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Tom Cruise’s Epic New Mission Impossible Stunt – A Former Skydiver’s Perspective

It's nice to see someone so committed to his work that he did 106 skydives for the stunt. He didn't just phone it in.

Tom Cruise’s new Mission: Impossible – Fallout movie is set to debut in July of this year. He and director Christopher McQuarrie recently gave a behind-the-scenes look to an audience at CinemaCon, focusing in on one of the more harrowing stunts in the movie. Cruise is well-known for doing his own stunts, and this one was no exception. This stunt involves Cruise’s character and Henry Cavill’s character jumping out of a plane from approximately 30,000 feet, being struck by lightning, then Cruise reaching Cavill’s to re-attach his oxygen hose in order to resuscitate him.

This stunt required Cruise to complete 106 skydives. Presumably, many of these were practice and training jumps from the standard height of under 14K feet, but a number of them had to be from the full height shown in the film. Jumps from the 25K – 30K height used in this stunt are referred to as HALO jumps, or High Altitude Low Opening jumps. The United States Parachute Association (USPA) recommends that jumpers performing HALO jumps be C-License holders, a license that requires a minimum of 200 total jumps, in addition to some other skill demonstrations and training. USPA also states that it is essential for jumpers performing HALO jumps to have completed some training that helps familiarize them with the unique dangers that jumping from such an altitude can present.

These USPA suggestions are not applicable to jumps completed in the UAE, where this stunt was filmed, so it is unclear what sort of training Cruise had before completing the HALO jumps. It has been reported in the past that Cruise did obtain at least an A-License in the 90s. Whether he has maintained the currency of that license over the years or recently regained currency is not certain.

HALO jumps are rarely performed in the U.S., except on very large formation record attempt jumps where more freefall time is necessary in order to complete the formation. Some drop zones perform HALO jumps as special events that many recreational skydivers are eager to experience. A standard skydive allows approximately one minute of freefall time, while a HALO jump at the height that Cruise was jumping gives closer to two minutes of freefall.

Some of the training and filming for this stunt occurred in a large wind tunnel, which is used to simulate freefall in a safe and enclosed environment. Similar tunnels have been spreading around the U.S. as non-skydivers seek to enjoy the experience of freefall without the dangers associated with skydiving, and skydivers seek a way to train for freefall without the time limitations inherent in a skydive.

Great care was taken for this stunt to create an oxygen mask for Cruise that would allow his face to be visible during the jump, to ensure that it is clear in the movie that Cruise is performing this stunt himself. Experienced skydiving videographers were able to combine the skills that they use on a regular basis, such as falling backwards off of the plane to catch a great shot of an exit, with some training from those in the movie industry, to ensure that we will get an awesome view of this stunt when the movie premieres.

Too many people these days, in every area of our lives, prefer to leave the hard work to someone else while taking all the credit and accolades. For performing a rather technical stunt that required more than a minimal level of training and skill, kudos to Cruise for being an example to everyone by putting in the effort required for an authentic movie experience. Although, I’m pretty sure he had a blast doing it.

Heather received her A-License in 2002, and has completed more than 50 skydives.

Image credit Christopher McQuarrie’s Instagram page.

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