'Furious 7,' 'Mission: Impossible, 'The Matrix Reloaded' and more movies that pulled off insane practical stunts and effects
So much of movie magic these days is green screen and CGI — the work of animators and special effects artists. Given the fakery we’ve come to expect, when a movie comes along that pulls off some spectacular visuals on-set without a lot of post-production tweaking, that kind of movie magic makes us take notice.
The latest wowing practical stunt: “Furious 7.” The “Fast and Furious” franchise has always made its mark with impressive action sequences done practically. If the seventh installment was trying to top the previous six in that department, it succeeded. This time featuring Dominic Toretto and his team drive skydiving cars out of a plane.
To shoot the critical scene, the “Furious 7” stunt team actually dropped real live cars out of an airplane. Aerial cameramen followed the jump, doving with their own parachutes. The cars dropped first from an altitude of 12,000 feet in Colorado mountains, then again at 8,000 feet where a helicopter could get closer shots.
Check out the video above for more on how “Furious 7” achieved the stunt that kicks off a 22-minute action sequence in the film, which opens in theaters Friday, April 3.
“The Matrix Reloaded,” “Terminator 2” and James Bond films have also made their mark with crazy practical stunts and effects. Read on for details on how these movies and more pulled off their daring real-life movie magic.
“Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol”: Tom Cruise on the side of the Burj Khalifa
Scenes like this make us wonder what Paramount spends on insurance premiums for Tom Cruise. The actor has had a longtime commitment to doing his own stunts, but he outdid himself with the fourth installment of “Mission: Impossible” when he climbed and leapt across the glass outer walls of the tallest building in the world. Cruise did have some very secure harnesses that were removed from screen in post (no, he didn’t actually have functioning high-tech “blue is glue” gloves). But that really is Cruise on the real 2,723-foot-tall Dubai skyscraper. A stunt double was present but only to test out the safety rigging. Doing the stunt for real paid off — the scene wowed audiences in immersive IMAX, making them feel like they, too, were on the side of the tallest building on the planet. — Emily Rome
"The Matrix Reloaded": Freeway chase
What do you do when you need to film a complex high speed chase on the Interstate? Some movie studios might shut down a tiny stretch of freeway and use VFX to create a sense of scale. But not the Wachowski siblings. For “The Matrix Reloaded”, a movie crew took over NAS Alameda, a former military base near Oakland. Using a budget of $1.5 million, a two-mile stretch of highway was forged on top of two unused aircraft runways. The fake freeway included overpasses, onramps, offramps, highway signs, and sound barriers that served double duty by keeping the decidedly non-Matrix scenery hidden. After seven intensive weeks of filming, the entire set was demolished. All that remains today is the asphalt, which is still visible in satellite photos on Google Maps. — Donna Dickens
"The Spy Who Loved Me": Union Jack parachute jump
By far the best of Roger Moore's outings as James Bond features perhaps the most impressive individual stunt of a film series that has preferred to rely on practical stuntwork over special effects. Stuntman Rick Sylvester had skied off the cliff of El Capitan earlier in the '70s, so he came in to impersonate 007 for the big jump off Canada's Mount Asgard. The crew spent most of two weeks there preparing for the jump, trying to figure out where the wind might take Sylvester so they knew where to put the cameras, and though at first the crew feared they didn't get the shot, a suitable take was discovered. The jump is at once elegantly simple and jaw-dropping, and the site of the Union Jack bursting out of Bond's pack to save his life reportedly inspired Prince Charles himself to deliver a roaring standing ovation at an early screening. — Alan Sepinwall