Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie is currently filming the sixth entry in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise following his success with the previous outing “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. That makes him the only director to ever helm two films in that series to date and recently he appeared on the Scriptnotes podcast (via Collider) to discuss his approach to the film.
Conducted in the midst of a seven-week filming stint on the project in Paris, McQuarrie confirms the next film won’t be jumping around geographically as much as the most recent two entries in the series have:
“I was determined, unlike the last movie, to spend more time in one location. I went back and I looked at the first movie, which started in Prague, and realized that they’re in Prague for the first half of the movie. So, I sort of pulled back a little bit on the globe-trotting. I think in Rogue Nation I think we might have been in six countries in the first ten minutes of the movie.”
Along with a smaller overall scope, a big aim of the new entry is to give Ethan Hunt a more emotional story this time around – though that doesn’t mean they’re skimping on the action:
“The problem with something like Mission, the action is dictating the narrative. And I was determined to change that in this movie. And I started with that. I started with more of an emotional story for this character and more of a character arc within it. It’s definitely more of an emotional journey for Ethan Hunt in that movie.
But then the action comes in. And the ambitions of that action, so there’s a sequence at the end of the movie which is fabulous. It’s never been done. It’s all photo real. It’s going to be incredible. You then have to create the contrivances for that sequence to happen.
Then there’s only a few locations in the world where you can shoot that sequence. So suddenly you find yourself going, well, I have this resource and that resource, and I have to put them in my movie. Why are they in my movie? And now I’ve got to explain that.
The franchise is also set to go in a different direction tonally:
“We had a big conversation about tone. Because [Ghost Protocol director] Brad Bird really changed the tone of the franchise and Rogue Nation embraced that tone completely. At the beginning of this I said to Tom, ‘I don’t think we can do that three in a row. I think now it’s going to become cute. I think we need to take it another direction still.’ And we did.
But now we find ourselves going, you know, are we going where Bond went where Bond became – serious. It’s another kind of tone. Which, by the way, has not hurt their bottom line at all. They’ve really found their place. But we can’t go there. We were sort of laughing because we were looking at Rogue Nation and saying, “Well thanks, Bond, for not doing that anymore, so we’ll do it. Now we’re looking at it and going, ‘But we can’t keep doing that’.
We suddenly hit that same wall and understood why Bond went the way they did. And we’re at this kind of emotional crossroads with the franchise saying well how dramatic can you take Mission? It’s not going to a dark place. It’s going to a more emotionally dramatic place.”
The filming in Paris that he’s been doing has been mostly action in fact with barely any dialogue scenes which allows him more time to further craft the more dramatic material in between sequences:
“We’re very fortunate in that as long as we’re in Paris – we’re here for almost seven weeks, I only have three dialogue scenes in Paris. Everything else is action. All of the – the interior action in Paris will be shot in London. And what that allows me to do is play with the characters on a very, very, very minute scale and start to find what the movie looks like and know that, oh, I don’t have to explain what happens in this scene until the end of the summer when I’m in London. So it allowed us to sort of prioritize what did I really need to know in Paris before I left and what does that tie me into. And what we’re always trying to do is leave ourselves as many outs as possible.”
McQuarrie is also adopting a different visual approach thanks to “Ex Machina” cinematographer Rob Hardy:
“I said I want to do a very different Mission: Impossible. The franchise relies on a different director every time. That’s what it’s sort of become known for. And so I want to maintain that, even though I’m coming back. And to that end, I’m going to defer to you on certain things. Rob said, OK. I said, so how do you like to shoot?
He said, ‘Well, I tend to shoot pretty much on a 35 and a 50mm lens. Everything.’ Which terrified me, because I tend to start at 75mm. And so 30 and 50 I reserve for very specific things. He shoots everything. He covers scenes in it. What was really interesting was on our second day we were shooting this car chase and we were into the hood mounts on the car chase. And Rob pulled out the 100mm lens. And the 135. And he was sort of shocked to find himself compelled to do it.”
The new style also applies to the way scenes are unfolding with McQuarrie relying more on long takes and less editing. That led to changes such as Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson first meeting in this film suddenly involving less dialogue:
“Rebecca Ferguson’s character is back in this movie and her introduction in the movie was originally this page of dialogue when Ethan runs into her at this event. I also am working with a new cinematographer. And we kept talking about shooting things in longer takes, oners, less editing. And I realized that the scene that I had written for the two of them forced me to cut back and forth. And I was very frustrated in the last movie that every time people started talking, it eventually – the movie just stopped and turned into – just coverage. Just coverage, coverage, coverage.
And I thought how do I get out of that. I want the camera to feel lighter. I just want the scenes to feel lighter. So, I realized this scene between Tom and Rebecca was going to just drag me down into coverage. So I started taking away the lines of the scene that weren’t necessary. And one by one I cut away every line until there was nothing left in the scene. And what happens now is Rebecca just bumps into Tom. Tom sees Rebecca. Rebecca sees Tom. And they have this whole moment. There’s a whole story between the two of them and there’s another person standing there. And she can’t say what she wants to say. He can’t say – and they just behave the scene. And it was really liberating. So we’ve gone in and done a lot of that. We’ve just sort of chipped away.
McQuarrie also says Vanessa Kirby’s character changed dramatically from what was on the page once the actress showed up to set: “Vanessa just found this beautiful tone that she played with Tom. And now I know how to write the rest of the movie.”
“Mission: Impossible 6” is currently in production and opens in theaters on July 27th next year. You can hear the full podcast here.