Analysis of Scenes in Mission Impossible III
Collin Parrott
I had never seen a movie from the Mission Impossible series prior to watching Mission Impossible III. Needless to say I was surprised by what I saw: the use of gadgets, the sometimes cringeworthy acting, and the implication of physics. I will be asking the questions and theorizing whether or not these action sequences are possible.

The first scene I will be analyzing is the scene where Agent Ethan Hunt swings from the Jin Mao tower in Shanghai to the building next to it containing the Rabbit's Foot. Is the distance between the two buildings enough to allow this to be possible? A Google search showed that the Jin Mao Tower is about 1,255 feet (around 383 m). The building regulations in Shanghai state that there must be a minimum of 13 meters between both buildings, so I am going to assume that this is the displacement of the swing. Agent Hunt's distance is much more than 13 meters. His distance depends on how long the cord that he swings from is, since he uses all of it. I have no earthly idea what the length could be, but it can be calculated using the displacement and the length of the cord. Hunt's acceleration is initially 9.8 meters per second squared (the acceleration due to gravity). This is because he free jumps off of the building before swinging. As he reached the equilibrium point of the pendulum, his acceleration would have decreased. I counted the seconds between when Agent Hunt jumped to when he landed, and, after subtracting the slo-mo, I got around 25 seconds. Using all of these quantities, one could work out a problem deciding weather or not Ethan Hunt could have made it that distance in that amount of time.

The second scene is the scene on the bridge when the drone shoots a rocket at the SUV and Agent Hunt is thrown into the car beside him. Would the blast from the SUV have been strong enough to pick him up off of his feet and throw him into the car to his left? The fastest person in the world can run about 16 mph, and I will give Agent Hunt the benefit of the doubt and say that he can run about 12 mph (since he is a special agent). The time between his exiting the SUV and when the drone hits is about 3 seconds in the movie; which means he could have only ran about 16 m before the explosion. 16 m is his displacement. Even though he probably would have been affected by the blast radius, the SUV was still directly behind him. I don't believe that he would have been thrown into the car.

The third and final scene that I will be analyzing is my favorite scene in the whole movie. This is the scene where Agent Ethan Hunt scales the walls surrounding the Vatican and says the iconic line: "Humpty dumpty sat on a wall." Could Agent Hunt have made it up and over the wall before being noticed by security? I searched how tall the walls surrounding Vatican City are on Google, and says that they are 39 feet tall (about 11.88 m). The movie however says that the drop off the wall was 16.55m. It takes Hunt around 8 seconds to run up the wall where he lays for about 45 seconds. Are there no other cameras pointed towards him? Are there no security guards patrolling the outside of the wall? These questions are what make me skeptical about this scene, but the physics seem to be on the right track.

All in all, Mission Impossible III had reasonable physics. There were a few scenes that sparked my skepticism, but the comedic one liners and action sequences successfully attracted my attention away from the failed physics.


  1. You made some good point regarding physics in your post, but I’d like to see you be more careful in estimating quantities from movie scenes in the future. A lot of the data you needed, such as heights of buildings and distances between them, was given to you directly in the movie.


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