Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol | 2011
Continuing the series policy of handing each episode to a different director, Ghost Protocol also sees another directorial debut, with Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) helming his first live-action production.
Much of the film was shot in Prague in the Czech Republic and in Vancouver, British Columbia. So, although there’s an aerial shot of Budapest Keleti Train Station, Budapest, Hungary, to set the scene, the opening sequence of Agent Hanaway (Josh Holloway) being terminated by hitwoman Moreau (Léa Seydoux) and nuclear launch codes being stolen, is actually the recently-renovated Art Nouveau Departures Hall of Hlavni-Nadrazi, Prague's main Railway Station on Wilsonova.
The clock tower in which Benji (Simon Pegg) monitors the courier was created digitally (the station roof was also manipulated to match the Prague location, as well as the roof top of the adjacent building out of which the actors burst). The CGI tower was designed to match a practical interior, which is Vancouver Block, 736 Granville Street, in the heart of downtown Vancouver.
The grim prison from which Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is sprung, along with new chum Bogdan, is the long-closed Mlada Boleslav Prison, about 30 miles northeast of Prague. The facility isn’t as smart as it looks in the film – those fancy hi-tech features were added just for the production.
Quite a leap follows. The phone box, at which Hunt stops to receive his mission, is where Burrard Street somehow contrives to pass underneath beneath another stretch of Burrard Street at the eastern end of Burrard Bridge, Vancouver (near Vancouver Aquatic Centre).
He’s instructed to get the files of Kurt Hendricks – known as ‘Cobalt’ (Michael Nyqvist), a man with a mission to trigger nuclear Armageddon, from deep in the bowels of the Kremlin.
Again, the wide shots of Red Square and the Kremlin in Moscow are real enough, but the ‘Kremlin courtyard’ through which Hunt and Benji confidently stride, is the Second Courtyard (there are several) of Prague Castle, 119 08 Prague 1. Dating from the 9th century, the castle is now the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic.
They make their way first through the Castle's severe white Hall of Columns and the Rothmayer Hall (now a concert hall), then the strikingly contrasting Baroque white and gold Spanish Hall.
One of the most beautiful staterooms in the Castle, the 17th Century Spanish Hall was built for Emperor Rudolph II, who used it to house his magnificent sculpture collection. It’s not open to the public, but is used for ceremonial functions, presidential receptions and concerts.
Although the extensive Castle complex (which includes St Vitus Cathedral) is open to the public, with a variety of tickets and tours, many of the halls remain off-limits to tourists.
The mission is subverted by Hendricks himself and – crikey! – the Kremlin gets blown up. Not a quantum leap forward in American-Russian cinematic co-operation but a triumph of CGI.
Framed for the act of terrorism, Hunt is handcuffed in the hospital where he’s being treated for his injuries. Naturally, it doesn’t take him long to shed a pair of mere Russian handcuffs and escape through the streets – of Prague.
The ‘hospital’ from which he escapes through an upper floor window is the Chili Hostel on Pštrossova 7 in the New Town. By the way, the smaller, red-roofed building below Hunt as he teeters on the ledge is the Prague Film School.
In no time at all, he’s made it across the city to the Old Town, where he picks up an unattended phone from a table at Haštalská and Kozí (there are not really any terrace restaurants here).
He calls for help as he walks down the narrow cobbled stretch of Kozí leading north to Bílkova. This same area became a 'Parisian' square in GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.
Hunt meets up with the IMF Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) and analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) where he learns that his team has been disavowed and the Ghost Protocol enforced. The car comes under a sudden gun attack and plunges into the River Vltava from Mánesův Most (Manes Bridge), just to the west, by the Rudolfinum (which you might have seen in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, XXX or The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian) and with the Academy of Arts in the background.
Hunt and Brandt escape from the waters and hide out in the railyard back at Praha Hlavni Nadrazi Station on Wilsonova. Here they’re picked up by Hunt’s team operating a hi-tech field office out of a railway truck.
Acting as a rogue team, the four must head to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to retrieve the Russian launch codes and avert total nuclear Armageddon. The city is offering generous incentives to film-makers, and both Fast And Furious 7 and Star Trek Beyond have recently filmed here.
In Dubai, the spindly hotel towering over the featureless desert is the Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world (currently), and you just know that Hunt is going to be obliged to clamber around its higher floors.
The Burj Khalifa has a roof height of 2,717 feet, and with its antenna included, it stands a total height of 2,722 feet. It was opened in 2010 as part of a new development called Downtown Dubai, intended to be the centrepiece of large-scale, mixed-use development, with a Y-shaped floor geometry designed to optimise the space. A buttressed central core and wings are used to support the height of the building, which contains 57 elevators.
An outdoor observation deck, named At the Top, opened in 2010 on the 124th floor. When its title as the highest outdoor observation deck in the world was lost to China’s Canton Tower, Burj Khalifa retaliated by opening the 148th floor SKY level in 2014. This has since been superseded by the Shanghai in June 2016. And so it goes.
At the time of filming, the building hadn’t been completely finished so unused floors were taken over, windows removed and those stunts are terrifyingly real.
The chase through the sandstorm ends at Dubai’s wave-shaped Meydan Bridge.
Dubai Meydan City is the new development under construction in Ras Al Khor area of Dubai, where the Meydan Bridge is a VIP entrance to the Meydan Racecourse, a mega structure that is able to accommodate over 60,000 spectators in a mile-long grandstand. When not used for races it serves as a business and conference centre but, like many things in Dubai, it’s only used once a year. The rest of the time it’s mostly abandoned and inaccessible to the general public.
From Dubai, it proves necessary to travel to Mumbai, India, to shut down the satellite that launches the nuclear attack.
A brief shot of the Gateway of India sets up Mumbai. Overlooking the Arabian Sea in the Apollo Bunder area in South Mumbai, the Gateway was built to celebrate the visit of King George V in 1911, and now serves as a monumental reminder of British colonial rule. However, there's little more of Mumbai on display.
The palatial ‘Indian’ home of Brij Nath (Anil Kapoor), where Jane (Paula Patton) needs to get the codes from the frisky billionaire, however, is luxury hotel the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Crescent Road, back in Dubai. The production was able to use the hotel, which stands on on Dubai’s artificial Jumeirah Palm Island, for three days before it officially opened.
No more ‘Indian’ is the office of the ‘Sun Network’ TV station from where Hendricks plans to hack into the satellite. This is the three-story office building at 10851 Shellbridge Way, just east of Highway 99 in Richmond, south of Vancouver, British Columbia.
The team is too late to prevent Hendricks from launching a missile, so it becomes a race to abort the attack. Hunt’s frantic chase through the packed streets of ‘Mumbai’ is filmed on Canada Place at Burrard Street, in front of the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building. Did you recognise this as ‘Honolulu Airport’ in the 2014 version of Godzilla?
The centre unfortunately doesn’t have a fab automated multi-level cylindrical parking garage. The structure to which Hunt chases Hendrix and finally retrieves the briefcase, is not real. It was built over six months at the Canadian Motion Picture Park in Vancouver and did actually work. It was finally assembled inside the Vancouver Drydocks warehouse because there wasn’t a sound stage big enough to house it.
There’s the briefest glimpse of San Francisco, the target, as the missile clips the tip of the TransAmerica Pyramid before plunging harmlessly into the San Francisco Bay.
‘Pier 47, Seattle’, where the team finally meets up to unwind, is Granville Island, Vancouver, a peninsula and shopping district across False Creek from Downtown, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. Originally an industrial manufacturing area, it’s been renovated to become a hotspot for tourism and entertainment.