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Mission: Impossible 7 used a jet engine as a secret weapon for its sandstorm shootout

Watch behind-the-scenes videos of Christopher McQuarrie directing Tom Cruise’s desert action sequence

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Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) points a gun offscreen as he runs through a sandstorm shootout in desert camo gear and goggles in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Photo: Paramount Pictures
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One has just hit digital, with a 4K Blu-ray release planned for later in October. The home video push comes with various behind-the-scenes how-did-they-pull-that-off features — always a must for a movie with this many huge action sequences and complicated stunts.

A pair of short excerpts premiering exclusively on Polygon breaks down some of the details of a particularly intense fight sequence early in the film, where perpetually on-the-run rogue agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) shoots his way through a disintegrating desert town during a blinding sandstorm, en route to meet fellow rogue agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).

Building the deserted town

The clips show how the film’s desert town was built — like so many blockbuster-movie sets that need to support an entire complex run-and-gun fight from a variety of angles, it really is an actual small town, built from scratch in the desert. As production designer Gary Freeman explains, he and his crew built the set over the course of five weeks, but then the COVID-19 quarantine shut down production for months before shooting could start.

“In a way, it did me a favor, with the winds blowing all the sand in and aging the buildings beautifully in the sun,” Freeman says in the clip. “Over months, it only made the set look better.” That isn’t time most productions could afford, at least apart from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series, which built the Hobbiton set nine months before shooting in order to let the surrounding gardens and greenery grow in naturally, making the place look just as warm, homey, and lived-in as the Dead Reckoning Part One desert set looked abandoned and weather-worn.

In a second clip, SFX supervisor Neil Corbould reveals the secret to creating a properly intense-looking sandstorm for Tom Cruise to navigate during the shootout: “First thing that sprung to mind was, I had this jet engine in the back of my workshop,” he says.

Jet-engine sandstorm

That isn’t something most people can boast, but the engine certainly created enough wind to make convincing sandblasting shots. You can see the engine in use in a shot in this clip, between far more peaceful shots of director Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise, and others setting up for the sequence on set.

Note to self: Don’t throw away that spare jet engine, it might come in handy later.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is now available for digital purchase on Amazon, Vudu, and other platforms. All bonus features are available with digital purchase. Dead Reckoning Part One will debut on 4K Ultra HD SteelBook, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on Oct. 31.

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