Mission: Impossible 3 | 2003
With his first feature film as director, JJ Abrams makes up for John Woo's disappointing Mission: Impossible 2, treating his MacGuffin with all the detail it needs (it’s a jar with a hazard symbol – that’s all).
The ‘Berlin’ industrial complex from which Agent Lyndsey Farris (Keri Russell) needs to be rescued, is the old Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, San Bernardino County, seen in films such as Black Rain and Iron Man but probably most famous as the site of the climactic showdown between the cyborgs in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
The wind turbine farm through which the copter has to negotiate its escape is just outside Palm Springs in the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm. You can see the entire wind farm from atop the San Jacinto mountain, via the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, and it’s a spectacular view.
Back at HQ, techie Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) manages to recover enough data from the captured computer to discover that villain Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has an appointment to hand over the MacGuffin, known only as the Rabbit’s Foot at the Vatican in Rome. Well, why not?
There are brief shots of St Peter’s Square to set up the location, but the ‘Vatican’ is the Reggia di Caserta (Royal Palace of Caserta) in Caserta near Naples.
The Palace stood in again for the 'Vatican' in Ron Howard’s film of Angels And Demons but the chances are that if its imposing marble pillars and staircases seem familiar, that’s because Caserta was also used for the interior of the Theed Palace in both Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones. Older moviegoers may recognise it from Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1970 epic Waterloo, with Rod Steiger as Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as the Duke Of Wellington.
With the help of those indispensable rubber masks, the team manages to make off with both Davian and the Rabbit’s Foot, racing off down the River Tiber in a motorboat, past Ponte Sant Angelo.
Back in the US, the divided causeway, from which Davian is rescued after a missile attack on the IMF convoy, is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
There are consequences. As a way of getting to Ethan Hunt, his new bride Julia is abducted from the hospital in which she works – the Methodist Hospital, 300 West Huntington Drive, Arcadia, east of Los Angeles.
With 48 hours to save her life, Ethan has to escape arrest and scoot off to Shanghai, where the Rabbit’s Foot is held.
Night scenes with the unmistakable skyscrapers were actually shot in Shanghai, however many of the action scenes at ground level were filmed in downtown Los Angeles.
Hunt makes his spectacular leap from the 88-story Jinmao Tower (on the east side of the Huangpu River that runs through the middle of the city) but lands on the west side of the river, near Yanan Highway, about a mile away.
Having got hold of the Rabbit’s Foot, there’s a chase through Shanghai to deliver it to Davian in time, which briefly takes in the Bund, the city's waterfront illuminated at night, which you may have seen as a major setting for Steven Spielberg’s Empire Of The Sun.
After a surprising double-cross, Hunt follows directions from Benji through a picturesque village of waterways. Despite appearances, this is not a suburb of Shanghai, but the ancient town of Xitang in the Zhejiang Province, 60 miles away. It’s accessible by bus from Shanghai South Railway Station.