see Cruises’ character Ethan Hunt drive off the edge and let go of the bike and then do a high-risk BASE jump in the six seconds he had in hand before he touched the ground was in the planning for a long time.

“Every time I went off the ramp, it was dangerous. It was risking my life. And we wanted to keep that to a minimum. We have a saying on Mission: Impossible movies: ‘Don’t be safe. Be competent’,” said Cruise. According to the production notes, Cruise made a point of not speaking to anyone and doesn’t remember much of that 203-meter drive down the ramp.

“When you do something for the first time, everything seems like it’s happening so fast. The more you practice, the more you start seeing it … It’s all about building up your ability and competency.”