We caught our first glimpse at this absolutely bonkers aerial stunt during the last Super Bowl, and were treated to a bit more when the trailer dropped last month. Today, we're finally getting some more details on the harrowing stunt. As the featurette reveals, director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise have been pondering this particular stunt for a while now.
“The HALO jump is a sequence Tom and I have been talking about for a number of years,” said McQuarrie. Not only that, but it appears Cruise is actually pioneering this ultra-niche act when it comes to presenting it on the silver screen as an actor. “Tom will be the first actor to do a HALO jump on camera,” said Wade Eastwood, stunt coordinator and second unit director on the film.
In case you’re confused by the nomenclature here, a HALO jump describes a high-altitude, low opening jump in which the parachutist opens his chute only once closer to the ground than to the object he’s jumping from. In this case, that means Cruise jumped out a plane at 25,000 feet and only opened his chute below 2,000 feet. That’s impressive.The technique is mostly used by the military or those engaged in covert operations, where quick, unnoticed aerial infiltrations are more important than the safety one would garner from opening the chute far sooner.
According to McQuarrie, in order to properly prepare for this stunt, they built a wind machine where cast and crew could get used to the sensation of falling and floating. They used “the world’s largest wind tunnels” to do so, and when it actually came time for the real thing, they had to develop a specifically designed helmet in order for Cruise to properly breathe during the fall. Hypoxia, apparently, is quite a serious problem when jumping from such heights.
“You start losing your mind, but you don’t really realize it,” explained chief instructor Ray Armstrong.
Tom Cruise did five jumps a day throughout the shooting of this sequence, but only one of those was for the cameras—as the scene had to be shot as close to sunset as possible, which gave the crew and Cruise a mere three minutes to get some quality footage. Add the risk of mid-air collisions with the cameramen, hypoxia, and well, death itself, to the list of potential consequences, and you’ve got yourself quite a complicated sequence to shoot—but one that seems destined to last for the ages.
Looking at the actual footage of Tom Cruise actually jumping toward the falling camera from an actual airplane is probably something worth experiencing on a screen larger than your computer's. For once, there's no digital trickery, no green screen, and no unnecessary CGI component here—this is oldschool, practical Hollywood stunt performance and movie-making at its finest.
“The audience can tell when something’s being cheated, so it’s important to do it all for real,” said Eastwood.