Mission Impossible: Is It?

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this movie. I'm a pretty tough critic when it comes to action movies since I only enjoy a select few of them. Mission Impossible III was pretty entertaining though. I really enjoyed the very apparent use of foreshadowing immediately as the film began, even though it threw me for quite a loop. The action and drama within every scene were very cohesive and held me on the edge of my seat. However, even though the stunts were impressive, they weren't as believable as I would've hoped. It was also extremely difficult for me to keep up with everything going on since it was so fast-paced. So of course to analyze the physics of this movie, I had to go back and re-watch a good chunk of it. So let's get into it, shall we?

Question 1: Can Agent Ethan Make the Swing?

So Ethan's first thought when he sees the two buildings, including the one he needs to get into, is to turn himself into a human pendulum and swing from one building to the next on a wire. Classic Spider-Man move. He identifies by drawing on the window that the first building is 226m and the second one is 162m with a distance of 47.5m between them. When Ethan jumps, his swing time is 25 seconds, making his speed 2m/s. I'm not sure if his 67kg body comes into play but obviously, there's a whole lot more to work out.

Question 2: How Fast is T. Cruise?

When Ethan is prompted to get to a location in Shanghai to rescue his fiance Julia, he is immediately on the run to find her. His partner during this whole shebang tells him she is a mile to the northeast. So now Ethan must run a mile through the streets of Shanghai to get to Julia. From the start of the race to the finish, his run is approximately 90 seconds. Therefore, his speed is about 18m/s. This doesn't really account for any slowdowns or stops he made (like when he was nearly hit by the truck) and any pieces of the run that may have been cut out for filming purposes. However, no human on this Earth could possibly achieve a running speed of that level. There is just no way.

Question 3: Can One Bullet Put a Man Through a Window???

Ok, so this one REALLY got me. I was also the most difficult one to figure out. In this scene, Ethan has one, and only one, bullet to take out the last remaining enemy to get Lindsey out. In an intense set of events, Ethan waits for the bullets to stop, gets up, moves in front of his target, and shoots. This singular shot impales the man, absolutely launching him through the window and plummeting to his death. The gun Ethan is using is a Heckler & Koch MP5K-DPW with a shoulder stock to keep it stable (thank you Wikipedia and many other sites for all this lovely information about just one gun). This gun gives the 9mm bullet a muzzle velocity of 375m/s. The standard 9mmx19 parabellum bullets have a mass of 115 grains, which then leads to the force of the bullet impacting the man with about 500 Newton-meters of force figured out by a confusing equation. The mass of the man is approximately 80kg considering he is around 6ft tall and has significant muscle mass. I could understand the bullet knocking him to the ground but not ejecting him out the window.

So in the end, this is a fun movie to watch if you're looking for some crazy (impossible as suggested by the title) stunts. Some of them plausible, but definitely not all. I would rate Mission Impossible III a PGP-13 since most children would go on after this movie thinking they can jump that far on a rope and make it. Parents, please put them on a leash for safety. Maybe they can try running a mile in under a minute 30 instead.

He is sad because his physics were sub-par :(


  1. I like that you have some images from the movie in your blog post. You might also think about embedding the clips, rather than just linking them. I'd like to see you do a bit more research before claiming that a scene isn't possible. For example, how does Ethan Hunt's mile time compare with real runners? We'll actually analyze movie guns and their ability to launch bad guys through windows this week in class; when we do, pay attention to the different concepts of force, momentum, and energy. Thanks for remembering to include a rating of the movie physics.


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